U.S. health care system in need of major reform

By By Emily Rodriguez-Vargas

By Emily Rodriguez-Vargas

The meaning of “reform” can sometimes be seen as a double-edged sword. You might give something up to pursue something else, but it might end up being worse.

That seems to describe a general consensus of our fear regarding change to the U.S. health care system. Our system is in need of reform so desperately that restructuring, or any improvement, is the only thing that could help at this point.

A large problem exists in our health care fundamentals. One pays the doctor a visit when sick or injured, requiring at least some urgency. The struggle begins when insurance and pharmaceutical companies seize on this urgency. Fine-print exceptions to coverage and outrageously priced prescriptions become excuses for not covering the expenses.

Many American families have mountains of medical bills that are impossible to pay back. These unpaid medical expenses also limit access to further health care. The journal Health Affairs confirmed Feb. 2, 2005 that half of filed bankruptcies were due to medical bills that families were unable to pay, despite having health insurance.

Acquiring health insurance can be a difficult matter since some students have jobs that don’t offer health benefits. Some students are on the dangerous threshold between insurance provided through parents and insurance provided by themselves.

In 2005, the National Coalition on Health Care said young adults between 18 and 24 are the least likely of any age group to have coverage, with 29.3 percent going without. According to an Aug. 26 U.S. Census Bureau press release, the total number of people in America without health insurance coverage is currently 45.7 million, or 15.3 percent.

I spent much of my childhood in Europe, where many countries’ health care systems have been mastered for decades, with coverage for all. When a close friend of mine from Europe found out about our lack of a universal health system in the United States, she confronted me about it, outraged and shocked. I was, and still am, embarrassed by this fact, and how other countries have been ahead of us in caring not only for the upper and middle class, but for their entire population. The U. S., however, spends more on health care than any other industrialized nation. According to the National Scorecard on U.S. Health System Performance for 2008, we only score a 65 out of a possible 100 regarding our quality, access, efficiency and equity.

“The scorecard tells us that we are losing ground in crucial areas like access to health care,” said researcher and Commonwealth Fund Senior Vice President Cathy Schoen in a press release. “We now have 75 million Americans who are uninsured or underinsured. Poor access pulls down quality and drives up costs of care. The United States leads the world on health care spending8212;we should expect a far better return on our investment.”

The McCain campaign is doing all it can to avoid the word universal. Vouchers, retail walk-in clinics and refundable taxes are some of John McCain’s plans, or basically anything, no matter how complicated, to talk his way around providing every American with health care.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, promises to see that our health care becomes more efficient and that more businesses are able to offer health benefits to their employees. Most importantly, he wants to provide access to coverage for everyone.

Health insurance companies are lowering their quality of service and coverage so that we have even more out-of-pocket expenses. This, along with benefit cuts for the working class, causes fewer people to actually be able to afford the rising premiums, and 30 percent of students have no coverage.

When you cast your vote Nov. 4, keep in mind which candidate will have students in mind when it comes to providing the best health care.

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Emily Rodriguez-Vargas

Kevin Merriman