Health care: right or responsibility?

By Brian Loschiavo
November 13, 2008

The United States is one of the greatest places in the world to live, the land of opportunity, freedom and prosperity. Though if it’s a place with such high standards, why does it rank last among other major, rich, industrialized countries for the quality of health care?

Nearly 50 million people are currently living without health insurance and many struggle to pay their medical bills. Half of all bankruptcies in the United States are related to medical costs and three fourths of those medical bankruptcies are of people who have health insurance.

These facts are hard to believe considering our country is so advanced in so many areas of living. It is outrageous to think that we as Americans spend more per person on health care than any other industrialized nation and more of our national income than any other country but we have one of the worst health care systems in the world.

Being the only industrialized country that does not guarantee health care to all of its citizens is not something to be proud of. In my perspective, a universal health care system needs to be put into place.

If the United States is truly the just and fair society that it is portrayed as, then it seems almost beyond doubt that no one should be left unable to get the medical treatment they need. Morally, the system that is in place now needs to be changed. Every American citizen should have the right to good, affordable health care. There is no reason for the people of our country to be going bankrupt because they can’t pay their medical bills. There is something fundamentally wrong with the way the system works.

If a universal system is put in place we could hopefully see the improvement in the quality of care and affordability that would result from people having their own doctors, rather than having their health at the hands of insufficient emergency rooms.

The quality of care given to the American people is also a problem that goes hand-in-hand with the general health care issues that have been uncovered.

Our country has fallen to last among wealthy industrialized countries preventing deaths through the use of timely and effective medical care. Access to care has gone down and out of the 50 million people that do not have adequate insurance or are not insured at all, the cost and quality of care do not measure up to each other.

There are many people paying excessive out-of-pocket medical fees and only getting minimal, inadequate care. The United States now ranks last in preventable mortality rates.

When thinking about the poor care that has been seen in our health systems, I begin to wonder if close family members and friends who have died were properly treated and if more could have been done to save them if we had a better system of care that was up to par with other countries.

Our country spends about 7.5 percent more on healthcare than any other country. Bringing this percentage down to about 5 percent like other countries where there is a universal system in place would save the United States an estimated $50 billion a year.

As a country we spend three times what the average country spends on a day of hospital care, and we also spend twice what the average country spends on prescription medication. This money could be put to much better use in other problem areas that our country is facing.

In many cases, it costs more to deal with problems than to prevent the problems from the beginning. Prevention could occur if health care became a right to every person.

It is a known fact that it costs more to put someone on dialysis than to treat early hypertension, it costs more to handle an asthma attack in the ER than to manage the disease and it cost more to treat cancer than to detect it early with yearly screenings.

The lack of a logical national health insurance system brings down our economy as a whole and puts business in our country at a huge disadvantage in the global marketplace. The National Physicians Alliance has said that guaranteed, affordable, high quality health care is a moral, national and economic imperative for the United States.

Thankfully, my parents have been blessed with jobs that provide great health care for our family. But it scares me to think that in a few years when I graduate from college I am going to have to find a job that provides me with health insurance, which could be challenging with the way the economy and job market are today.

Though this issue has not directly affected my immediate family, my late grandparents were affected by the poor health care system when they were hit with huge fees for their medications.

My late uncle was also left to face the unforgiving world of health insurance when he was laid off of his job and left to fend for himself. He recently died and his medical debts and thousands of dollars in hospital fees have left a burden on my extended family during a time when economic hardships are inevitable.

A prime example of the sub-standard health care system in America is my aunt who is a single mother of four. She injured herself and can no longer perform her job at the cardiology practice where she worked. She is no longer employed and lost all of her health benefits. She is currently paying $500 a month for health insurance, while trying to support her family with minimal income.

If there were some system in place to provide insurance to every person, she wouldn’t have to worry about choosing between putting food on the table and paying for her medicine and doctor visits.

All-in-all, affordable and accessible health care is an essential part of human life and a human right. It has become an urgent national priority and something needs to be done about it.

Health care reform needs to be put into play starting with providing universal and continuous coverage that is affordable to individuals and families and enhances the health and well being of all people.

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Brian Loschiavo

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