The cause of universal healthcare is one that’s close to my heart and one that’s subject to so much controversy in the United States. I mean whenever Obamacare was still in the bill phase, it was under such intense opposition that it formed the Tea Party. Now Obamacare doesn’t provide universal healthcare nor was it intended to. Yet, I supported the legislation anyway because I felt that it offered the kind of healthcare reform my country greatly needed despite that I didn’t think the ACA went far enough. Nevertheless, it disgusts me that there are some people in the United States who vehemently oppose universal healthcare so much that they go to great lengths to extinguish any attempt to reform an already broken healthcare system that comes on the congressional docket. So far, Obamacare is now the subject of another Supreme Court case, this time on federal subsidies to states on the federal exchange. Of course, hearing the ads on federal subsidies from the UPMC commercials on the radio, I think it’s very unlikely that the libertarian lawyers of King v. Burwell will have their way, but I could be wrong. Not only that, but since Republicans have taken control of Congress in 2011, the US House has tried to repeal Obamacare over 40 times, which I think is a shame.
I know that a lot of Americans think about universal healthcare and I don’t expect anyone to change their minds. I know that this post will be filled with points that may spark outrage or perhaps inflammatory comments but I think they need to be said nonetheless. Yet, understand that what I mean by “universal healthcare” I mean a non-profit healthcare system providing quality affordable service to all Americans. Now I don’t think a universal healthcare will solve all the US health system’s problems (and there are lots), but I think it would be a system the American people would be much happier with than the one we have now. While the number of uninsured has declined from 50 million since the late 2000s, I still think that even one uninsured American is far too many. However, here I list several of the reasons why I support universal healthcare in the United States. I insist that anybody who reads this take a lot of thought into these points to see why I believe in what I do and that my support for universal healthcare doesn’t just stand on my liberal ideology alone.
1. Healthcare is a basic human right and there’s no reason why medical treatment should be denied to anyone too poor to pay for it– to me the issue of universal healthcare isn’t about giving social entitlements to poor people. Rather it’s a moral issue of human rights and I’ve always believed that a for-profit healthcare system doesn’t adhere to this and has a history of discriminating against the poor and ill. I believe that every American should have a right to healthcare even if they are lazy unemployed moochers on welfare or undocumented immigrants because it’s the simply right thing to do. No sick person deserves to be turned away from medical treatment for any reason. Even though the US doesn’t recognize healthcare as a human right, the international community does and so do most religious groups. So yes, I do believe I’m entitled to healthcare just because I’m a human being as well as to everyone else.
This is a 2011 infographic from Amnesty International pertaining to the maternity care situation in the United States, especially when it comes to infant and maternal mortality. Now if there’s any reason why someone who’s pro-life should support universal healthcare, it’s this. The findings are disturbing.
2. The Abortion Issue– now as a Catholic feminist, I may not consider myself as wholly pro-life or pro-choice (though this position is consistent with most Americans if you really think about it, but let’s not go there). However, whether you believe in an unborn child’s right to life or a woman’s right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy, we should all get on board with the idea that all pregnant women who choose life should have access to pre-natal care regardless of their ability to pay as I fervently do. There is nothing pro-life or pro-choice about denying pregnant women access to affordable healthcare, especially it could save her unborn child’s life as well as prevent her from seeking an abortion in the first place. The fact many pro-lifers tend to be conservatives who’ve been fighting to deny pregnant women access to affordable healthcare which is completely inexcusable (and the fact pro-choicers tend to be less vocal about it as well). Whenever a pregnant woman is denied access to affordable pre-natal care due to being too poor or uninsured, her unborn child’s right to life is denied as well. When a woman seeks an abortion because she can’t afford to seek medical treatment for possible life-threatening complications also denies her right to choose as well. In many ways, denying affordable healthcare access is simply an unforgivable crime against humanity that should never be acceptable and perhaps even less justifiable than abortion. Add to that the fact that the US has a high infant and maternal mortality rate compared to other First World nations while nations with universal healthcare have lower abortion rates. Thus, whatever side you’re on in the abortion issue, guaranteed healthcare access to all should be non-negotiable.
