Imagine you are playing The Game of Life, and are 5 spaces away from retirement, trying to decide between heading to Millionaire Estates or Countryside Acres. Then on your next spin you land on the space that says "You've got Cancer, please pay $100,000, sell all your stocks, foreclose on your house, claim bankruptcy and go back 40 spaces." Then you realize it is not really a game after all; this is real life and a situation you actually have to deal with. This is a reality that many Americans face on a daily basis. If Americans had Universal health care, like many other countries around the world, this issue would be much easier to handle. In the real Game of Life, people wouldn't have to fear the twists and turns that lie ahead. Universal Health care would be advantageous to everyone involved for the following reasons: money wouldn't matter because we would have the same quality of care for everyone, we could maintain our freedom to choose, and we wouldn't have to sacrifice our well being at the benefit of others.
Money truly is a defining factor in how many people make decisions. It affects everything you do on a daily basis, from what kind of bed you get out of in the morning, to the type of soap you use in the shower, to what kind of clothes you put on, and how you get to your destination. Many never put much thought into this sort of daily routine, until they experience a drop in income. Consider what might put one in a situation where they have to completely change the way they live. The first thing that comes to mind for many is bankruptcy. In our current economic state you would think job loss is the number one cause of bankruptcy and foreclosures on homes. But in reality, lack of health insurance, unexpected illness, and medical bills are actually the leading causes (Gillette). If people had Universal health care and had access to preventative medicine it would be less expensive to everyone overall. The staggering statistic from the Institute of Medicine states, ""lack of health insurance causes roughly 18,000 unnecessary deaths every year in the United States. Although America leads the world in spending on health care, it is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not ensure that all citizens have coverage"(Medicine). People are dying mainly due to the high costs associated with treatment. If access was less expensive people would be more likely to receive screening and obtain preventative care for their chronic diseases. Therefore the insurance companies would save money by preventing the disease in the first place because people wouldn't wait until the last minute to get treated. In short, for a country that prides itself on being the best, we are behind the times and severely lacking in this area.Taking the above facts into consideration, many say that it would not be fair to pay for those less fortunate to have coverage. However, once you think about it, those employed are already paying for Medicare through taxes, on top of paying for our health insurance, if available, through our paychecks. As stated by the World Health Organization, "The U. S. health system spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country but ranks 37 out of 191 countries according to its performance, the report finds" (Prentice).
If those getting insurance coverage from the government have all of their medical needs taken care of, the rest of us should be entitled to equal treatment. The way the system is currently set up it encourages dishonest behavior from those who are just trying to make a living and survive. A first-hand account from Mary Ward, the mother of my significant other, includes the following information. She has been diagnosed with Cancer and as part of her treatment method she needed to purchase shots of a drug at $4000.00 apiece.
She is middle-class, has worked her whole life, and pays over $600.00 a year for an insurance deductible. The insurance told her she had to pay 30% of each shot, which is $1,200.00. The average middle class American citizen rarely has $4800.00 available for use at the drop of a hat. So she wonders to herself how on Earth her family will afford this, feeling guilty and wondering if her treatment is even worth the burden it will place on her family. However, if she was on Medicaid, with no insurance of her own and no income, this shot would be given to her at no charge to her whatsoever. All she would have to worry about is trying to survive the curve ball of life that was just thrown at her. This incidence would cause many people to consider their life choices and if desperate enough for the funds think to themselves of ways to get around the system.
If Mary were to quit her job and lose her insurance, the government would allow her to get the treatment she needs. It makes one think, the working class pays into the Medicaid fund and their insurance with every paycheck, yet they are rewarded by being denied the necessary treatment unless they can afford to pay. In essence, America is putting a price on life, and only those that are rich, non-working, or lucky, survive. With Universal health care, everyone is treated equally and money doesn't matter. As was stated by a Canadian citizen in Sicko, "The least and best of us are taken care of." Also employers would save money because they wouldn't have to spend it on health insurance for their employees. Another area that America prides itself on is the freedom to choose. We choose our President, choose our jobs, and choose our spouses, as well having a choice in many other areas of life. We have options. However as stated in Sicko by Tony Benn, British Politician and former Member of Parliament, "If you're shackled with debt, you don't have the freedom to choose." Consider the above situation, the only choice Mary had was to pay for the drug and hope for survival, or don't pay for it and face death. She didn't even have the choice to leave her job to focus on getting well, because like almost every other American, she needed to work in order to have health coverage. As Benn states,
"It benefits the system if people are shackled with debt, people with debt become hopeless and hopeless people don't vote. If the poor showed up and voted for people who represented their interests, it would be a real democratic revolution. So they (the Government) don't want it, (they want to) keep people hopeless and pessimistic. There are two ways to control people, and that is to frighten them and demoralize them. An educated, confident and healthy nation is harder to govern. We don't want that because they (the citizens) would get out of control. The top one percent of the population has 80 percent of the world's wealth. It is incredible that people put up with it but they're poor, demoralized, they're frightened. They think perhaps the safest thing to do is take orders and hope for the best."Hearing this rings true for many Americans across the country. The statistics on who actually votes are shocking. "In November 2000, of the 203 million people who were 18 and older, 186 million were citizens, and 130 million were registered. In the election, 111 million people voted. Thus, the voting rates for the population 18 and older were 55 percent of the total population" (Jamieson and Day).
