The right to preserve the mental and physical well-being of a person is inherent to his right to live. All over the world, this right has been protected and established as one of the basic human rights. However, there is a disparity among nations on how it is enforced, with most of the developed world having a universal health care system provided to everyone regardless of their ability to pay (Healthcare, par. 2). The United States is one of those countries in the developed world which does not have a national healthcare system, but rather, healthcare is provided by many separate legal entities (Healthcare in the United States, par. 1).
Many critics of the system have described it as inefficient and ineffective. According to the Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), the current U.S. healthcare system is “outrageously expensive, yet inadequate.” (Single-Payer National Health Insurance, par. 2) The U.S. spends more than twice as much as other developed nations at $7,129 per capita, yet it only ranks 37th out of 191 countries according to its healthcare performance in a World Health Organization (WHO) report in 2000.
Where is all the money going to? The U.S. system is a mixed system where private and public insurers coexist. Still, according to PNHP, private insurers waste healthcare dollars on things not involving care: “overhead, underwriting, billing, sales and marketing departments as well as huge profits and exorbitant executive pay.” Additionally, doctors and hospitals must maintain administrative staff to deal with the bureaucracy. Combined, this accounts for 31 percent of American’s health dollars (Single-Payer National Health Insurance, par. 3)
Just by looking at the numbers it seems there should be no debate on establishing a national healthcare system in the U.S., but in fact the argument rages on in the halls of national politics. There are still several criticisms against a national health care program, mostly stemming from the fact that Americans, by and large, have a tradition of capitalism and for-profit enterprises have most of the time had their way.
Cited criticisms include the old adage that introducing the free market into anything, including healthcare, will drive prices and costs down. In fact, the opposite is currently proving true. The excess payments for care in private for-profit institutions were substantial: 19%. (Himmelstein and Woolhandler, 1814). The standard “free market” and does not apply to the healthcare system, where competition is often absent in some areas, and where the average person is very much in the dark on evaluating the “product” of healthcare. Add to it the unique inefficiency of the U.S. government insuring 27.3% of the population and so we have them paying these for-profit hospitals a premium on what they could do much more efficiently themselves.
Likewise, private insurance have to pay significant overhead, with these costs trickling down to the individual consumer. Under a single payer system, it is estimated that the overall savings in paperwork would amount to more than $350 billion a year, enough to provide comprehensive coverage to everyone without paying more than we actually do. (Single-Payer National Health Insurance, par. 4)
In my case, this mix of private and public insurance makes me and my spouse concerned over our future rates. Both of us are self-employed, and so have to purchase private health insurance coverage for us and for our two children. Instead of a nationwide security system that would protect us from the costs of rising rates, I am faced with the fear that, if we make too many claims, our rates could potentially skyrocket that we could no longer afford to carry it.
As compared to a country like France, which has the best healthcare in the world according to the WHO (WHO Assesses, par. 1), we are wallowing in a system that is grossly inefficient, especially considering the huge cost we pay for our health compared to these nations. The existence of organizations like the PNHP shows that there is widespread support among physicians in the country for a universal healthcare system that will protect the right of every American to live his or her life to the fullest. Implementing a single-payer healthcare system would not only mean better health services for Americans, it will also drive down costs (How Much would a Single-Payer System Cost, par. 1), saving money for the government, and ultimately saving our own money.
R E F E R E N C E
“Single-Payer National Health Insurance”. Physicians for a National Health Program. 2006. 12 June 2007. ; http://www.pnhp.org/facts/single_payer_resources.php;
Introduction: How Much Would a Single-Payer System Cost?”. Physicians for a National
Health Program. 2006. 12 June 2007. < http://www.pnhp.org/single_payer_resources/
“Healthcare.” Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia. 12 June 2007.
“Healthcare in the United States.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 12 June 2007.
Himmelstein, David and Woolhandler, Steffie. “The High Costs of For-Profit Care.” Canadian
Medical Association Journal. 8 June 2004. 1814-1815.
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