3. Getting a job with employee based health insurance is no longer a guarantee– say what you want about Obamacare, but this is a good reason why it’s worth protecting. Since the Recession, the chances of someone finding a job with employee based health benefits is no longer a guarantee, especially if you’re a Millennial whose chances of getting a job with health benefits by 26 are slim (as well as the fact that most people uninsured usually live in a situation in which they or a member of their families have a job that either offer no health benefits or aren’t eligible for their employee plan). This can never be more apparent since the future of work is in the service sector which mostly consist of low-income jobs that don’t offer healthcare benefits or at least an adequate healthcare package. And even if you do have a job with benefits, this doesn’t mean you’re quite out of the woods. After all, losing your job might result in you losing your health insurance. This can happen more often than you think since it’s very likely you’ll need to switch jobs more than a few times in your adult life. And you don’t always know how long it would before you can get another job. At least Obamacare provides a viable option for affordable healthcare for those facing an unpredictable economic future like myself since it stays with you after you sign up (or it’s supposed to). As a Millennial, living without health insurance is one of my deepest fears. I pray to God that the Supreme Court at least has the decency to rule in favor of the federal subsidies for King v. Burwell since I live in a state that doesn’t have a state exchange nor a Medicaid expansion as far as I know as of 2015. And, yes, I do plan to sign up for Obamacare when I reach that age since the federal exchange is now my only option for affordable healthcare once I reach my 26th birthday.
Here are some statistics from the National Research Center detailing what services the uninsured do without because of the cost whether it’s getting a test, skipping a prescription, or putting off a doctor’s visit.
4. Everyone needs healthcare and being uninsured has devastating consequences– since we’re all human beings, we all need healthcare since we’re not invincible and you never know when you’ll be facing a medical emergency. Being uninsured can lead to a lot of devastating consequences individuals and families alike, which nobody wants to face. When uninsured, people are just one serious illness or injury away from losing their homes, their life savings and income, as well as their lives. Uninsurance also leads to high medical bills as well as possible denial of treatment, too. Thus, having an individual mandate should be a no brainer.
Here are some statistics from the US Department of Health and Human Services measuring healthcare spending from 2009. The pie on the left shows where the money comes from while the pie on the right shows where the money goes.
5. Conditions in the healthcare system were complete hell before Obamacare– Whether you love or hate Obamacare, most Americans would agree that our healthcare system may not be ideal, but it’s still better than under the Bush Administration. We should all remember that before Obamacare, it wasn’t uncommon for people to be denied health insurance because of a preexisting condition (at least legally). It was also common for people to lose their insurance (and/or job) when faced with a medical emergency or at least be faced with paying an exorbitant amount of money. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s just say, while Americans may not see eye to eye on Obamacare, most wouldn’t want to return to the US healthcare system under the Bush years.
This is a graph from that National Business Group on Health explaining the rate of medical cost increases from 1999 to 2014. Note how it’s dropped at its lowest rate in 15 years.
6. Like education, individuals with healthcare are able to contribute more productively to the workforce than those who don’t– there may be a lot of complaints from conservatives that universal healthcare will only make the hardworking rich pay for the lazy poor on welfare. However, like education, individuals with healthcare contribute more productively to the workforce because they’re more likely to lead healthier lives and miss work much less. Besides, in the event of an injury or illness, the sooner a person receives medical treatment the more likely he or she will be able to work again. If an illness or injury goes untreated, the more likely a person will end up disabled with a chronic health condition or untimely dead. Those who are poor and disabled usually seek out public assistance because nobody’s going to hire them anytime soon. The fact the vast majority of people on welfare are either disabled or under 18 should illustrate this. Not only that, but their chronic condition could also limit their ability to lead a healthier lifestyle. Thus, while healthy individuals with health insurance usually can find work, unhealthy people without insurance are usually stuck in poverty because their chronic health conditions simply make them unemployable.
Here’s an infographic from Atlanta Health showing the costs of the uninsured to hospitals, doctors, and other providers in 2012 according to state.
