According to a report from the Institute of Medicine, 18,000 people in our nation die unnecessarily each year because they lack affordable health coverage. Regardless of our faiths or personal beliefs, we can all agree that access to affordable healthcare for all human beings is a basic human right.
Throughout the last century the federal government has tried to enact health care reform which extends coverage to all American citizens, regardless of employment status or family income. Under President Lyndon Johnson, the passing in 1964 of the historic legislation that established the Medicare and Medicaid programs was the first of many steps taken to do just that. Medicare offers healthcare coverage to those over the age of 65, and Medicaid is a system of state programs that covers low-income children and adults.
While these programs have been successful in providing health coverage for many across the country, there are currently still many millions who do not qualify for either program and do not receive employee-sponsored health coverage.
Subsequent years have seen the cost of health care in America grow continuously, making the need for reform that much more pressing. The reasons for this rise in health care costs include (but are by no means limited to) the following:
The cost of new innovations in the medical industry, from medical technology to pharmaceuticals.
The wealthier people are, the more health care they demand. The more people demand medical fixes – from stomach stapling to hip replacements – and the more we develop the technological capacity to meet such demands, the higher the cost.
The older we get, the more health care we need. A large percentage of our health care needs come during the last years of our lives. As the”baby-boomers” (those born just after World War II) get older, the nation’s overall health care spending increases.
This is why, in the early 1990s, an increasing number of citizens were worrying about losing their current health care benefits and thus not being able to afford future medical bills.
With the election of Bill Clinton in 1992 came the Health Security Act, which called for “universal coverage, employer and individual mandates, competition between private insurers, and was to be regulated by the government to keep the costs down.” Yet the overall size and complexity of this plan both slowed its passage through Congress and made its popularity among American people dwindle. Congress could therefore not get enough votes to pass the bill.
This did not, however, end the battle for reform. At the prompting of the The Obama administration, congress has devoted much of its time to health care reform legislation. On November 7th, 2009, the House of Representatives passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act, which was never passed by the Senate. In December of the same year, the Senate proposed and passed an alternative health care bill, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In 2010, the House abandoned its own reform bill in favor of amending the Senate Bill,. The result of this effort is the current Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, signed into law on March 23rd, 2010.
According to Wikipedia, “The law includes a large number of health-related provisions to take effect over the next four years, including expanding Medicaid eligibility, subsidizing insurance premiums, providing incentives for businesses to provide health care benefits, prohibiting denial of coverage/claims based on pre-existing conditions, establishing health insurance exchanges, and support for medical research.” For more information on this, see http://energycommerce.house.gov/Press_111/health_care/HScomparison.pdf
Pros of Current Health Care Reform
Beginning in 2014, insurers may not deny coverage to any individual due to a pre-existing condition or other health status
Coverage will be – or is expected to be – extended to 32 million currently uninsured America
The current bill allows parents to keep their children on their health insurance until they are 26.
The bill also expands Medicare coverage, which would allow more low-income families to obtain affordable coverage.
Cons of Current Health Care Reform
The overall cost of the bill is expected to reach or exceed $1.2 trillion, which would greatly increase our national debt.
Many Americans simply do not understand what is in the bill
Many are questioning whether requiring individuals to purchase insurance or pay a fine violates their constitutional rights.
This is, of course, by no means an exhaustive list of the current debate. Health care reform in the United States continues to be an ongoing issue, and we appreciate your input as this debate progresses.
Regardless of our views of health care reform this debate has obvious real-world implications for medical professionals and patients alike. Stories of patients dying because of a lack of an ability to afford care, or families spending all of their savings to pay for care for a sick child are all-too prevalent in contemporary society. For the sake of the health and well-being of all people, this is a discussion which can, will, and must continue well into the future.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
Have you given considerable thought and discussion to healthcare in the United States? Why or why not?
Do you think that health care reform affects our nations youth? Why or why not?
Do you think that it is important for youth today to have an understanding of their health care options, and if so, how might we go about including them in this discussion?
If you were to give your congressman one concern and/or piece of advice on this issue, what would it be?
Without access to affordable health care, many Americans are left on their own when it comes to paying high medical bills and thus continue to die unnecessarily because of an inability to afford decent care. Health care reform is therefore an issue that is and should remain in the forefront of public policy debate.
It is increasingly important that we look at our priorities between maintaining the overall economic health of a nation and the individual needs of its people.
It is important that we somehow reduce the complex issues that our country currently faces to a level where the ordinary citizen can both understand and discuss them.