With the signing of the Affordable Healthcare for America Act into law, the United States of America welcomed the age of universal healthcare. Despite the spirited efforts by democrats led by President Barrack Obama to draw public support for the bill, most people are yet to decide whether universal healthcare is the right way for Americans to go. Understandably, the fears and doubts of the American populace are justifiable. First, the country is built on the spirit of capitalism and hard work. As such, any public policy that borders on giving freebies or welfare to people who would otherwise be working hard to afford the same face great opposition. The argument that universal healthcare would not bring down healthcare-related costs has also been cited among reasons why the US should not adopt universal healthcare. Opponents of the idea argue that there is a possibility that the total cost of universal healthcare would increase significantly (Messerli). Regardless of these arguments, however, this essay holds the opinion that giving people who cannot afford quality healthcare a chance to access the same is worth every trouble that the taxpayers can take. Just because Americans believe in hard work and entrepreneurship, is no justification to let those who cannot afford quality healthcare suffer.
Healthcare reform in politics
Among the democratic presidents in the recent past, Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama had included healthcare reform in their campaign agendas. As (Hill and McComb 21) observe, President Clinton sought to keep his campaign pledges by establishing a task force meant to look into the inadequacies of the US healthcare system and provide proposals for establishing universal healthcare. By the time Clinton took office, at least 71 percent of Americans favored the proposal. By 1994 however, the opponents of universal healthcare had managed to convince their supporters to change camps. As a result, the universal healthcare bill as proposed during the Clinton administration had lost public support, garnering only 33 percent support by 1994 (Hill and McComb 21). Although President Clinton’s healthcare reform proposals were different from President Obama’s, both promised to look into means and ways of providing Americans with a better healthcare system. This suggests that the American populace acknowledged the inadequacies of their healthcare system, yet did not have a ready answer for the same. Their hopes were vested on the political class to come up with a lasting solution.
What makes collective health provision such contentious in America?
With the US being the only developed country without a universal healthcare system, one wonders what makes collective health provision such contentious in America. Moreover, why does not the US follow examples set by other developed countries like Canada and Britain? Well, there are probably no straight answers to these questions. However, it is quite clear as has been observed by (Messerli), that privatized healthcare as practiced in the US has only led to spiraling costs and a situation where the poor are left to suffer in their sickness due to their inability to pay for quality healthcare. This is quantified by statistics, which suggest that approximately 24 million people lack insurance cover and cannot, therefore, access healthcare services (Conor). Worse still, the cost of health cover has increased over the years, therefore, making it unaffordable to most individuals and businesses (Conor). With universal healthcare, America will not only eliminate inefficiencies, which add up to the increasing costs, but will also do away with time-consuming duplicate paperwork, insurance submissions, and intricate often disappointing claim approval processes (Messerli).
Doctors’ multiple roles in the privatized system
Apart from playing their role as medical professionals, doctors in America have had to balance between practicing medicine and understanding the different insurance plans presented to them by clients. More so, physicians in the American context have to be extra careful when handling patients to “avoid malpractice liability” (Messerli). In an environment where patients are ever on the lookout for ways to reduce their medical costs, doctors are at an increased risk of being sued for simple procedural oversights that could easily pass as normal in other countries (Conor). Because of the defensive stance taken by doctors and other professionals in the medical career, most of them end up doing what is ‘politically correct’ rather than focusing on what would be the best for their patients.
With universal healthcare, chances are that more people will seek medical intervention regularly, hence engaging in preventative practices that would drastically reduce the cost of curing full-blown diseases or managing advanced health conditions. With private healthcare systems, a significant percentage of the population cannot undergo routine checkups that help catch diseases early.
Although universal health care appears like a communist idea to most Americans who believe that people should work and invest part of their earnings in health cover, it is clear that the society at large has multiple benefits that accrue from such an approach to healthcare provision. As evident from (Conor’s) assertions, Americans repulse the idea of paying medical bills for the less fortunate in society. However, they ultimately end up doing the same when such people end up in the emergency room. In most cases, people end up in emergency rooms because they postpone going to hospitals in good time for fear of the related costs.
The cost factor always takes precedence in all universal healthcare-related debates in the US. Considering the bankruptcies that arise from the healthcare-related costs, and the expensive nature of health cover, universal healthcare may end up being cheaper than the privatized healthcare system that has dominated the US over the years.
Conor, Aaron. The Benefits of Universal Healthcare. 2009. Web.
Hill, Lewis & McComb, Robert. “A Post-Mortem on the Clinton Healthcare Proposal: Lessons from History and Hopes for the Future.” International Journal of Social Economics 23.8 (1996): 21-28. Print.
Messerli, Joe. Should the Government Provide Free Universal Healthcare for all Americans? 2009. Web.