7. Taxpayers spend a lot of money on treating the poor already– while those living in poverty are more likely to be uninsured, they’re also more prone to adverse life threatening health conditions or injuries, seek medical treatment when it’s too late, and receive care in the emergency room when things go from bad to worse. Whenever an uninsured person is treated in the ER, it’s likely to cause healthcare costs and premiums to rise for the insured as well by $922 for families (this before Obamacare). Not to mention, poorer people are more likely to work jobs in adverse conditions as well as have worse health habits and be victims of gun violence. And when it comes to gun violence, taxpayers shoulder about 80% of the medical costs mostly because victims are more likely to be from a group that’s heavily uninsured or on Medicaid. This amounts to billions of dollars. Still, while critics say that universal healthcare will lead to poor people mooching off taxpayers, Americans are basically paying for poor people’s medical treatment now as we speak. And the fact that many of them don’t have insurance is part of the reason. Oh, and when these people go on Medicare, taxpayers pay the bill for those who may be suffering a lot of chronic health conditions brought by illness and injury that could’ve been treated years ago.
This is from a 2011 infographic on the consequences of being uninsured in the United States and shows what could happen to those people such as an undetected serious condition, disability, and early death.
8. If a poor homeless bum can be uninsured, then so can you– whether it’s being unable to afford insurance, dropped coverage from the insurance company, or job loss, if a poor person is uninsured, then it affects your access to affordable healthcare. This is especially true, when poor people visit the emergency room because it’s the only place in the hospital that would take them. And it’s usually the insured who pay for their treatment as well as contributes to high healthcare costs since emergency care is extremely expensive and with unpredictable cost. The higher healthcare prices rise, the more likely people are going to end up uninsured. If the healthcare system treated the poor in the way it treats the insured (like regular checkups, follow-up visits, etc.), healthcare costs may not have gotten this bad.
Here are even some more statistics from the 2011 infographic on the costs of being uninsured in America such as early death, multiple ER visits, and unpaid medical bills.
9. Treating the poor in the Emergency Room makes hospitals less likely to adequately treat patients in truly emergency situations– all too often in the United States, Emergency Rooms usually serve as places that treat the uninsured since they can’t turn anyone away. Most of the time when the uninsured have a serious condition, they will simply not seek any medical attention until it gets substantially worse. Not to mention, there are some patients who aren’t experiencing actual emergencies and those who’d be better served in a non-acute setting. These patients are usually there because they’re uninsured. This leaves ERs basically overused, overcrowded, and with an overstressed staff which would inhibit their effectiveness in treating ER patients with real life threatening conditions, insured or not. Thus, when uninsured flood the emergency room, quality emergency care is compromised.
This is a chart from Forbes magazine comparing the quality of US healthcare to that of 10 other countries as well as the costs. By the way, the US is the only country on this chart that doesn’t have Universal Healthcare. Not to mention, this magazine isn’t run by liberals.
10. A lot of other industrialized countries have Universal Healthcare, most of which have better health systems than the United States– the US doesn’t have the best healthcare system in the world and one of the few industrialized countries that doesn’t have a universal healthcare system. Meanwhile, other countries have managed to have ways to guarantee universal affordable health care to all their citizens and their people are much healthier (though their systems may have their share of unique problems and challenges). The British have a National Health Service which is a point of national pride in the UK and spend half as much on healthcare as we do. While Japan is known for a high cost of living, their health services are comparatively cheap and you always know what you’re paying for. Taiwan and Canada have government run health systems while France, Germany, and Switzerland don’t (though their systems are non-profit while Switzerland’s healthcare plan is modeled after Hillary Clinton’s 1994 healthcare plan that didn’t pass Congress). Still, even the most conservative people in those countries are much more satisfied with their healthcare system than even Obamacare’s harshest critics are with ours. The United States spends more on healthcare than any other industrialized nation and affordable access is still denied. When tourists get sick in the country, they often find themselves getting medical bills that cost an extraordinary amount of money such as the Canadian woman slapped with a million dollars for having a child in Hawaii. This is unacceptable.
11. The United States provides a lot of taxpayer funded services– these include free public education, highways, fire department, police, national parks, historical preservation, national defense, public libraries, banking protections, postal service, water utilities, mass transit, emergency services in environmental and national disasters, and so many more. So why should paying for healthcare be any different? Thus, there should be no reason why universal healthcare isn’t unconstitutional.
This graph is from the Huffington Post pertaining to how much health care costs have increased since the 1960s, which they say is a staggering 818% while the GDP and wages not so much. This might be biased but it helps show why the US health system was in dire need of reform by Obamacare.
