October 9, 2009
The health care reform debate has been a long and fierce one, and with good reason: with the wellbeing of the nation at stake, the debate has centered on the role of government and the market with regards to regulating, controlling and managing the healthcare system. While the debate is complex and multivariate, the fundamental divide on Capitol Hill is still overwhelmingly between advocates of an increased governmental role and those opposing it. The system that emerges must be one of reduced waste and increased options—a system fundamentally reformed.
The most obvious benefit of universal health care is greatly-reduced cost for individual patients. According to Hough (2009), the current plan backed by Senate Democrats “would trim the deficit by $81 billion over 10 years while extending coverage to about half of the roughly 50 million people who now lack it” (para. 2).
Trimming costs is essential to any healthcare reform: currently, the U.S. is spending about 16 percent of its GDP on healthcare, more per capita than any other nation (Hough, 2009, para. 7). According to Hough (2009), the National Academy of Sciences found that $210 billion was wasted on “unnecessary services, like branded drugs used where generics would do,” another $195 billion in unnecessary insurance administration costs, and more—all of which added up to $810 billion a year, a sum “10 times the savings Congress is arguing over, only delivered every year instead of… over a decade” (Hough, 2003, para. 8).
Thus, the current plan would reduce costs and extend coverage to vast numbers of the uninsured. But the current plan as yet does not actually ensure universal health care coverage. According to Pear and Herszenhorn (2009), the Congressional Budget Office said that the current plan “would provide coverage to 29 million uninsured Americans” and “pare future federal deficits by slowing the...