A Healthy Country
Stuart Country Day School of Sacred Heart, Princeton, NJ, United States
The purpose of this essay is to illustrate the urgent need for health care reform in the United States of America. This paper presents numerous arguments for the establishment of a universal health care system that will provide all citizens, regardless of age, race or sex, with basic health insurance. It also attempts to debunk the criticisms on universal health care plan.
In a hospital, a woman named Esmin Green, 49, had been waiting in an emergency room for 24 hours before she toppled from her seat at 5:32 a.m. About an hour later, someone from the hospital staff finally approached her, but by then, she was already dead (Hartocollis, 2008).
Suppose that Esmin had a health insurance. Would the same thing have happened to her? This tragedy did not happen in a third world country. It happened in the United States, and is happening to many uninsured Americans. Just like Esmin, many people have been experiencing substandard health care and astronomical medical debt, because they do not have health insurance. This is no longer the issue of the unfortunate few, for it will directly or indirectly affect the rest. Ultimately, this is the issue of all the US citizens who wish to live healthy and happy lives. Now is the time for the US to adopt universal health coverage for everyone.
According to the US government census (2008) forty-seven million US residents have no health insurance, and most of them are from low income families. Two out of five, or forty-one percent, of working-class Americans with low incomes were uninsured for at least a part of last year, and nearly fifty-three percent had been uninsured in the past. Many lower income families have been treated unfairly for a long time and have difficulties in having access to needed health care and managing chronic conditions, consequently driving them into serious debt.
Sack (2008) reports the story of Cassie O. Hall. She has four children, and none of them has health insurance. The children never got physical examination or booster shots, which left Cassie with a pile of bills that she could not pay off. Since the children did not have health insurance, she took her children to an emergency room. Even when her children were having asthma attacks and suffering from persistent rashes, there was nothing they could do other than sit in a waiting room for an untold number of hours.
The Institute of Medicine and the Urban Institute publicized that approximately 22,000 adults between the ages of 25 to 64 died each year because they had no health insurance. People have to pay a ridiculous amount of money to go to a hospital even for a basic examination. This problem leads to another issue - debt. To repay their debts, Americans use their savings, which leaves them vulnerable or unable to pay for basic necessities such as rent, gas, heat and even food. It can even lead them to lose their home. People might argue that accepting a universal health coverage system will raise taxes; adding to a bigger financial burden on people eventually. However, for the poor who cannot afford insurance, a solution should be found.
Some people might claim that the percentage of uninsured people has been stable based on the numbers from the US government census (Health Insurance Coverage, 2008). However, if we look at the number of uninsured Americans, it has increased from 31 million to 45.7 million since 1987.
Health insurance coverage differs depending on race. 20 percent of Hispanic American and 12 percent of African American children in America are uninsured as compared to 7.3 percent of Caucasian children. Bakalar (2008) reports that African Americans and Hispanics have been exposed to risk factors of some of the society’s worst diseases and illnesses. For example, they are the main targets in alcohol and tobacco advertisements, which unfortunately increase the risks of alcoholism and cancer. Also, life expectancy of African Americans in the United States has dropped two years in a row while the life expectancy of Caucasians keeps growing. People who desperately need health insurance, in reality, are unable to get it.
To give people equal treatment, we need to introduce universal health coverage, which means that everyone in the country automatically obtains a health insurance implemented by the government. Some people might argue that budget restraint is a problem since the budget deficit is substantial. This might seem as a daunting problem for health care reform at the first glance. Yet, just like how Dr. Martin Luther King criticized the US government’s increasing expenditure on military defense decades ago, some argue the money they have spent on wars could have been used to rescue millions of people without health insurance.
However, a budget change is not the only solution. If the US government implements universal health coverage, the people who have been paying a great deal for personal health insurance wouldn’t have to spend that amount of money on their health care plan anymore. Not having to pay for health insurance may boost the economy. It is true that the insurance program’s cost can exceed its benefits. However, the government should not think about the negative effect on the budget, but about the positive impact the program will have on its people.
In September of 2008, Wall Street experienced a financial crisis and the US government had to bail out several banks. As a result of the downturn, thousands of people lost their jobs and health insurance. Picture this scenario: A hard working American family has a child with cancer. Because of greed on Wall Street, the father lost his job in the blink of an eye. His child now does not have any health care coverage for x-rays, checkups, and chemo-treatments. She may eventually die as her family might not be able to pay for elective treatments such as Chemo-therapy. Unfortunately, this is no Great Depression story, and the numbers are already too big to overlook. A country without basic health care can be the richest in the world, but not the healthiest.