May 072009
 
Authors: Alex Stephens

America has been long over-due for health care reform.

Many experts, and I myself, agree that national change away from profiteering insurance companies needs to be brought on by individual states that act to set an example for the country. We in Colorado should be the catalyst for that reform.

For those of you that don’t know, in the past month we had a cheaper, all-inclusive health care plan within our grasp but lost it by one vote down at the Denver Capitol. House Bill 09-1273, the Colorado Guaranteed Health Care Act, would have done amazing things for the state, and despite what many on the right argue, it would not have been socialism.

Socialized medicine is the system Canada uses, and it is notoriously flawed.

We’ve all heard the horror stories: Someone’s sick relative that’s in dire need of treatment died while on the waiting list to see a doctor, patients aren’t able to choose their doctors and often receive inadequate treatment while the cost seems inefficient — or so opponents say.

The proposed system would be infinitely better for several reasons.

While funded by the government, it would be privately delivered, meaning people could still choose their doctors themselves. They wouldn’t be told who they can and cannot see, and since more people would have access to it, the range of choices would increase.

Better still, it would cover every Coloradan, especially the 800,000 or more of us who currently are uninsured.

It would be significantly cheaper than the private system of insurance we have now, saving about $1.4 billion, and would be less cumbersome for employers as they would not have to directly provide health insurance for their employees, and instead just contribute to the main fund.

The money would be saved by eliminating the profiteering in overhead and administrative fees that drive our current insurance industry rates. By having one agency, the government, handle the bureaucracy and paperwork of the system, it can be managed much more efficiently.

Above all, the reason that we need to switch is that our current health insurance system is failing.

Comparing the United States to Japan, Ireland, France, Switzerland and even Canada, we have the lowest life expectancy while paradoxically spending a much higher portion of our Gross Domestic Product than they do. Our infant and maternal mortality rates are also higher than other countries that have some form of universal health care.

This problem is only compounded by Medicare and Medicaid. With these programs, our national government pays out more, as a percentage of GDP, than the aforementioned countries do. In 2005, over 16 percent of our GDP went toward health care expenditures.

All right, I’m done filling the page with statistics; here is why this is important for you.

Chances are, when you graduate you’ll have to find health insurance through your employer — if you can get a job. Until you do, you’re in the same boat of millions of uninsured Americans who go to sleep each night praying they and their children don’t become sick.

Right now we live in a country that caters to the wealthy while ignoring the poor.

Private insurance companies are profit-seeking businesses driven solely by that purpose. They don’t exist to provide you and your family a safety net for unfortunate times — they exist by turning a profit on the gamble you don’t get sick.

If you are already sick and need coverage, you will be turned out because the company will lose money by taking you on.

Once health care is state-funded, the profit incentive will be eliminated and the door will open for people who truly need coverage.

That’s really the fundamental role of government, to take care of the truly at-risk citizens. Why have we permitted big business to exploit this function for so long by strangle-holding any measures for reform?

Check out http://healthcareforallcolorado.org. You can find more specifics on the issues there. Hopefully, you too will realize it’s time for change in our state and our country.

Alex Stephens is a senior political science major. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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