Universal Healthcare would empower those who aren't voting currently to step up and take a stand by making them more confident and healthy. It would allow the sick to focus on getting well; taking care of their families, and getting back to work, rather than focusing on how much their wallets will be drained.
Imagine just being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. First shock and depression would occur; it may feel like your whole world is crumbling down around you. Then when you build yourself up and it feels as though you have the strength to make it through it after all, you receive the bill for your treatment and it is more than you can afford to pay. Then the feeling of hopelessness starts all over again. Statistics show that enough people don't vote as it is; those citizens with a bleak future will be even less likely. Universal Healthcare would allow these and similar citizens to focus on getting well first and foremost above everything else. They wouldn't have the threat looming over their head that if they have health insurance it is based on employment. People wouldn't feel as though they have to rush back to work, even if they aren't feeling up to par. Therefore, the overall state of our country would improve because we not only would have healthier citizens, we would have better leaders. The people who currently don't vote could finally have a voice. Maybe then our country could stand up and be everything it currently claims to be in our National Anthem, the "Land of the free, Home of the brave, and home to those who actually have the choices that are claimed to be given to them currently. Conversely, some think that Universal health care would offer patients a lower quality of care. People are worried that a lack of competition would cause doctors not to try as hard to compete for patients. But, as Michael Moore showed in Sicko, citizens who are currently under a Universal health care plan do not have many complaints about the care they are receiving. In fact, Universal health care may actually promote a higher quality of care because it would force health care professionals to focus less on the money and more on their patients' well-being.
Instead of offering bonuses to insurance company representatives for denying coverage, we could use those same funds to offer incentives to doctors for getting their patients to quit smoking, lower their cholesterol, and undergo mental health evaluations. Webster's definition of the word bonus is "something given or paid over and above what is due". That implies that these representatives do not even have to earn their bonus, it is given to them for denying coverage, which may benefit them but does not have a positive effect on anyone else but those whose wallets are getting fatter. Webster also states that an incentive is "something that incites or tends to incite to action or greater effort, as a reward offered for increased productivity". So essentially there would still be competition, and that would be for incentives not for bonuses. That implies that any extra funds paid to them would be earned, not just given out freely just because the person earned a degree.
Every doctor could be paid fairly by the government for the work they do. Doctors in America don't need to fear, they can still live comfortably. So if you are one of the ones who think competition drives quality of care, you are right, but it would be driving it up, not down. Reports project "that the number of non-elderly uninsured Americans will grow from forty-five million in 2003 to fifty-six million by 2013" (Gilmer). That means according to these statistics, in the current year of 2009 the appalling number of non-elderly uninsured should be nearing 50 million people. So consider this, even if the quality of care did go down for some, having care at all for those approximated 50 million who currently don't would be better than their current situation. Another reason people are against Universal health care is because of the fear of long wait times. However, in Canada, a nation with the system, studies show the following: "In 2005, the median waiting time was about four weeks for specialist visits, four weeks for non-emergency surgery, and three weeks for diagnostic tests. Nationally, median waiting times remained stable between 2003 and 2005 - but there were some differences at the provincial level for selected specialized services."70 to 80 percent of Canadians find their waiting times acceptable" (Statistics). It would be better to wait knowing that after waiting you will get the surgery or treatment you will need. The other option available is you could have to pay for treatment, and not be able to afford the full care that you need and consequently, your health suffers. With our current system we may have comparable or even shorter waits for surgery or treatment. However, in our country when you are ill they send you home to take care of yourself, oftentimes before you are actually ready.
My own personal experience with back surgery last September taught me that independence is something you should never take for granted. When I arrived home from the hospital I was unable to dress myself, cook for myself, and barely able to shower or walk unaided. Had I lived alone at that time, I would have either had to pay someone to come in and take care of me, or slow my recovery by attempting to take care of myself. Another example of how our current system is lacking is cancer treatment. Most insurance does not cover receiving injections of the shots necessary for healing. Mary Ward, mentioned earlier, had to have the hospital instruct her how to give herself her own injections. After already having to first spend an outrageous amount to purchase the shots, she then had to take them home and essentially treat herself. Most would agree, the real job of treatment lies with the paid professionals: doctors, nurses, and specialists, not with the American citizen. In review, many are against Universal health care for several reasons. Those reasons are mostly backed by fears ranging from lower quality of care, increased wait times, and higher costs. However if we take a leap of faith for Universal health care we have an opportunity for a healthy, confident, optimistic and empowered nation. We can have a higher quality of care, at similar, if not lower, costs. We have a chance at living up to the claim that the United States of America really is united and the number one country around the globe. A country truly is judged by how it treats its weak and less fortunate. Whatever happened to the saying created by Aesop, "United we stand, divided we fall"? Let us take an opportunity to wave our American flags proudly and show everyone we truly are the "Land of the free, home of the brave". That we are going to beat all these other countries in The Game of Life after all and on our last spin in life have the chance to retire comfortably at Countryside Acres, right next to the demolished retirement home of the healthcare industry, Millionaire Estates.