Apr 062011
Authors: Joe Vajgrt

It’s been a little more than a year since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law. The most recent Gallup poll says that 46 percent of Americans think the reform was “a good thing” compared to 44 percent calling it “a bad thing.”
No matter where a person sits on the ideological spectrum, very few people seem to be truly happy with this bill.

Those on the right dislike the bill for what they see as an expensive, intrusive trampling of their personal freedoms. Those on the left dislike the bill because it doesn’t fundamentally change what they see as a broken system or go far enough in assuring that everyone has access to affordable and equal care.

In the 55 weeks since the law was passed, the number of likely voters who support repealing the law has ranged between 50 and 63 percent. The most recent poll by Rasmussen Reports puts the figure at 54 percent. As one would imagine, those who approve of repeal and those opposed are neatly divided among party lines.

Presently, 56 percent of voters believe the bill will increase the federal deficit. The majority of Americans also believe that the bill will drive up their personal healthcare costs while reducing the quality of care they’ll receive.
The most recent and reliable information available is from 2007 when Americans spent 16.2 percent of our $13.8 trillion gross domestic product on healthcare expenditures. This equates to $7,421 per person in the U.S.

Opinions on the potential economic impact of drastic changes to our healthcare system vary wildly. But with so much of our money changing hands, it’s easy to see why this is such a contentious issue.

One point that is rarely argued is why we even have a for-profit health care system to begin with. Until about 45 years ago, hospitals and clinics in the U.S. almost exclusively operated as non-profits or charitable organizations whose sole purpose was to treat their patients.

Claire Andre and Manuel Velasquez of Santa Clara University’s ethics department write, “In a system of for-profit health care, the opportunities for patient manipulation and exploitation are endless. Society must not allow the motive of economic gain to enter so directly into the practice of medicine, placing the well-being of patients in serious jeopardy, and undermining the trust so essential to the physician-patient relationship.”

Unfortunately for the poorest among us, the move towards profit-focused healthcare means it’s often in a hospital’s best financial interests not to provide an equal or adequate level of treatment to people lacking sufficient resource or health insurance.

Proponents of the move towards the commercialization of healthcare claimed that an influx of competition in an open market would drive down costs for everyone while improving the quality and efficiency of care provided. This simply hasn’t been the case, seeing as healthcare costs have increased exponentially over the last four-and-a-half decades.

Critics of for-profit healthcare worry that such a system creates an endemic conflict of interest. After all, when the focus is on profits, there’s little incentive to actually focus on the health and well-being of patients.

Perhaps this can explain why Americans pay more than any other country on earth for healthcare while only managing to place 37th in the World Health Organization’s rankings of the best healthcare systems.

The answers to fixing our broken system don’t lie in forcing everyone to buy coverage. We won’t solve the healthcare system’s problems through tort reform in medical malpractice suits, either.

If we’re serious as a nation about lowering our skyrocketing healthcare costs, we need to take a long, hard look at the type of system that is operating here.

Joe Vajgrt is a junior journalism major whose health plan consists of never getting old or sick and relying on a combination of luck and magic. His column appears every Thursday in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 2:49 pm

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