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The U.S. Government’s Role in Healthcare, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 1536

Essay

In regards to the question as to whether the United States federal government should be involved in providing health care to its citizens, I personally feel that it must be involved, considering the current high number of Americans that do not have access to adequate health care, not to mention the growing problems related to a wide variety of personal choices that negatively affect health and well-being, such as choosing to smoke cigarettes, failing to adhere to a proper diet, and not getting enough physical exercise. Although there are currently a number of federally-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid that provide health care to millions of Americans, both young and old, many are slipping through the proverbial cracks, due to not being able to afford adequate health care via health insurance companies and other private entities. Therefore, in order to help protect the health of all Americans, the U.S. federal government must continue to provide health care; it should also expand some of its present programs and initiate new ones that will cover all Americans regardless of income or social status.

As a prime example on how the U.S. federal government is currently involved in providing health care, on March 21, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives under a Democrat majority passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act which was signed into law by President Barack Obama only two days later which clearly illustrates his personal commitment to providing health care to all Americans. This new law would “extend health insurance to 32 million uninsured Americans” and would greatly expand “the federal government’s role in the American health care industry” (Government-Run Healthcare in the United States, 2012). One of the most important results of this new law would be the expansion of Medicaid by more than $430 billion annually over the next five years, thus adding 15 million new beneficiaries to Medicaid which was created to provide low income and indigent families and individuals with adequate health care coverage (Government-Run Healthcare in the United States, 2012).

Obviously, as noted by Dan White of Moody’s Analytics, the lack of adequate health care coverage for all Americans “can have real consequences for economic stability, especially in fragile times,” such as when economic progress has been interrupted by a recession. One of the most devastating consequences is unforeseen medical expenses that can “cripple a household’s finances and lead to bankruptcy or foreclosure” which in turn affects the entire struggling U.S. economy (2011).

This type of legislative and governmental action related to providing health care coverage is not that unusual, considering the high number of foreign nations that already provide full medical and health care coverage to its citizens. In fact, the U.S. federal government’s current involvement in heath care pales in comparison to that of many European countries that adopted nationwide health care provisions more than twenty years ago.

In a Policy Analysis provided by the prestigious Cato Institute, Michael Tanner discusses many of the health care systems that are currently in operation on a global scale. For example, an economist for the New York Times recently made the observation that the health care systems in countries like France, Great Britain, and Canada are more efficient and effective than what is currently available in the United States. Also, the U.S.-based organization Physicians for a National Health Program “points out that the United States is the only industrialized country without national health care” and that “countries with such systems spend far less per capita” or individually on health care than the United States with often superior health care outcomes, considering that the U.S. spends much more on health care than France and Great Britain with only moderate health care outcomes (2008, p. 2).

Statistically, the United States spends the highest percentage (16%) of its GDP (gross domestic product) on health care; in contrast, France spends a bit more than 10% of its GDP; Spain stands at about 8%, while Japan occupies the last position on the list at less than 8% GDP (Tanner, 2008, p. 2). In addition, a number of studies have shown that despite the current high involvement of the U.S. federal government in providing health care to all Americans, especially related to how much it spends on health care programs and the quality of care, “the United States fares poorly, finishing well behind other industrialized countries.” In support, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that in 2000, the U.S. health care system was ranked at number thirty-seven on a list of thirty-eight nations, thus making the availability and quality of U.S. health care “slightly better than in Slovenia” (Tanner, 2008, p. 3).

Thus, it appears that the U.S. federal government is currently deeply involved in providing the health care needs of its citizens as compared to foreign nations like France, Spain, and Great Britain. Of course, one could explain this by pointing out that the number of people in the U.S. who require health care coverage is far greater than those in France or Great Britain, simply because of population numbers. However, many foreign nations have made great success in providing their people with more than adequate health care coverage, even when their populations are in the tens of millions.

But as Tanner reminds us, when it comes to surviving diseases like cancer, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS, the United States “clearly outperforms the rest of the world” and overall, the chances of a patient surviving these and other deadly diseases is “far higher in the United States than in other countries.” As a supportive note, the British medical journal The Lancet reported that the United States is “at the top of the charts when it comes to surviving cancer” (2008, p. 5).

Perhaps the best way to determine whether the U.S. federal government is currently too involved or not involved enough in providing health care to the citizens of the United States is to ask the people themselves. According to the Center for American Progress, even though a majority of conservatives and almost all Republican U.S. senators in Washington, D.C. are adamantly against the Affordable Health Care for America Act, the American people continue to “embrace strong government involvement in the health care system.” This fact has been validated by several recent surveys that showed that 69% of the American public “still endorses government responsibility for health care coverage” (Teixeira, 2012).

In addition, other surveys have demonstrated that more than half of the American public believes that the U.S. federal government should be more involved in providing adequate and relatively low-cost health care to all Americans. This stands in contrast to 44% who feel the opposite and believe that “government involvement should decrease and that the system should be more free market oriented” (Teixeira, 2012), meaning that providing health care should be looked upon as a for-profit business with competitors determining who gets health care coverage and for how much.

Therefore, as a concerned American citizen, I personally feel that the U.S. federal government should increase its presence and involvement in providing health care to every single American. This holds especially true when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid which helps tens of millions of Americans on a daily basis to live a decent life while incapacitated with various diseases and disorders. Otherwise, without direct federal government involvement, Americans that are on Medicare and Medicaid would not be able to fend for themselves and would certainly end up in economic peril, due in part to the cost for specific drugs and treatment for illnesses like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Thus, as pointed out by Paul Krugman, writing for the Seattle Times, government intervention is mandatory in relation to providing health care for everyone, particularly for those who cannot afford the high cost of medical insurance, such as that offered by an HMO or health management organization like Blue Cross. Historically, before the existence of Medicare, 40% of elderly Americans did not have any kind of health care insurance, but today, every American over the age of 64 is covered by Medicare, and as shown by a recent survey conducted by the federal government, almost all “Medicare recipients are much more satisfied with their coverage than Americans with private insurance” (2009) which indicates that the staggering amount of money (estimated at about 1.6 trillion dollars) prioritized by the federal government for health care seems to be well-spent.

But as might be suspected, an increase in the involvement of the U.S. federal government in providing health care can only be accomplished if enough individuals and legislative members of the U.S. Congress support it; however, given the present status of the debate over the Affordable Health Care for America Act and other programs endorsed by President Obama, more federal involvement in health care may not be possible nor even feasible in the near future.

References

Government-run healthcare in the United States. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/viewSubCategory.asp?id=615

Krugman, P. (2009). Government involvement in health care is as American as Medicare and it works. Retrieved from http://seattletimes.com/html/opinion/2009578522_krugman01.html

Tanner, M. (2008). The grass is not always greener: A look at the national healthcare systems around the world. Retrieved from http://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa-613.pdf

Teixeira, R. (2012). Public opinion snapshot: Public still backs government role in health care. Retrieved from http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/public-opinion/news/2012/08/06/11977/public-opinion-snapshot-public-still-backs-government-role-in-health-care

White, D. (2011). Government’s role in US healthcare grows. Retrieved from http://www.economy.com/dismal/article_free.asp?cid=225334&src=.

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