Friday, April 9, 2010

Thinking About Health Care

Amanda recently blogged about the health care legislation passed by Congress. Health care is currently a hot topic for debate. Those people and organizations with power in the U.S. (like the American Medical Association) have long been resistant to health care reform and have continuously thwarted efforts for change. Nevertheless, health care reform is necessary for our country.

I have started reading T.R. Reid’s The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care. I recommend this book to others interested in health care policy. In this work, Reid evaluates the U.S. health care system, comparing it with other health care systems around the globe. For his comparative analysis, Reid specifically focuses on the health care systems of free-market democracies with similar political and economic structures to the U.S. including Britain, France, Germany and Japan.

Reid questions why the U.S. is the only wealthy, industrialized democracy that does not provide health care for all its citizens at a reasonable cost. The U.S. system of health care is ultimately shaped by the profit motive. We have the most expensive system in the world, leaving many Americans bankrupt or unable to afford care. Some Americans receive superb health care while millions of others receive none. This disparity is unacceptable. Insurance companies often offer health coverage to those who are healthy while denying coverage to the sick in order to save costs. Additionally, although the U.S. has such high technological capability, the quality of medical treatment Americans receive is often inferior to the treatment people receive in other countries. Our medical care is often not as preventative as that of other countries.

Americans tend to have underlying confidence in the private sector and fear “socialized medicine.” However, other countries with more successful health care systems (like Germany and Japan) do not resort to “socialized medicine” but provide universal coverage to their citizens with private doctors, hospitals, and insurance plans. Many Americans also worry that universal health care will be too expensive for the country. Nevertheless, Reid points out how “a better-organized system, covering everybody, would almost certainly cut our health care costs” (25).

Reid points out that we must look at health care as an ethical question. It seems that the U.S has not viewed health care as a fundamental “human right” while other countries have. It is extremely depressing that many Americans die each year due to a lack of access to health care. Rather than considering our nation as superior to others, Americans should look to foreign nations in order to reform. While foreign systems of health care are certainly not perfect, we can use many of their principles to help improve our own system.

1 comment:

Sara said...

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