Jul 212009
Authors: Kevin Hollinshead

The current health care system in the United States is fatally flawed, allowing for ridiculous insurance practices (e.g.: what constitutes a pre-existing condition) and skyrocketing premiums. The most alarming problem is the shortage of affordable primary and preventive care, leading to a growing cost of delivering that care.

Those who can’t afford insurance, or whose claims are unfairly denied, are forced to either ignore their condition or flood our emergency rooms, increasing wait times and driving up costs. Many are forced to rely on Medicare and Medicaid, which creates a huge burden for taxpayers.

It is time for Congress to treat health care more like a public service for all as opposed to a commodity or privilege.

Some would have you believe that our system is the best in the world, and that change would only make it worse. Tell that to those with rejected insurance claims, or consider the following statistics released by the United Nations: the United States ranks 38th, 29th and 67th, in life expectancy, infant mortality rate and vaccinations, respectively.

Further investigation reveals that our life expectancy and vaccination rates are going down and infant mortality rates are going up. This puts us in the clear minority of industrialized nations, where the opposite is generally true. That is simply embarrassing.

While the current bill in Congress is a start, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has stated that, as it stands, it will not ultimately reduce costs in any meaningful way.

One major problem is President Obama’s almost neurotic obsession with compromise. The bill currently has more than 140 Republican amendments that take the teeth out of it. Yet, Republicans and a few so-called “Blue Dog Democrats” are still holding up the bill’s progression in both chambers of Congress.

To put it succinctly, as long as medical interests have such a powerful voice, no meaningful change can really come about. To industry management, profits come before individuals, so we can’t really trust them to keep us healthy as a nation. It would be like letting the fox guard the henhouse.

Perhaps the biggest hazard, however, of this current plan is the hastiness with which it’s getting drafted. President Obama and his allies in Congress are obviously feeling the heat of sagging approval ratings, and are seemingly banking on the public being pleased with just any bill, quality be damned. What makes them think the people who elected Obama to office will suddenly be that short-sighted or inattentive?

This is, without a doubt, the most important bill that Obama will ever watch over, and he would be wise to realize that he still has about 3.5 years left in his term. His goal for reform by the August recess only assures an ineffective, watered-down bill.

A single-payer system akin to Canada or Europe is the only option that will truly bring costs down in the long term, and it is more than doable. A common argument against it is that dirty word: cost. We simply can’t afford medicine that’s at all socialized, they say.

In our current economic state, they are technically correct. With a record deficit and exorbitant spending elsewhere, a universal system would not be practical. However, if the United States is to remain the most powerful industrialized nation, we can’t afford not to make that investment.

To pay for it, we should emulate the economy circa 1999: a budget surplus, less defense spending and other practices of fiscal responsibility. More than half of Americans would support a tax increase to pay for it. The financial burden on U.S. businesses would also be lifted, improving their ability to compete globally.

A universal system is within our means, but Obama needs to stop prioritizing compromise. His opponents won’t be on board regardless of his approach, so he needs to be more patient, yet firm, in crafting what would be a true economic stimulus.

Kevin Hollinshead is a junior political science major. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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