The debate over universal healthcare has long been a controversial topic in this country. The main points of concern have revolved around the amount of money it would cost to fund such an endeavor and that without competition or choice the quality of service would diminish.
In the past there has not been a strong enough political platform to pass such reform, but with the strong Democratic presence in the White House and Congress the possibility for implementation is most eminent.
In Charles Morris’ 2008 Commonweal article, “Health Care for All”, he discussed the potential for the passing of a universal healthcare plan if the following scenario were to happen: get social security off the agenda, accept that healthcare costs will continue to increase due to new technologies, recognize taxes will have to increase.
The social security crisis has long clouded the healthcare debate, but Morris pointed out that quality plans have been proposed that would extend the life of social security making it a non-current issue if the plans could be passed by Congress.
He stated, “In 2004, economists Peter Orszag, then at Brookings, and Peter Diamond, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, developed a menu of tweaks. That restored the plan to full seventy-five-year funding without crippling changes” (Morris, 2008, p. 8).
With social security issues out of the way government will be able to focus on the economics behind funding a universal healthcare plan.
Morris also discussed the importance of recognizing how healthcare costs will continue to rise.
He focused his discussion on rapidly improving technologies in treating heart disease and correlates it to other areas of treatment. His main argument was that with improved technologies we have lower death from disease or disease symptoms, but life results in more and more intensive follow up care.
He wrote, “Primarily because of technological advances, we have drastically reduced the death rate from heart attacks. But there are now millions of people who have had heart attacks. And they need expensive follow up, high-priced medications, and usually some kind of formal intervention—to repair a stent, to fix a new occlusion—every few years”
(Morris, 2008, p. 8).
Finally he discussed the importance of accepting that taxes increases will and should go up to afford such a plan and that “a healthcare tax hike will not derail the economy” (Morris, 2008, p. 9). He pointed out that even with a “20 percent rise in average tax rates, from 26 to 31 percent of GDP” that still leaves the US in the bottom third of the total all-governments tax share of GDP of leading industrialized nations (Morris, 2008, p. 9).
More importantly, he pointed out that “American health care is by itself one of the largest industries in the world” (Morris, 2008, p. 10). This is important because being such a large and thriving part of the economy it is also somewhat self-sustaining. In that, as one of the largest industries that is where the money is being spent.
There have long been tremendous financial and political obstacles in the development and approval of a universal healthcare system in the U.S. However it seems the timing is right and all the pieces are falling into place. In our current political climate it is primetime for the government to act if Americans are ever to see any real healthcare reform during this century.
Morris, C. (2008). Health Care for All. Commonweal, (August 15, 2008), 8-10.