12. For-profit healthcare isn’t what it’s cracked up to be– sure you may hear libertarians say that an unregulated free market helps everyone. However, while health insurance companies may give some people choice in their own health plans, it only extends to those who are able to afford it or the wealthy. Those who aren’t rich may be compelled to choose a different plan which doesn’t allow them good access to services as well as charges exorbitantly high premiums. Before Obamacare, many health insurance companies dropped sick people or denied sick people insurance due to preexisting conditions. Those insured would have to pick the providers from those the insurance company would cover and would accept your policy (this is still the case, by the way). Those with employee health insurance plans usually have to go with the option the employer provides and are usually one lay off away from losing it. Then there’s the lifetime and annual limits insurance companies would impose on people as well as charging women more than men. Not what I call consumer choice.
13. Nobody wants to get rid of Medicare and Tricare– Tricare and Medicare are single payer healthcare programs that provide services for people over 65 and military veterans. And though both may have their problems, we have to understand that they are very popular. Even people who don’t believe in universal healthcare would admit that government should take care of our veterans and elderly. In fact, many of Obamacare’s opponents might even be on them.
This pie chart from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows why some uninsured adults in America go without health insurance with not being able to afford it the main reason at 32%.
14. For-profit healthcare is discriminatory, costly, and unsustainable– we need to face that a for-profit health care not only costs Americans and the government billions, but also excludes a lot of Americans from accessing healthcare as well as makes it unaffordable for even those with insurance. The very fact that healthcare has become so expensive has led to most personal bankruptcies as well as is leading more companies to drop their employee healthcare plans. Furthermore, it’s also the main reason why it’s so hard to start a business and why small businesses have a hard time hiring workers. And while for-profit healthcare may have competition, it’s now the main reason for higher health prices because the insurance companies are focused on higher short term profits and administrative costs. Thus, for-profit healthcare is economically unsustainable.
15. Opposition to universal healthcare is mostly on ideological grounds– now while there is tremendous opposition against universal healthcare in the United States, it has absolutely nothing to do with how they feel about the healthcare system nor how they feel about services like Medicare and Tricare. I did a poll once on the US healthcare system for my high school civics class and found out that even those who opposed universal healthcare were just as likely to be unsatisfied with the US healthcare system as those who supported it (this, back in 2008). People who oppose universal healthcare usually try to make the issue about social entitlements to the poor as well as an issue of free market capitalism, equating it with “socialized medicine,” and big government “nanny state.” However, if you ask whether the government should provide healthcare to our veterans and senior citizens, even the most hardened conservatives would find it difficult to say no. This is especially true if you consider the fact a lot of senior citizens and veterans make up the conservative base and watch Fox News. So most of the opposition against universal healthcare is strictly ideological.
16. Money driven medicine doesn’t equal good quality care-In the United States, the healthcare system is arranged in a “fee for service” model which doctors get paid for providing services regardless of treatment outcome. It’s not unusual in the United States for doctors to prescribe treatments to patients that could possibly do nothing or be harmful and could hurt their quality of life. We need to understand that what makes a good business model doesn’t always translate into the quality a business has to offer, especially if it pertains to a business that’s supposed to save lives. Sure the insurance company makes money from treatments but so do the drug companies, hospitals, as well as those who make medical instruments and devices. But the fact medical malpractice in America is so common that medical errors kill more Americans per year than car wrecks that it’s big business as well. The people who the healthcare industry makes the most money off of isn’t the richest patients, but the sickest ones, which is why many seniors suffer greatly as they approach the end of their lives. In fact, said that 30,000 Americans die due to “overtreatment” each year as well. Add to that Americans spend more on healthcare than anyone else in the world on a system that discriminates the poor, you can see why nobody in the United States is satisfied with the healthcare they receive.
17. Free market economics don’t lead to greater cost control and effectiveness– despite what many universal healthcare opponents, conservatives, and libertarians may say, free market economics doesn’t necessarily make goods and services any cheaper. Now the healthcare system is driven by two market forces known as demand and the need to make greater profits than the previous year. This is the main reason why healthcare prices increase in the first place. Despite the economic recession that took hold in 2008, health insurance companies increased their profits by 56% in 2009 alone while between 2000-2006 as workers’ wages increased 3.8%, healthcare premiums rose 87%. In 2009, the top 5 health insurance companies in America ended up with a combined profit of $12.2 billion with their executives receiving as much as $200 million in total compensation. While the healthcare system operates on profit motives and competition, we still have people uninsured and costs are out of control as we speak. So much for free market economics.
