The Public Health Crisis: A Demand for Universal Healthcare 

By: Nicole Chedraoui

According to the seminal documents of our country–the very backbone of United States history–we as Americans are entitled, nay, guaranteed three unalienable rights to our very existence: The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Thomas Jefferson instilled in us the idea that the public health and the general welfare of its citizens was a federally protected liberty. Tommy J would be absolutely astounded to know in our country’s great age that the US is the ONLY nation among the 37 OECD nations to not provide universal healthcare.. As someone living with a disability who maxes out my family’s health insurance deductible by January, the practice and implementation of health care, or lack thereof, is not only astounding to me, but also utterly horrifying. Do we really have the right to life when we can’t afford life-saving procedures and treatment because of ICU bills? What about the right to happiness when we can’t pay for therapy or SSRI’s? A rational discussion must be had. 

Healthcare is a public health crisis.

Why Universal Healthcare?

Let’s start with an absolute basic underlying truth: instituting a right to healthcare could quite literally lower the cost of healthcare and its counterparts in the United States. The University of Massachusetts at Amherst did a study to back up my prerogative, showing that under a single-payer system (one in which every citizen is guaranteed the right of healthcare), public and private healthcare spending would lower by 1.8 TRILLION over the next 10 years due to lowered administrative and drug costs. To set an excellent example and prove the success rates of such processes, Canada and the UK (both who have universal healthcare) spend 47% and 42% of what the US did per capita in 2017. The universal coverage in South Korea demonstrated a remarkable percentage of only 28% of what the US spent. 

What About the Increase in Wait Times!? 

As Kourtney Kardashian once said, “Kim, there are people dying!” I cannot stress enough how utterly insignificant a little bit longer wait time is when we have to consider the 44,789 deaths per year due to lack of health insurance. That literally translates into roughly a 40% increased risk among the uninsured. An additional 13,000 deaths occur between the ages of 55-64 due to the lack of health insurance coverage. If this doesn’t twist your stomach enough, how would you feel to know that you live in the country that ranked at the absolute bottom of the 16 richest nations in terms of preventable mortality(Commonwealth Fund). In Norway, Spain, Italy, France, Israel, and literally every other country with a right to health care, citizens live up to 5 years longer than they do in the US. 

I Don’t Want A Raise on My Taxes! 

One of the biggest injustices Americans see with Universal Healthcare is undoubtedly the visible raise on taxes, but in the grand scheme of the entirety of the US population, you have to realize that this change could give health care to absolutely EVERY citizen, even those below the poverty line. Gallup Poll has repeatedly demonstrated to us that paying for healthcare is the #1 biggest financial problem for US households. Twenty-two percent of Americans described that paying their deductible would be not only “very difficult” but also just genuinely “impossible.” Sixty-four percent of American citizens simply do not seek medical care when needed because they can’t afford the costs. With family premiums increasing roughly 80% between 2003 and 2013, mortality rates are on the rise, and millions are left suffering with their hands tied in financial binds. If we could take away not just a fraction of this hardship, but the hardship entirely by guaranteeing the right to universal healthcare, effective medical care and equality can be assured for those even in financial crisis. 

You’re actually HELPING the economy! 

If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that having your health is essential in order to carry out your daily responsibilities required of you in corporate America. The more people given the opportunity to health care, the less people will be missing work. If you think about it, you’re actually helping the economy by keeping your workforce healthy and able. Researchers at the University of Colorado and Pennsylvania showed in a study that workers with health insurance miss on average 4.7 less days than workers without. Our economy loses roughly 65-130 billion annually as a result of diminished worker productivity due to health or death related concerns among the uninsured. Providing universal healthcare IS fostering economic growth! (Institute of Medicine).

Improving Public Health: Why do we value the lives of the wealthy over the lives of the impoverished?

“BREAKING: A Lancet study found data from over 100 countries suggesting that broader health coverage generally leads to better access to necessary care and improved population health, particularly for poor people.

The disparity among healthcare–whether it be due to race, gender, religion, or economic status–is something that’s been present since the beginning of America’s medical history. Something our country fails to understand is that while people and organizations can discriminate, sickness and disability do not. Anybody can become disabled, anybody can fall suddenly ill, it’s not something that can be wholly avoided or even blamed on the patient. The expectation that everyone should have health insurance is not only ignorant, it’s impossible to make a reality. Someone’s inability to afford insurance does not make them any less worthy of proper care and treatment against debilitating disease or disability. As of right now, there are over 11.4 million hardworking,employed Americans living with chronic conditions left untreated due to their inability to afford medical expenses; chronic illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes have been seen as the most prominent. What does our federal government expect the consequences of these actions to be? When left untreated, uninsured, with no access to care, these conditions lead to early disability and even death. 

As opposed to the universal health care seen in Canada, US citizens are….

  • 33% less likely to have access to a general doctor/pediatrician due to expenses
  • 25% more likely to have unmet health need crisis due to expenses 
  • 50% more likely to not receive proper medication due to expenses 

This is not normal. 

This is not moral. 

This is discriminatory. 

The US can’t afford to provide universal healthcare! 

Yes, they can. For those unaware, the US is categorized as one of the wealthiest countries, more wealthy than France, Germany, Italy, and the UK, which have a lower Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita than the US. If all of these countries can afford universal healthcare– why can’t we? The short answer is we CAN. 

As of 2017, 28.5 MILLION people could not afford health insurance, and according to the Congressional Budget Office, we can expect as many as 35 million people to be uninsured by 2028. The US spent about 10k per person on healthcare in 2017, which is over 2.5 times the average money spent by member countries of the OECD with universal health care (Europe for example). With that impeccable level of spending, there is absolutely NO reason the US shouldn’t be able to provide healthcare to each of its citizens. 

Health care is a human right. 

As someone practically living in-n-out various health care facilities the last few years, I shudder to think what would have become of me had I not been able to afford health insurance. I’m beyond grateful every single day that I was dealt a hand fortunate enough to endure the testing I needed, the bins full of medications, the doctor appointments, the life-changing treatment. I’m writing this article today because I recognize a lot of people are not as lucky as me, and the thought of someone living through the debilitation I did and not being able to get help, being physically denied the right to ever feel better due to their economic status; frankly, it makes me sick to my stomach. Nobody deserves to endure suffering, especially when it’s your own body fighting against you. 

Universal healthcare has saved. 

Universal healthcare does save. 

Universal healthcare will save.

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