Term Paper: U.S. Universal Healthcare Can it Happen

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¶ … universal healthcare in the U.S. And the hurdles that the process must overcome in order to make it possible. Universal healthcare is not a new idea in the United States, Congress and the people have debated it for decades, and a final decision about it always seems far from reach. The case for universal healthcare is convoluted and surrounded in controversy, but in an industrialized nation such as the U.S., that prides itself on its world leadership role, the country is far behind in healthcare, and that is a sad statement for the American people.

The United States is one of the most powerful and modernized nations on earth, and yet, her citizens are not guaranteed the right to good health and healthcare. Two supporters of universal healthcare note, "The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee access to health care as a right of citizenship" (Battista & McCabe, 1999). Approximately 17% of the American people have no healthcare insurance whatsoever, and these people have more difficulties accessing healthcare as a result (Battista & McCabe, 1999). In addition, the cost of healthcare is rising, making it more difficult for a greater number of people to access healthcare when they need it, and making it more difficult for many employers to provide healthcare for their employees. Two other authors note, "Health-care costs are rising at three times the rate of inflation, and have been for the past five years. CEOs of major corporations are screaming that these costs are creating major problems for U.S. corporations and their workers" (Emanuel & Fuchs, 2005, p. 20). As prices continue to rise, more Americans will do without healthcare, and American taxpayers will pay higher taxes to cover the costs of major healthcare for those without insurance.

Many people believe the United States has the most advanced and effective healthcare in the world and so, universal healthcare is not necessary. Even those without insurance can obtain emergency and preventative healthcare at free clinics, many hospitals, and local health departments. However, the statistics indicate that American healthcare is not always what it seems. For example, in 1945, the U.S. ranked first in life expectancy for men and women, but today, the country ranks 21st in expectancy for men, and 20th in expectancy for women, and the country ranks 23rd in infant mortality. Immunizations, usually available free from local health departments, are not given in a wide variety of the public, in fact, the country ranks, 67th in immunization, just edging out the third-world country of Botswana (Battista & McCabe, 1999). This is a sad legacy for one of the most advanced nations in the world.

Many people believe universal healthcare may be a good policy, but it will be far too expensive for America to implement and maintain. Many studies indicate this is simply not the case. Compared to Canada, which offers universal healthcare for all its residents, America spends almost twice as much to insure and care for select individuals, rather than the entire population. A researcher writes, "In 2001, Canada spent $2,792 per capita on healthcare, whereas the U.S. spent $4,887 per capita on healthcare. That is, Canada spent about 57% of what the U.S. spent per capita" ("Canadian healthcare," 2006, p. 2). In addition, the Federal Government's own studies indicate that an effective universal healthcare system could save American's as much as $200 billion annually, while providing health care coverage for everyone (Battista & McCabe, 1999). One of the reasons the costs would go down lies in administrative costs, which clog the system today and cost billions of dollars. In addition, studies indicate that the U.S. pays at least 40% more per capita for healthcare costs than countries with universal healthcare programs (Battista & McCabe, 1999). That means the current American system is bloated and wasteful, and too much money is being spent on administrative costs, such as marketing and paperwork, when it could be spent on research and care.

Another argument against universal healthcare is that it is not the responsibility of the government or American citizens to guarantee healthcare to everyone. This "it's their fault they are uninsured" argument is popular in many sectors of the population, but it does not hold water for a number of reasons. First, studies indicated that eight out of ten uninsured workers come from families in the workforce, rather than families on welfare or other public assistance, and many opponents claim. They simply work for companies that do not offer health insurance, or they cannot afford it on their own. One researcher notes, "The high costs of health care are due to influences beyond any one individual's control - they are influenced by society-wide trends towards increased use of technology, high administrative costs of our healthcare system, and a strong profit motive in the health insurance industry that drives up the cost of premiums" ("Arguments," 2006, p. 1). Clearly, this is not the fault of the uninsured; rather, it is the fault of a system that promotes profit over care in many cases.

Many people also believe that anyone can obtain medical care free of charge at any hospital if they cannot afford to pay for it. This is true, but often, the hospitals that serve the uninsured are crowded and do not offer the best care. In addition, these healthcare costs are written off by the hospital, thereby creating more costs for the taxpayers to bear. Researcher Chua continues, "The federal government subsidizes private health insurance by exempting health care costs as a taxable expenditure by employers and by considering health care benefits to employees tax-free" ("Arguments," 2006, p. 2). Thus, Americans fund healthcare insurance as a part of their tax dollars, whether they agree with the practice or not. Universal healthcare would save money, and that means a savings to American taxpayers, as well.

One of the best-known universal healthcare systems in the world belongs to the U.S. neighbor to the north - Canada. Universal healthcare has been in place in Canada since 1971, and it actually began in Saskatchewan in 1947 ("Canadian healthcare," 2006, p. 1). The system provides healthcare for all Canadians, but there are some differences in delivery and payment between provinces. The Canadian government oversees the system, which is actually administered at the province level. Provinces must comply with certain basic rules of delivery and access, or the government can cut off funding to the province. There are private physicians, insurance companies, and healthcare facilities in the Canadian system. The private companies make up gaps in coverage, rather than duplicating benefits covered by the universal system ("Canadian healthcare," 2006, p. 1). Much of this private insurance covers aspects of the healthcare system not covered, such as dental care, some prescription drugs, and rehabilitation. The system is funded from a variety of sources, from payroll and sales taxes to income taxes. The system covers everyone, regardless of race, income, or any other factor.

In addition, there is much more autonomy and freedom of choice available to patients in the Canadian system. More than 50% of physicians in Canada are General or Family Practitioners, while less than one-third of American doctors fall into that category. Canadian physicians can monitor their patents through referrals and specialist options, while managed care often dictates the duties and involvement of physicians in the United States. Americans have fewer choices in care because of managed care and PPO restrictions on providers, while Canadians are free to choose their own physicians and healthcare facilities ("Canadian healthcare," 2006, p. 2). This brings the customer service aspects of the industry to a higher level, encouraging better service and an overall better healthcare experience for Canadians.

That is not to say the Canadian system is without fault. There are gaps in coverage (outpatient prescription drugs and home care), waiting lists for some procedures can be long, and there have been budgetary shortfalls in the past that led to hospitals reducing their budgets and physicians waiting overly long for reimbursement from the government. Some in Canada would like to see the private medical sector return to ensure more level funding ("Canadian healthcare," 2006, p. 2). However, the Canadian system indicates that a universal health plan administered at the state level can work, and can increase the healthcare coverage for a nation. It is time for the United States to create its own universal healthcare plan so that Americans no longer have to worry about the ability to pay for any healthcare procedure, no matter what it is or how costly it is. In the end, a universal healthcare policy can save lives, streamline healthcare, and ensure the country is more healthy and happy.

One American plan to consider is a voucher system, known as Universal Healthcare Vouchers (UHVs). Each American household would receive a voucher for each member to choose the healthcare provider of their choice, through private health plans. The insurers would be required to meet certain specifications and guarantee certain benefits, including prescription… [END OF PREVIEW]

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