Letters to the EditorOpinion

Rehabilitating health care



 

It’s a no-brainer for the rest of the world, but in America politics can make issues very complicated and drag them forever. No changes have been made to our health care system for more than 40 years despite a few attempts by Democrats, the last of which was by the Clinton administration, being shut down by Republicans and health insurance companies. This issue can get so complicated, it’s important to remember the fundamentals.

 

There are five indisputable facts that no political party disagrees with:

• Health care is the second biggest contributor to our budget deficit (after wars).

• The U.S. spends more than twice as much on health care per person than any other nation, and the cost keeps increasing every year.

• Today, 45 million to 70 million Americans have no health insurance. Last year, 18,000 Americans died because they’re not insured, and 1 million American families went bankrupt from medical bills. These numbers rise every year.

• According to the United Nations Health Department, the U.S. health care system ranks 37th in the world.

• Among G-20 nations, ours is the only one that doesn’t have a single-payer universal health care system.

Even Switzerland, “the European capital of capitalism,” voted to test the universal system for a decade, then permanently adopted it. With these facts alone, a 10-year-old could tell us how to fix our health care system.

For the U.S. president, things are never as black and white for three reasons. With a two-party system, one party will always try to crush the other to gain or maintain power. Americans are not as educated as the G-20, according to the UN Education Department, and are “too loyal” to their political party. And health insurance companies are among the top four lobbyists.

The only way health insurance companies can make profits is by denying coverage. It’s called capitalism. If you have a pre-existing condition, they won’t cover you because you’re too risky, as your medical bills will most likely exceed the cost of your health plan. If you want insurance, they will offer you dozens of options. Most Americans can only afford the minimum coverage, which is sometimes provided by their employers. So if you can’t afford maximum coverage and one day require a complicated (and therefore expensive) surgery or even cancer treatment, it’s most likely not covered by your health plan. So you can be very sick in bed and battling health insurance lawyers until you die, as President Obama’s mother did.

You may spend years paying off medical bills that often result in family bankruptcy and the end of the American Dream. Like Clinton, Obama knows that trying to replace private health insurance companies with a public universal health care system during his first term will almost guarantee failure at re-election. Taking advantage of the current economic recession, adding more urgency to fix the bankrupting health care system, Obama is instead proposing an optional public plan to compete alongside private insurance companies, in order to improve competition by lowering costs and improving quality of care.

Today, insurance companies are spending $1.4 million a day to stop his health care reform bill. This money comes from the profits they’re making from denying coverage to sick Americans. This money is spent on 3 things: advertising that uses fear tactics to mislead the public; paying congressmen on both parties, which explains the disagreement among Democrats, to vote against Obama’s bill; and campaign contributions.

While the fight in Congress is about power, not the people, the debate among Americans comes down to one question: Is health care a human right or a privilege for those who can afford it? Despite what critics may say, socialism makes sense in certain functions of society, like K-12 education.

Can you imagine cops and firefighters run by private companies? Imagine your house is on fire. You call 911, but they say they can’t help you because you don’t have insurance or tell you to wait 10 minutes until they verify your insurance information. Most Americans don’t recognize health care as a human right because ours is the most individualistic society in the world. Not to mention, if health care was provided by the government instead of employers, businesses would save a fortune, and people who lose their jobs, especially during recessions, wouldn’t lose their health care coverage too.

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