As human beings, our health and longevity have never been better. Many people today live to 100 years and beyond, and often in good and active health. One of the major reasons for this is better health care and more access to health care for more people. On the other hand, however, many people do not have access to the same health care services as others. Often, the main barrier is funding. In many cases, people cannot afford a certain level of health care because of its rising costs. Others cannot afford the insurance levels required to cover their health care needs, often with fatal consequences. The major challenge here is that officials need to recognize that human beings all have certain rights. Indeed, surely the right to life should be among the rights to pursue happiness and the like. Health care goes hand in hand with this. Because human beings have a right to life, they should also have the right to good health care, whether they have a high income or not. Hence, health care aught to be provided by government to all citizens who cannot afford it, because it is a basic human right, the benefits outweigh the costs, and the government has a moral duty to care for the basic physical well-being of its citizens.
Free health care in the United States is so rare that, when it is provided even by means of special events and programs, it is considered a "strange parallel universe" (The Independent). The Independent article is therefore highly critical of the current system in the United States, which apparently favors the rich and disadvantages the poor. An examination of practical examples appear to confirm this. According to Pibel and Van Gelder, for example, many without access to affordable health care suffer potentially fatal or at least extreme consequences because of it. The authors mention the example of Joel Segal, who was discharged from George Washington Hospital while still being attached to an IV and after knee surgery. He was left with $100,000 in medical debt. Another example is Kiki Peppard, who had to wait two years for necessary surgery because she needed a job with insurance that would cover the expense. The article goes on to explain that some 50 million Americans have no medical insurance at all, while at least as many are not sufficiently insured for their needs. The result is that often vital services are not available to this population. Even worse than the dire consequences suffered by many of these people is the 18,000 people per year who die because they do not have sufficient medical coverage to care for them. In such a situation, surely the government should recognize its failure to ensure to citizens the most basic of human rights, which is to live.
There are also economic consequences. Beyond the obvious consequences of high medical bills, Pibel and Van Gelder mention that even those with insurance suffer economically. Indeed, more than 1.5 million bankruptcies are filed in the United States per year. Of these, half are the result of medical bills, of which as many as three-quarters have health insurance. The implication here is that not only health care itself, but also mere insurance bills are so high that an increasing number of people cannot afford them. In this way, health care becomes not only a physical concern, but an economic one as well. In other words, the current health care system does not only threaten physical health, but also the ability of individuals to make a basic living for themselves and their families, which is another right supposedly ensured by the Constitution.
In the same way, businesses are suffering, which affects the overall economy of the country. If nothing else, this should certainly concern government, since it is only by taxpayer money that the government can survive. Businesses are suffering because of high insurance premiums, which have increased as much as 73% in only the five years between 2000 and 2005, according to Pibel and Van Gelder. National health care spending is also expected to at least double over the decade that is to come. In the light of these dark predictions, the system cannot expect to continue providing services to citizens who are increasingly enslaved to a system that appears to gobble up money without offering much of anything in return. At the same time, employers who can afford to offer health care to their employees suffer in the market, since they cannot compete with those who do...
This also creates inconsistencies in the market place, where employees without insurance are obliged to pay their own bills or suffer the consequences. At the same time, work is so scarce that employees can hardly pick and choose among employers, either with our without health benefits.
It is therefore clear that the extreme and unprecedented rise in health care costs has affected not only households, but also businesses and government (Public Agenda). As mentioned above, all the entities mentioned interact, especially on the economic platform. Economic suffering at any level means that all other levels of the economy are also affected. In other words, and individual who is unable to afford health care or coverage and who is impoverished by medical bills is likely unable to afford his or her taxes as a result, which means suffering by the government. Rising health costs therefore does not benefit the economy on any level, and holds several disadvantages, the most dire of which is death for those who cannot afford adequate care.
At the same time, higher health care costs do not necessarily mean better quality of care (Public Agenda). Indeed, it is pointed out that some providers offer better care while also reducing cost. Hence, it follows that all Americans should have access to high quality, affordable care. Those who cannot afford health care should receive it free of charge. The current crisis surrounding health care and its reform demands that the issues involved be addressed not only directly, but also immediately. Issues that need to be addressed include sustainability while also providing excellence and especially life-saving services to those who need it.
Chua addresses several levels upon which health care should be provided to American citizens. The first of these is the moral level. According to the author, the United States government has a moral responsibility to provide adequate and affordable health care to all its citizens.
The most important reason for providing healthcare to all people, regardless of whether they can afford it or not, is a moral one. No physician who takes his or her ethical responsibility seriously would turn away a dying person from the doorstep of a hospital. Neither should the government. The government has a moral responsibility to ensure the well-being and health of its citizens. The only reasonable way in which to accomplish this is to start with the health care system. It is such a basic human right that it cannot be denied, especially when it means the difference between life and death (Chua). In effect, one might even go as far as saying that the government is guilty of killing those whose lack of access to health care services has resulted in death.
Also, according to Chua, the United States is the only industrialized country without some form of universal health care. Indeed, as mentioned above, health care of any quality is treated as a privilege rather than a basic right. Health care as a basic right has been acknowledged by other countries, but not by the United States. For the United States, it is an economic good.
Suffering does not extend only to the physical health of individuals without access to health care, according to Chua. The suffering is also emotional, extending to conditions such as anxiety, stress, depression, and fear. In addition to medical-related financial stress on a family, these emotional conditions can also lead to underperformance at work. A higher likelihood of being fired, and the necessity to replace workers who can no longer fulfil their work duties because of personal stress conditions. Again, this would impact the prosperity of the government itself in terms of taxes and the performance of affected businesses.
In cases where employers offer insurance for employees, the costs have become so high that employers have become unable to sustain significant bonuses or yearly wage increases. The result is further financial stress for individuals, even if they do have health insurance.
In addition, Chua notes that the cost of universal health care, including providing it to those who cannot afford it free of charge, would be at least $34-$69 billion. In addition, there would be costs related to covering out-of-pocket expenses and the like. Conversely, the current cost of the health effects for Americans without insurance is $65-$130 billion, which is in a far higher range than the above-mentioned costs, although probably not by a great margin.
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