Health Care Policy
Lower costs through universal care
The needs of our citizens are not universal
By Steven Higgins
By Alesha Guenther
On July 4, 1776, our Founding Fathers declared that men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Today, many people are, due to a lack of access to readily available health care services, prevented from pursuing their natural rights because of the inefficiency and waste of the United States health care system.
The United States does not have a single payer health care system. It operates on a market based health care system which is supplemented by Medicaid and Medicare. Of the people who are insured, it is estimated that 54% of the population receives health insurance from employment-based programs. Another 16% of the population is covered by Medicare, a federal program established to cover the elderly, and almost 20% of people are covered by Medicaid, a program created to insure people in poverty. Under this system, almost 10% of the population is uninsured, and in the American health care system, being uninsured can carry some severe consequences. If a person without health insurance happens to become sick or injured, they will have to pay for their procedures and medicine on their own, and medical expenses in the United States are not cheap. For example, a heart bypass surgery in the United States costs $75,345. This price is over $30,000 more than in Australia, the country with the second highest price. Other procedures like appendectomies, MRIs, and CT scans follow the same trends. In addition, pharmaceuticals are also routinely more expensive in the United States. People without health insurance often flounder under these heavy medical costs, and when they go bankrupt, the U.S. taxpayers pick up the bill. The Affordable Care Act went some way to fix this problem. Through Medicaid expansion, allowing people under the age of 26 to stay on their parent’s health insurance, and the coverage of people with pre-existing conditions, the Affordable Care Act has helped 20 million people gain access to health insurance, but even with this reduction in the number of people who are uninsured, there are still far too many people who are left without access to quality health insurance.
The bargaining power a single payer health care system would provide would drive down medical costs just like it has in countries like Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The United States spends more on health care than all of these countries. In 2013, the United States spent 17.1% of its GDP on health care costs. That is almost 50% more than the its closest competitor. Its average per capita spending is $9,086 compared to the next highest of $6,325. The United States spends more public money on health care than every country except Norway and the Netherlands, and private spending is higher in the U.S. than in any other country. These statistics are simply astonishing when you take into account the United States’ comparatively low life expectancy (78.8 years) and surprisingly high infant mortality rate (6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births). In addition, U.S. citizens have access to fewer hospitals and visit their physicians fewer times than their peers in other countries.
However, it does not have to be this way. The adoption of a single payer health care system would allow the government to bargain with medical companies to ensure we are getting the best prices possible. It is believed high health care costs are one of the main reasons for the United States’ ridiculous overspending on health care, and this would go a long way toward fixing this problem. A single payer system would also insure the 10% of people who live without health insurance and with the fear they might become sick and find themselves in financial ruin while also improving public health. Studies have also shown that people who have health insurance tend to take less sick days, so economic productivity will also be benefited. All in all, moving to a single payer health care system will allow many people to finally enjoy their right to “life” and “the pursuit of happiness” while also driving down health care costs for every single American.
As a conservative American, I believe in a small government that is governed by the intentions of the constitution. I do not believe that our founding fathers fought for freedom from the British crown only to have their lives managed by bureaucrats and politicians in Washington. Letting consumers choose the details of their own healthcare services provoke the insurance industry to compete for business, developing a low-cost, high-quality system. Decisions about my doctors, services, coverage and care are extremely individualized and should not be made by anyone but me. The citizens in this country have needs that are not universal; therefore, supplying universal care is an inefficient and incomplete way of meeting American’s personal needs that is why I am a proponent of health care that is your personal choice.
Ideology aside, we have seen that the affordable care act has not been anything but affordable for middle class Americans. The system has caused Americans to have little to no choice for the coverage and benefits in their insurance plans, thus forcing them to purchase insurance plans that may be out of their means. In the early days of Obamacare, proponents for the legislation promised constituents they would be able to keep visiting their doctors and that the prices would stay stable. A goal which has ultimately failed. According to Cynthia Cox of the Kaiser Family Foundation, one out of four counties in the United States will only be able to offer one government backed insurance plan. In 2015 the Congressional Budget Office predicted that 21 million Americans would purchase the insurance, but only 9.6 million people are on the currently using the federally regulated insurance plan. Premiums have elevated beyond the rate Americans can afford. As reported in spectator.org, in the state of Pennsylvania, insurers requested that the premium price would be raised up to 48% this year. Even worse, in the state of Tennessee, insurance companies already have raised premiums by 62%. Insurance companies are dropping out of this program by the minute because of how financial crippling this system is for their business and for their customers. These companies are unable to continue to support a system that causes them to lose money, and thus they are dropping out of the program. Their customers are also being forced to pay premiums that are much higher than expected, causing them to be unable to keep up with the costs.
While all of these facts may look like just the numbers at first glance, the fact is, there are millions of families who are stuck paying premiums and deductibles higher than they can afford, with care that isn’t even tailored to them. Those in favor of a more universal system for health care will tell you that there are more people that are insured than ever before. But, this comes at an immense cost. Paul Ryan said it best, “They expanded coverage by dramatically lowering quality.”
Fortunately, there is a solution. Let the consumers choose their own insurance that works for them, from private businesses that compete so prices stay low. The bottom line is that insurance should not be a one size fits all system. The system that we are currently pushing upon Americans is ineffective as it is expensive. We need to repeal and replace Obamacare with a system that is designed to meet the needs of all Americans by letting them choose it themselves. We need to ensure that citizens have the freedom to search for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness with their own choice of health care.