With the debut of the film Sicko by Michael Moore, this helped to significantly illustrate the extent to which problems within the health care system of the United States have escalated over the years, to an extent that all the Americans, save for the very rich, have been affected by this healthcare crisis.
The main problem with our healthcare systems is that a majority of the Americans are uninsured, coupled with the fact that the rise in the cost of healthcare appears to have overtaken the wages inflationary rate, not to mention that as the costs keeps on increasing, they are evidently being passed on to the employees by their employers (U.S Census Bureau, 2006).
According to available indices of the effectiveness of healthcare in the United States, its situation is quite pathetic, in comparison to that of capitalist and developed countries (U.S Census Bureau, 2006). For these countries, apparently all their citizens have an insurance cover, not to mention that their per capita costs too, are extremely low.
Healthcare crisis dimensions
The film Sicko vividly depicts predicament of individuals that apparently have been denied insurance benefits by their insurers. Available statistics have it that in fact, 16 percent of the Americans are without any health insurance. This represents about 47 million people in the United States. In addition, a further 20 million are only partially insured, while a whole 108 million Americans have no access to dental insurance (Fuchs, 2005).
In the publication, “Do Alaska native people get free medical care?” Roderick (2008) posits that from a technical; perspective, “the natives’ healthcare has been pre-paid”. Roderick further explains that the native people in Alaska have already pre-paid for their healthcare courtesy of trading their land and other resources to the United States, in return for services.
What this means then, is that the health care plan for these people seems to have surfaces from one form of government contract to yet another. Even then, the United States in contractually and legally obligated to ensure that all people obtain health care services indefinitely.
On average, those families that enjoy a healthcare plan that are based on their employment make an annual contribution of $ 3,281. Between 1992 and 2005, the health care insurance premiums by employees increased to 22.1 percent, up from 14 percent (Anderson et al, 2005).
Over the last couple of years, the cost of health insurance has been shown to increase three folds in comparison to the wages received by employees. As a result, there has been a corresponding decrease in the number of employer-sponsored healthcare plan beneficiaries (Mishel, 2006). By extension, the employees whose health care contributions are covered by the government have also been seen to decrease drastically.
Besides, individuals who make persona healthcare provision have also been dropping rapidly in the last three years. Of these, about 89 percent of them had their health care contributions rejected on health grounds, while a good number of them could not keep up with the rising healthcare costs (Fuchs, 2005). As can be seen the number of Americans who can ill afford to get well appears to be on the decline.
Apparently, the problem regarding the healthcare crisis currently being witnessed in the United States transcends a mere rise in the cost of healthcare, to include those responsible for settling the ensuing health care costs. At the moment, the health care expenditure in the United States represent a whole 16 percent of the nations’ gross domestic product, a figure that is projected to reach a 25 percent mark by the year 2030.
In 2003 alone, some $ 5,635 was spent on every individual in the United States, and this was twice above what is considered the standards personal healthcare contribution among the member countries of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development). These costs have also been shown to have increased two-folds over a period of seven years (U.S Census Bureau, 2006).
The rate at which the United States medical expenditure was growing for the 10 year period between 1991 and 2001 was in line with the average figure among the OECD countries, and so this could perhaps act as a pointer to the fact that the United States may still remains the biggest spender in terms of healthcare for a number of years to come (Shalala, & Reinhardt, 1999).
What is the way forward?
Based on the fact that the healthcare expenditure of the United States is quite staggering, could it be possible then, that a single payer policy would be a welcome respite? Better still could an act of doing away with privately-sponsored health care insurance plans, and replacing these with such health care systems as practiced in Canada (payroll taxes used to offset health care costs) is the much needed anecdote?
Those capitalists who like to groan and moan regarding the sharp rise in the cots of healthcare would without doubt find solace in a health care policy with a universal plan (Girion, 2006). For example, a plan for a single payer would assist employers to do away with premiums. Even then, this would be to the detriment of some other equally powerful sector the health care, notably the drug industry and the health insurance, both of who contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to the federal and other states authorities in the name of lobbying for their positions.
The institution of healthcare policies in the United States could perhaps be the only saving grace to a sector already mired by controversy. Nevertheless, it is worth of process of making public policies with regard to healthcare is affected by “confounding factors that are often external to the process itself. Longest includes among those factors the preferences of individuals, organizations, interests groups, and a host of biological, cultural, demographic, economic, ethical, legal, psychological, social, technical, and political factors (Bodenheimer & Grumbach, 2005).
The healthcare sectors in the United States appear to be a crisis, chiefly with regard to a rise in the healthcare costs observed in the last several years. In addition, the employees’ wages have not increased in tandem with this rise in the healthcare sector. In comparison to the OECD member countries, the healthcare sector the United States is still the greatest spender, a trend that is poised to go on for the next few years.
Based on such a situation and considering that the nation has been hit hardest by the current credit crunch, employers are opting to withdraw from sponsoring the health care plans of their employees (Mishel, 2006). The federal government and individual payers too, have followed suit. At this point, perhaps the embarking of the health care system as practices in other countries may be the only saving grace. Additionally, a universal healthcare plan could be a welcome respite to some capitalists, but still be to the detriment of other industries that have a vested interest in the healthcare sector.
Anderson, G., Hussey, P., Frogner, B., & Waters, H., (2005). “Health spending in the United States and the rest of the industrialized world”. Health Affairs, 24 (4): 903-914.
Bodenheimer, T. S., & Grumbach, K. (2005). Understanding health policy: a clinical approach. New York: Lange.
Fuchs, V. R. “Health care expenditures reexamined,” Annals of Internal Medicine, 143 (2005):76–78.
Girion, L. “Study Says Individual Insurance Too Costly,” Los Angeles Times, 2006.
Mishel, L. “Employers shift health insurance costs onto Workers,” 2006. Web.
OECD (1998). “Drug spending in OECD countries up by nearly a third since 1998, according to New OECD Data,”. Web.
Roderick, L. (2008) (Ed). Do Alaska native people get free medical care? Alaska: University of Alaska Anchorage.
Shalala, D.E., & Reinhardt, U.E. (1999). “Viewing the U.S. health care system from within: candid talk from HHS”. Health affairs, 18(3): 47-55.
U.S Census Bureau (2006). “Health insurance coverage”. Web.