18. The ER and medical services designed to help the poor are no substitute for having a PCP– a common myth about healthcare in America cited by many universal healthcare opponents is that being uninsured doesn’t mean they can’t receive healthcare for they can go to the ER and that there are plenty of government and private medical practices helping the uninsured. Sure it may be illegal to turn away people from the ER but such care doesn’t provide adequate care to most serious conditions, especially if they were previously undiagnosed. If the uninsured are unable to pay for care in full (which is 2.5 times more than what people with insurance pay), they’re often turned away when they seek follow-up care for urgent medical conditions. Treating a chronic condition requires much more medical care than an Emergency Room visit and lack of follow-ups attributed to being uninsured can delay detection of certain cancers that lead to adverse outcomes. As for the medical providers who do treat the uninsured, how in the hell is an uninsured person supposed to find them? In the US, the term “non-profit hospital” is basically a joke. Besides, free and discounted health services aren’t a common thing. In the US, if you can’t afford a regular source of healthcare like a PCP, then you’re medically screwed.
A 2013 survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation show that 2/3 of Americans regardless of coverage status are worried about being unable to pay their medical bills in the event of a serious accident/illness. Even being insured doesn’t provide that security from medical bill troubles.
19. There’s nothing more stressful in America as unpaid medical bills-in the United States, being concerned with how much you’ll have to pay for medical treatments for serious illnesses, injuries, and/or childbirth isn’t an unusual thing, even if you have health insurance. Since uninsured patients are charged 2.5 times more for care than their insured counterparts, it’s particularly scary for them to think that they’re once serious illness away from death, disability, or financial ruin. Most uninsured usually postpone needed care because they’re simply not confident they could pay for it. 2004 statistics say that they’re over twice as likely to report problems paying medical bills and are almost 3 times as likely to be contacted by a collection agency about them. Even if you have insurance, there’s no guarantee that your coverage will cover the costs that your medical bills demand, even if you’re on an employee-based plan. The fact that more Americans are becoming, “underinsured” really shows that healthcare is becoming less affordable by the year. No sick person in America should worry about paying medical bills once they get better. Add to the fact that more personal bankruptcies in America are caused by medical bills.
A 2014 stat by Vox that says about 201,000 Americans are killed every year due to medical errors that most healthcare providers try to avoid.
20. Medical treatment is more focused on insurance procedures and malpractice liability– as a for-profit system insurance procedures and malpractice liability have a lot of influence on how doctors treat patients. Forbes has reported that 92% of clinicians admit to making some medical decisions based on avoiding lawsuits, as opposed to the best interests of their patients. Patients put a lot of trust in their doctors for a lot of understandable reasons. Most patients want to feel that doctors will think of their best interests and make recommendations to their well-being accordingly. In money driven medicine (a.k.a. for-profit healthcare), you can’t always be sure that caregivers and patients will decide what’s best for the patient’s health. Sometimes decisions are made due to insurance procedures and perhaps on avoiding malpractice lawsuits, which cost lots of money as well as could possibly lead to a doctor losing his or her medical license. Sometimes doctors suggests the treatment that would get the most money, not what the patient needs. In fact, much of the healthcare industry makes its money by having patients spend exorbitant amounts on tests and scans they don’t actually need. Regardless of what doctors think about universal healthcare, most would rather just treat people without having to worry about interference from the medical billing department or the insurance company.
A 2012 infographic from NPR shows that while 56% of Americans have health insurance through their employers, 1 in 3 Americans are in a family that has trouble paying medical bills. Let that sink in.
