Universal Health Care System
Americans erroneously believe that the reason we spend more on health care is because we have the best health care system in the world. It would not be wrong to state as a matter of fact that we spend more on health care than any other developed country in the world. We do spend twice as much on health care as the Japanese, but there are really very few who would argue, without a doubt, that our health care is better (Mahar 20). Or let us take a closer look to home: If one were to ask any Canadian what is the main difference between Canada and the United States, two countries so close geographically-speaking yet so different ideologically-speaking, the Canadian would most likely say “health care.” Ninety-six percent of Canadians say they prefer their health care system to the U.S.’s and nearly every politician in Canada knows to support the Canadian health care system as if it were some sort of sacred trust (Armstrong, Armstrong & Fegan 1). The United State’s neighbor has a government that not only provides insurance, but the government pays for it. In a 2006 Harvard Medical School study, it was found that Americans are 42% more likely to have diabetes, 32% more likely to have high blood pressure, and 12% more likely to have arthritis (AP). This study came right after another study found that middle-aged, white Americans are much sicker than their counterparts in England — a country that has a national health care system (AP). Universal health care can improve the health of Americans by affording them the health care that other countries such as Canada, England, and Japan already have. The problem with health care in the United States is essentially how we view it. Many view health care as a luxury — something for the rich, but health care is not a luxury, it is a right, and if America were to implement a universal health care system, Americans would be healthier overall. Healthier citizens would not just mean a happier country, but it would also mean a wealthier country, and this is something that countries like England, Canada, and Japan have already figured out. By denying our citizens health care, we are putting off costs that will be tripled in the long run because of the fact that people have to put off being seen by a doctor and thus their illnesses become either more severe or irreversible. Either way, Americans end up paying more overall.
Approximately 50% of Americans do not have some form of health insurance coverage. This number seems absurd when there is the fact that the United States has a $2 trillion health care system, which is as large as the economy of China (Herzlinger 15). This number is despicable. Despite the fact that millions of dollars are spent on this so-called system, millions of people with chronic diseases and disabilities cannot get the treatment that they need. So where are these millions of dollars going? A universal health care system would allow people with chronic diseases and disabilities to get the treatment that they need and it would also benefit people in helping to prevent disease, which is a major part of modern medicine: preventing disease. In our system, doctors and hospitals are paid for treating sick patients, not for keeping them healthy, but without preventative medicine people are bound to be sick as opposed to bound to be healthy. Therein lies a major ethical dilemma. In a universal health care system, doctors and hospitals would take more of an interest in preventative doctoring because health care would already be paid for. All of this would lead to healthier individuals in the bigger picture. We have to ask ourselves, when did medicine become about simply fixing and not about preventing? The question is especially valid when we consider that modern medicine cannot even fix — for less than an exorbitant amount — the most common illnesses and diseases that people are acquiring.
The U.S. health care system is commonly referred to as the health care industry. Health and industry are a juxtaposition and, in terms of health care in the U.S., it is no wonder why with our health care, being an industry, people are unhealthier than their counterparts in Canada, Europe, and Japan — and pretty much every other developed and progressed country in the world. When we consider that the current health care system comes in at over $2 trillion dollars a year — that averages to roughly “$7,000 per man, woman, and child, healthy or sick — or roughly $25,000 annually for the average family” (Relman 113). With that kind of money, it would be possible to have universal coverage, which would equate into good-quality care for all, which would therefore mean that our sick are being treated and our healthy are taking care with preventative measures. Most people who do not get health coverage through their jobs or through other means (i.e., family) cannot afford the exorbitant costs of individual health insurance policies, therefore many people simply go without insurance, which is harmful to their health in the long run. Physicals performed by doctors are crucial to maintaining good health; it is through annual check-ups that many doctors spot issues that could turn disastrous if the person were to have gone without care. Cancers have been caught early that without detection could be deadly. High blood pressure and cholesterol tests alert people to make changes in their diets and adapt a healthier lifestyle. Once again, people who are denied access to regular check-ups are being denied the right to good health.
In our current health care situation, there is a proliferation of sickness among the poor because they cannot afford health insurance or the out-of-pocket costs of seeing a doctor or buying prescriptions. Many advocates of universal health care believe that health care is as much a birthright as is education, yet half of our country slips by without access or means to doctors and hospitals to keep them healthy or cure them of their illnesses. It does not speak well about a country so prosperous that denies its citizens the right to the best health possible. When politicians turn their back on this important issue, they are turning their backs on the country. Without the people, there is no country, and so it makes sense that our country develops a universal health care system immediately.
