Forum: Examining the policies of health care

Left: Government involvement necessary
Growing up in Canada there were always two guarantees. It will always snow in early February, and, regardless of your income, it is completely free to see a doctor. Then I moved to D.C. and have neither of those guarantees.

While I advocate for universal health coverage for all Americans, there are more realistic steps we can take in temporarily reforming the system. Health care is an entitlement and it is criminal that we spend more than any other industrialized nation per capita on health care and still have 39 million Americans who are uninsured. As a nation there is no reason why we must unfairly shift the costs of care onto the ill who simply do not receive the quality care they deserve.

Conservatives need to understand that we are currently in a health care crisis. They want more privatization at a time when families are facing double-digit increases in the costs of health insurance, more out-of-pocket costs for doctor visits and skyrocketing prices for prescriptions. Many Americans are forced to delay getting needed medical care or to decline coverage for themselves or their families because they simply cannot afford these costs.

We must put more of the burden on employers and demand that they provide workers and their families with comprehensive coverage. Currently, it is up to employers to decide what type of coverage to offer their employees, and whether or not they want to offer coverage at all. Health care should not be a voluntary option for employers because they shift costs onto their workers or skimp on coverage. After 30 days at a given occupation, businesses should be required to offer workers coverage and set the maximum employee contribution at 25 percent.

Conservatives feel that there should be little or no governmental intervention. Yet, when we don’t hold businesses and companies accountable for health care they continue to do what they are doing – shifting more costs onto workers, making employees pay larger co-pays, making family coverage too expensive and creating stricter guidelines that offer less access to needed drugs.

Those who receive independent coverage face large obstacles, especially those with health problems. According to the Alliance for Health Care Reform, “In all but five states, individuals or families buying insurance on their own can be charged higher premiums, or denied coverage, if they have health problems.” Yet, those who are uninsured are hit the hardest by current policies, disproportionately affecting Latinos and African Americans. The uninsured are more likely to experience avoidable hospitalizations and more likely to die during hospitalizations than those with health coverage. We must fairly address the health needs of the uninsured.

The U.S. should let employers buy into Medicare or other public programs on behalf of all the employees at a given company. We must cover all children immediately – it is disgusting that 9 million children in this country lack health care – and laws passed in Vermont to protect the health of children should be replicated nationwide. Also, the general cost of drugs as dictated by pharmaceutical industries remains unreasonable. We must support state legislation such as attempts in Maine that give political leaders the power to negotiate drug discounts for those on Medicaid with pharmaceutical companies

The government should penalize companies who demand high health care contributions from their employees and continue to make health coverage tax deductible for businesses. These temporary solutions are goals on the road to creating an America where all citizens are able to benefit from our medicine and have access to quality care.
-By Bernard Pollack, a graduate student in the School of Political Management and Hatchet columnist.

Right: Privatize the coverage
Health care is not entitlement. There are no provisions in the Constitution which guarantee that every American be given free medical coverage or prescription drugs. It is just not there. However, it is within our country’s best interest to ensure that we are a healthy people. There is no denial that it is absolutely critical to our economy, our prosperity and our happiness. Therefore health care insurance is of vital interest to our government and our families.

Regardless, this should not translate into the formation of a universal health care system funded by the United States government in which all Americans are given medical services and prescription drugs free of charge. The focus should be placed on reform and a complete overhaul of how we approach the funding of health care costs. It is time we remove government as the principal subsidizer and concentrate on privatizing the system so that doctors can assist patients in taking preventative, rather than reactive, measures to curb the costs.

For our senior citizens, Medicare is the end all, be all of their health insurance. The current system, designed in 1965, can be likened to the Stone Age in terms of cost, care and technology. It must be modernized in order to address the growing health care costs that are facing recipients. Congress has answered with a proposal that simply tacks on a drug care package to the program that could cost taxpayers over four trillion dollars. Having a prescription drug package is not the problem.

A study by Columbia University found that for each $1 spent on newer drugs eventually saved $4 in hospital care. Why? Prescription drugs are often used for preventative care and deter more debilitating, more costly medical conditions that require expensive and lengthy hospitalization.

In his State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush proposed that “seniors happy with the current Medicare system should be able to keep their coverage just the way it is.” However, a Medicare recipient would enroll with a private insurance company or doctor’s group to receive prescription drugs. Seniors who do not want or need the drug benefit have the option of maintaining the coverage they currently receive. The reformation of Medicare must be initiated by establishing private retirement health care accounts that give seniors options.

Medicare is only the beginning of the nation’s heath care woes. Disproportionately, single mothers and children are dealing with poor health because of insufficient or nonexistent coverage. Low-income workers are also enduring the rising costs. To alleviate this, The Acton Institute argues for a refundable, advanced tax credit in order to give money directly to the patients. Patients would be able to purchase healthcare wherever they choose, giving many low-income workers and single mothers the option of rejecting assorted state sponsored programs that do not provide the health care they need.

Health care coverage should find private solutions that will increase competition and choice, as well as investment in personal accounts that are private, affordable and accessible.
-By Jenni Bradley, a graduate student in the School of Political Management and Hatchet columnist.

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