Friday, October 26, 2012

An argument for a government-run single health care insurance

By Evelyn Robinson 

Money isn’t Everything... or is it?

In today’s modern age, most westernized countries have widely accessible health care that is implemented and enforced by the government to ensure the country looks after all its citizens; not just the wealthy and privileged. In America however, such a system is not currently in place and the majority of the members of its society are left to fund expensive medical bills or seek out ever more extortionate insurance coverage that is often discriminatory and has reams upon reams of ‘small print’ that will refuse you coverage when you actually need it despite years of paid premiums.    
The land that was once regarded highly in the world for its opportunities and had a vast array of prospects for its inhabitants has subsequently descended into a fatally flawed environment that is fueled by greed and lack of morality. The ‘American Dream’ as it was once coined, seems close to ceasing to exist.

Facts and Figures

48, 000 people last year alone died needlessly on account of not being able to access the necessary health insurance to survive. According to the 2011 census: over 48 million Americas are surviving without any health insurance at all and a further 25 million are underinsured, whereby not everything needed to keep them healthy is covered by their premium. Something as basic as a simple trip to the emergency room before treatment can even begin could substantiate a bill of a $1000 or more.

Kate Robbins, board member of health care now, classes the alternative to such high bills, health care insurance, an ‘excellent example of commodifying public goods’. These companies that were originally designed to benefit the general population and in many cases, not base their business model on profit; since the 80’s however, the concept of ‘non-profit health care insurance’ has become as mythological as fairy tales. According to the institute of medicine, America spent 2.6 trillion dollars on health care last year where 750 billion dollars was wasted on unnecessary services, excessive administration and even fraud. The problem is, that once health care is sought, due to the high expense incurred in purchasing the service, members of the public seek to make the most use out of this expenditure as you would any other service. Due to another company covering an individual’s bills, they do not necessarily seek the most cost effective route of recovery therefore incurring extra costs that may be superfluous. These unessential extras push the premiums to an ever higher rate making customers even more bent on making the most of their purchase further commodifying this live saving service and making it more inaccessible to the already suffering, disadvantaged proportion of the population.  This is suggestive perhaps of why medical bills and health cover is the leading cause of Bankruptcy in the US.

Current Government Funding

There are some government funded systems in place which aid many in desperate need, still though, these only seek to serve a small minority of the population and the majority is therefore left in the same old, self sustaining predicament. Medicare was established in 1965 to care for those over the age of 65 by providing them with basic health care coverage. It can also be used to assist those with permanent kidney failure that either require a transplant or dialysis; in the same way Medicare cover some individuals with disabilities. Medicare’s twin alliance in government funded healthcare is Medicaid. This service appeals to those experiencing, what the government deems to be, substantial hardship normally applicable to those on an exceptionally low income. The program also assists pregnant woman and again those which are disabled. Problems arise however when considering people who are not citizens or have not sustained citizenship for long enough (i.e. immigrants) as they will not be covered. There are also numerous loopholes in the system that prevents the coverage of many consequently leaving them uninsured.


The majority of people do not qualify for government subsidized health cover and are therefore forced to go private if they wish for such a service. Healthcare in America is normally currently employer based making the system reliant on consumers having suitable jobs. Often when someone loses their job it is due to illness that forces them to take extended absences and not perform accordingly meaning that company’s eventually let them go, and with them, their rights to their health insurance. Ironically this occurs at a time when clients need their health insurance the most and they are consequently left to suffer with no means of support. Some argue that there is a ‘safety net’ in place to prevent these circumstances called COBRA whereby people can choose to retain their health insurance despite loss of their job by paying a certain amount each month. However these installments are often not feasible as they quite frequently exceed unemployment benefits.

The Affordable Health Care Act

To try and prohibit these almost exponential rises in private health insurance, Barack Obama passed a new law in 2010 called the Affordable Health Care Act that is due to be implemented in 2014 with a view to eliminating discrimination based on age and previous illness from insurance companies also making it mandatory for everyone to have insurance. This will supposedly save the US billions of dollars by promoting a healthy America that maintains its health consistently rather than seeking help only when sickness has ensued. Private health care will be made mandatory to all on punishment of being fined unless insurance companies seek to charge more than 8% of your income, in that case you can remain uninsured without penalty.

Although forcing insurance companies not to discriminate against those with previous health complications will make insurance more accessible to the wider community in the short term. In the long term this can only lead to premiums once again climbing back up; the government, even with subsidisation, will be increasing demand for health care without increasing the supply of medical professionals causing longer waiting times and ultimately a reduction in the quality of the service which could not be corrected without more funding.

What could potentially be an alternative solution is single cover health care where there is a sole insurance company run by the state opposed to multiple firms that compete with each other for business. This ‘NHS-like’ system was actually condoned by Obama in 2003 but was then contradictory condemned by him in 2010 when he deemed this idea impractical and unrealistic. The economy in America, as it stands, appears somewhat too greedy to ever be turned around, making a health environment that was purely designated for benefiting the wider public a thing of fiction.

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Rancho Santa Margarita, CA- The Determinators, a movie  based on the book The Battle for America's Soul, by CL Gray, MD features leading experts in the field of healthcare who have studied the new law, bought to you by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) 

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