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Monday, July 20, 2009
The case for universal health care system in the US
The media seems to be abuzz these days with all the negativity about the President Obama's health care reform. It seems that everytime I turn on the TV, or surf the news Web sites, all I see and hear is how the universal health care system will increases taxes, how the health care system in the US is so good, and how the medical system in Canada, Europe and other countries is so bad, etc.

Considering the strong lobbying by the entrenched groups who want to persist the present health care system in the US, this is not surprising. As for how the universal health care system will increase our taxes, such critics seem to be ignoring the fact that most regular Americans (barring politicians and few other selected groups) already pay a lot for the medical insurance in the form of monthly premiums, co-pays, deductibles, out-of-network charges, and so forth.

In my case, every month I pay about $400 in medical premium (this doesn't include the premiums I pay for the dental and vision insurance) to provide medical coverage for my family while my employer pays over $600-$700. When people compare taxes in the US compared to those in other countries such as Canada, they forgot about these humongous medical premiums we have to pay every month. And of course, this is assuming the employer is subsidizing the premium; god bless if you have to pay out of your pocket the entire premium. In addition, if you lose job, you are on your own. COBRA provides some protection in ensuring temporary continuity of insurance even if you have a pre-existing condition. However, from affordability and long-term insurance perspective, COBRA is a joke since it's only for 18-mo and until recent changes, you had to pay over $1,000 in monthly family premiums. Thankfully, the Obama administration introduced recent changes which fortunately, subsidized the premiums. When you don't have a job, it's hard for many people to shell out so much money every month on insurance.

Secondly, even with these medical premiums, every time we have to go to the doctor, we have to pay at least $20-$30 co-pay (more if we go out of network) + $10-$25 in prescription (more if we buy branded medicines). Of course, this is assuming you don't have pre-existing disease and have medical insurance. If you factor in these costs, the taxes in the US are not much less than those in Canada and many other countries.

Also, some people are saying that healthy people shouldn't be subsidizing the cost for the sick. Well, with the current system, that's what we are doing even now. Of course, right now, the cost of health-related expenses for the sick are spread out among the employees of a company, where as with the universal health care, it'll be spread out over much larger base - in my view, the latter is a much better and cheaper alternative.

Many critics in the US claim that the current medical system in the US is very good, and that the universal health care system will promote unhealthy lifestyle as people won't take care of their health, knowing that they can always go to the doctor in case they fell. However, the reality shows that the Canadians and that Europeans are no less healthier than the people in the US; infact, in many countries, you will see less obese people compared to those in the US.

I have lived in Canada and still have relatives there, and was so glad they have such a good healthcare system. Unlike what many people in the US have to do, Canadians and Europeans don't have to worry about working just for the sake of getting medical insurance. That's why they have less to be stressed about and are more laid back and relaxed than their counterparts in the US. And that's also the reason that surveys after surveys every year rank countries like Canada, etc in the top 10 happiest places, while the US is not even in the top 20.

As for the universal health insurance causing increase in federal spending and federal deficits, currently, we have private medical system in the US and yet we have one of the largest deficits among developed countries. In contrast, despite having universal health coverage, Canada has a stronger financial situation and doesn't have to worry as much about ballooning deficit.

There is lot of misinformation being spread about the cost of health care system and how the current system in the US is so great. Ads are being shown on the tv claiming the drawbacks of the Canadian system, ignoring the fact that no system is 100% perfect, and the fact that despite its drawbacks, most Canadians and Europeans will never give up on their medical system in favor of the US-style system. Because of universal health care system, you won't find people in Canada and Europe going bankrupt because of medical reasons; you can't say the same in the US where many people have to file for bankruptcies due to medical expenses.

Whether or not we will have universal health care system in the US, I am glad that for a change, at least one president of the US is showing some guts and trying to ensure that there's medical insurance for every one. This is a change from other politicians, who have access to guaranteed and affordable health care, and can't understand nor care about providing affordable and health care to everyone in the US. Many politicians are now worried about federal spending that would be caused by universal health care system, yet they never bother when they introduce their own pork barrel projects in every bill. I sincerely hope there's universal insurance in the US because sooner or later, all the naysayers will also be needing it regardless of how much exercise they do, how much healthy diet they eat, and how many botox injections they give themselves to look young and healthy.

Related articles: Contrary to rumors, Canadian health care really does work well World's Happiest Places

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posted by Little Rishi @ Monday, July 20, 2009  
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