21. Most Americans are unsatisfied with the US healthcare system– despite what many people on Fox News may tell you, even the most diehard opponents of Obamacare can admit that the US healthcare system isn’t the best in the world. There are tons of healthcare horror stories in America such as people being charged high bills for cancer treatment, people meeting untimely ends due to not having insurance or the insurance not paying for treatment, dying due to receiving too much treatment, being denied for a preexisting condition, and so much more. About all the documentaries on the US healthcare system I’ve seen, Michael Moore’s Sicko was about the easiest to watch while the Bill Moyers Journal feature of “Money Driven Medicine” during the Obamacare debates was about the hardest. Now these documentaries may have varying degrees of accuracy but there are many Americans have or know someone who’s been screwed the US healthcare system which may range from frustrating to downright devastating. While there may be great contention on whether to have universal healthcare or reform healthcare at all, most Americans can agree that the for-profit healthcare system right now simply isn’t working.
22. Even healthy people can develop serious problems that need treatment– another argument against universal healthcare is that it would make healthy people who take care of themselves pay for burden of those with unhealthy lifestyles. However, while a healthy lifestyle can add years to your life, it’s no guarantee that you’ll live a long and healthy life, which may have more to do with family history and environmental hazards neither of which people have control over. You might also get injured in an accident or get shot at, which also needs serious medical attention. And even some people’s unhealthy lifestyles might also have a lot to do with factors beyond their control like having to work more than one job, occupational hazards, living in a poor neighborhood without a grocery store, bad upbringing, poverty, inadequate education, genetics, and others. Also, there are plenty of children who have serious health conditions as well as disabilities that need medical attention. Should they be denied? Not to mention, seniors and veterans aren’t the healthiest individuals in American society, so should we not pay taxes for their healthcare? I know this may be a bit extreme but we need to understand that there are times when bad health has very little to do with bad lifestyle choices alone. We try not to let natural disasters ruin people’s lives. Why should healthcare be any different?
23. We pay more of a price for not treating people when they should be– I know plenty of people complain about the healthcare system and think that we’ll pay more if we let poor people receive adequate medical treatment. For the uninsured the only outlet of medical care is basically the ER and a visit there is much more expensive than a routine visit to the PCP. Yet, since most PCPs only take insured patients, most uninsured don’t have this option and will postpone necessary treatment for serious illnesses because they simply can’t afford it. As a result, uninsured patients are more likely to be admitted into the ER with an undiagnosed late stage illness than an insured person would. Since an uninsured patient will probably be turned down for follow up, he or she will likely end up readmitted into the Emergency Room multiple times until they die prematurely. The costs add up as well as passed to consumers and insurance companies to foot. People who see a regular care provider are more likely to have any serious illness detected in the early stages as well as be treated for it as soon as possible. When it comes to serious illnesses or injuries, having a regular care provider can result in fewer hospital stays as well as Emergency Room visits, which can save a lot of money in the long term. In addition, providing preventative care to all Americans also saves a lot of costs down the line as well.
24. Most Americans support universal healthcare-despite how vocal Obamacare opponents could get, two thirds of Americans support a universal healthcare system while 90% at least believe that our healthcare system should be reformed. While it’s seen as a mostly Democratic issue, it has support among health care officials, religious leaders, and other major organizations. So this is an issue with a large amount of popular support. The fact that the United States is one of the few industrialized countries without universal healthcare is more due to party politics, healthcare being a multi-billion dollar business, and special interest lobbying. Still, if that’s not a reason for universal healthcare, then I don’t know what is.
Graph on hospital openings and closures between 2000 to 2012. Of course, these numbers only pertain to those participating in Medicare. But then again, most US hospitals do anyway. Yet, while they still happen not that it was a much bigger problem before Obamacare as this graph shows.
25. High medical costs have led to hospitals being shut down and less services to access-Now I know that hospitals are big players in the healthcare system. Yet, in recent years, the rise of healthcare costs and uninsured during the Bush years has led to a lot of medical establishments being shut down since they can’t measure up to their competitors or couldn’t get enough patients. This has not only created less available healthcare services, it’s also led to job loss and economically devastated communities, especially if it’s the establishment that keeps the town going. This results in people having to travel further for services and longer lines. A for-profit healthcare system may seem like a good business plan in theory, but it also gives hospitals more of an incentive to make profits, which shouldn’t be its main priority. This is why medical costs rise, which makes healthcare less affordable. When healthcare is less affordable, then hospitals receive less patients. This leads many hospitals into a financial loss and eventual shut down. What’s even worse is that many hospital shutdowns happen in the poorest communities with the sickest patients, which is a terrible shame. When there are less services, it’s another reason for high health care costs and more limited availability.