Stella-Grace Ford, '23
In the United States, we pride ourselves on being trailblazers in terms of democracy and equality. In the Declaration of Independence, we state our fundamental belief that each human deserves life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, yet we continue to deny that right of life to those in need. The U.S. still does not have universal healthcare, although the 2010 Affordable Care Act, or ACA, made huge steps toward covering more seniors and low-income adults. Unfortunately, many states chose not to expand their healthcare programs under the ACA, and much of the U.S. operates under a free market insurance system. In a free market, the price of goods is determined by competition between producers, giving health insurance companies permission to artificially increase prices on a whim without any consequences. Privatized, free market healthcare allows providers to manipulate prices and target certain individuals, be it suddenly omitting coverage for medical treatments or overcharging people with chronic conditions because of their medical history. As insurance costs rapidly inflate, our healthcare system forces people to choose between life-saving medical treatments and living the rest of their lives in debt.
The free market medical system is riddled with hypocrisy and inconsistency. Children must provide physical and dental information to go to school, yet we give low-income families no way to pay for these checkups. Doctors and medical practitioners are required to care for anyone in need—if someone passes out in public, they do not have a choice on whether they go to a hospital, let alone whether they pay for their procedure—and mandating these medical treatments and consultations under privatized healthcare inherently disadvantages low-income citizens. Economic equality cannot exist in a system that favors profit over care and turns patients into consumers. Only about 54% of low-income earners had a full year of health insurance coverage in 2001, as opposed to nearly 88% of high-income people, demonstrating a huge disparity between high- and low-income people’s ability to insure themselves and avoid drowning in debt from expensive health treatments. A lack of medical care, especially to people with chronic conditions, constitutes a literal lack of life, so how can we preach American ideals under a free market system?
Before the ACA, 60 million Americans were uninsured, but its enactment decreased that amount to only 27 million, illustrating its efficiency. With universal healthcare, more low-income adults go to regular checkups, thereby catching potential medical problems before they can develop, and universal healthcare causes more chronic illness sufferers to seek help. Additionally, it decreases the number of homeless citizens, since mental and medical health are leading factors of homelessness and unemployment; higher degrees of insured sufferers who can affordably treat those issues minimizes their detrimental effects. Healthcare is a human right, and the United States has a duty to its citizens to provide them with affordable medical insurance. Universal healthcare paves the way for a more equal and healthy America, wherein every citizen, regardless of income, can get the help they deserve.
https://meps.ahrq.gov/data_files/publications/st40/stat40.pdf & https://www.statista.com/topics/3272/obamacare/#dossierKeyfigures
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