With a new president in office, expectations are high about the progress he will be able to make in Washington that will improve our country and our personal lives. One subject that strongly divides our nation is the subject of universal health care otherwise known as socialized medicine.
With our national debt now over $11 trillion dollars and an economy in a slump the topic of a universal system of health is more heated than ever before. Some ask why we should address it now, with our deficit already through the roof. Others ask how we can possibly wait as the number of unemployed and uninsured continues to rise along with the cost of health care itself.
But are the options as black and white as they appear and what are the economic consequences involved in installing such a system or continuing on the path of private health care?
Those against a universal plan ask whether we can allow an already swollen and inefficient government to manage such a complex plan as health care; the same government that is doing nothing about another universal plan, social security, which is facing bankruptcy in the upcoming decades.
Government plans are slow moving, resistant to change and inefficient compared and example of this problem is illustrated with Canadian struggles. Waiting periods for basic doctor’s appointments can take months, some cancer patients can wait 6 months for treatment, while some procedures have a waiting period measured in years. As a matter of fact, the new president of Canada’s National Medical Association, Dr. Brian Day, is an outspoken advocate of greater privatization of the health care system.
Universal plans such as the one in Canada outlaw medical care paid for by individual funds as a way to manage costs. This leaves citizens in the lurch with no way to get the medical treatment they need except to travel outside the country. In such situations unequal access still results in health disparities that universal health care is supposed to cure. Other arguments against universal care include additional taxation, reduction of charitable medical services by doctors and over-utilization such as the problem facing social security.
Those in favor of universal care have as many arguments for the implementation as those against. According to the World Health Organizations report World Health Statistics 2008, the United States spends a far higher percentage of our gross domestic product on health care equaling 15.2 percent. This is in stark contrast to countries with socialized medicine such as the United Kingdom at 8.2, Canada at 9.7, Germany at 10.7 and France at 11.2 percent. As a matter of fact the only country who spends more on health care is the Marshall Islands.
Why the difference? According to a study by Harvard Medical School and Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, administrative costs associated with the current system equate to about $286 billion a year in overhead and paperwork. Some argue that by allowing some form of universal health coverage the United States could dramatically reduce these costs.
Another argument for universal health care is economic; ensuring the health of U.S. citizens benefits our nation by acting as a subsidy to business (for example, the cost of health insurance to U.S. auto manufacturers adds between 900 to 1,400 dollars to each car made in the U.S.). In addition 59 percent of the U.S. health care system is already publicly financed through taxes; according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2007 report on Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage, the government already directly covers 27.8 percent of the population through plans such as Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP and TRICARE.
The solutions are innumerable; the United States can continue private health care, find middle ground where basic coverage is provided and additional insurance can be purchased or go so far as to prohibited extra billing by doctors on patients. Some form of universal care already exist in states such as Massachusetts and Vermont who have similar plans in place which require all residents to have health care.
The arguments for and against universal health care are legitimate ones which bring to light the many economic benefits and pitfalls that are possible with a universal health care system. Just as with any bureaucratic decision, it is not one to be made lightly and it is American people who will ultimately weigh the potential benefits against the possible risks to our economy and freedoms.
What do you think will be the best plan for the United States?
Rayne M. Johnson is a Staff Writer with the Clear Medical Solutions Communication Team. Her work is regularly shared on the Clear Medical Agency newsletter and the ClearManagementMatters.com blog.