Many Americans are in favor of a universal health care system and, when we hear of a top health insurance company executive bringing home $24 million a year, many believe that a single-payer system is the only way to ensure the health of our citizens. Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) reports that a single-payer option is supported by a majority of doctors, nurses, as well as general public and health care experts. When the very people who provide care are in favor of a different health care system, we have to stop and take note. When our doctors and nurses — not to mention experts — are telling us that a universal health care system is rudimentary to our collective health, the people in the United States should listen. but, what has happened is that America’s medical system has become a system that is driven by money rather than by the health of its citizens. Insurance companies have become massively rich corporations that profit by taking money away from the citizens. They are companies that pay their executives out-of-this-world wages yet deny to pay for screenings and physicals for its clients.
Japan, another country that is much healthier collectively than the United States, has a universal health system where all citizens are covered equally and they can go to any doctor or hospital they want, with no difference in cost (Mahar 219). If Americans had the option of seeing any doctor that they needed or wanted to, no matter where they were in the United States, it would prevent many deaths and treatable diseases. The fact that Americans are lashed to one doctor or one hospital means that many will choose to wait to see a doctor or even forego seeing a doctor at all when they really need to. Perhaps lives could have been saved and perhaps more will be saved if a universal health care system is put into place.
The bottom line is that a universal health care system is the only fair and right system. It is a system — not an industry — that would be for the people and the people are what make up a country, so why shouldn’t our country care about the health of its citizens? Without insurance forms, policies, paperwork, high premiums and other red tape, many people would be in better health. The situation right now is that if a person has to choose between feeding their family and seeing a doctor for a pain in their chest, they will probably feed their family. This is not the way it should be; people should not have to choose between what is best for themselves and what is best for the people they love because an insurance company is standing in the way of their lives. People have the right to health care and the right to be the healthiest that they can be, whether that health is given through medical visits or through sustenance. A universal health care system would ensure that every citizen has the opportunity to receive the best care possible so that they can live and healthy and long life no matter how much money they make and what job they have. Health care is not something that is negotiable in a country as wealthy and developed as the United States.
Universal health care would improve the health of the people of the United States and would ensure the health of the individuals who will become citizens in the future. The research shown has proven that countries where a universal health care system is in place have much healthier people when compared to U.S. counterparts. The research is obvious and the facts cannot be denied. The United States can learn a lot from the countries that offer a universal health care system — countries such as our close neighbor, Canada, and neighbors that are not so close — like Japan.
The United States is one of — if not — the richest nations on the earth. It does not matter that are health care system is embarrassing or an abomination in the eyes of other countries, what does matter is whether or not our health care system is embarrassing or an abomination in the eyes of ourselves and our own nation. If we cannot see that everyone in this nation, this rich nation, deserves health care, has a right to health care, then we are what the abomination is — not the “system” or the “industry.”
The United States adoption of a universal health care system is the only way that America can go when it comes to health care. Now that Obama’s universal health care program has been green-lit, it is up to time to tell whether or not our country will do well under it. but, one has to ask, where can a country, which is made up by people, go wrong when its citizens are not only treated, but they are taken care of? To prevent illness and disease is what medicine is about these days. We have the tools to see that certain diseases, certain cancers and the like are avoided, so why would we put our nation in jeapoardy by not giving people the preventative care that they — not deserve — but have a right to as citizens of the United States?
Armstrong, Pat., Armstrong, Hugh. & Fegan, Claudia. Universal health care: What the United States Can Learn From the Canadian Experience. New Press, 1999.
The Associated Press. “Study: Canadians Healthier Than Americans.” 2006. 28 Nov
2010. Web. http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2006-05-30-canadians-health_x.htm
Herzlinger, Regina. Who Killed Health Care: America’s $2 Trillion Medical
Problem. McGraw-Hill; 1st edition, 2007.
Mahar, Maggie. Money-Driven Medicine: The Real Reason Health Care Costs So Much.
Collins Business; 1st edition, 2006.
Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP). “Groups Urge State and Federal
Officials to Make Health Care a Human Right by Adopting a Single-Payer Health
Care System.” 2009. 28 Nov 2010:
Relman, Arnold S., M.D. A Second Opinion: Rescuing America’s Health Care.
PublicAffairs; 1st edition, 2007.
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