Sep 9, 2008

Universal health care under the microscope

by Elisabeth Garman

Universal health care has been a hotly-debated topic in past years, and this election year is no different. If it were adopted, public health care would be provided by the government so citizens could visit the doctor and pay next to nothing. In a perfect world, this program would be ideal, (then again, so would communism). The actual implementation of this, similar to any other governmental program, is more simple in theory, and there are other sides to the argument.

According to the Institute of Medicine at the National Academies of Science, the United States is the only industrialized country in the world that does not have universal health care. Supporters of the program have been pushing for changes at the state level, with states such as Massachusetts, California, Maine, Vermont and Hawaii leading the way.

Most opposition to universal health care revolves around possible economic strain. Surprisingly, the United States could save money with this program. According to an article on entitled, “A Conservative Case for Universal Health Coverage,” countries with universal health care spend less per person than the United States.

The article goes on to quote the U.S. Statistical Abstract, showing the U.S. spending more per person for health care than any other nation. U.S. medical care costs $4,887 a person, on average every year — Switzerland comes in second, averaging $3,690 a person.
Another argument against universal health care is that the quality of service would decline. While some government-funded programs and services are satisfactory, health care is important, and the skill of the doctors and the wait time for treatment can literally be life or death for certain situations, according to Universal health care is not perfect, and there remain some kinks in the idea, just as our current system is not perfect.

Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain actually have similar positions on this issue, according to their respective campaign Web sites. They both want to provide uninsured Americans with health coverage and ensure care for individuals who are ill. Neither of them is pushing for a complete universal health care program. Hilary Clinton’s plan was more in that direction, with free coverage for individuals under a certain income and mandatory enrollment in a plan for everyone in the U.S.

Most students are still on their parents’ health insurance, at least until they graduate. To them, the thought of health care may seem irrelevant, but if they need surgery after college, even a small procedure could set them back thousands of dollars without medical coverage.

Whether public or private, health care is important and it is a major factor in determining one’s quality of life. But if health care was free, hypochondriacs would rejoice and the wait time would be much longer for others seeking health services. While some revisions to the plan could definitely be made, a complete overhaul of the current system would just result in utter chaos.


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