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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    U.S. should adopt universal healthcare

    The Supreme Court will decide later this month the fate of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the United States’ first attempt at federally mandated, universal healthcare. But the act has already carved a vast division among Americans questioning its constitutionality. Opponents of the law argue that the government shouldn’t force Americans to purchase health insurance and that such a system would reduce the quality. Supporters of it argue that healthcare should be an American right.

    Even if the act isn’t the right legislation for improving our healthcare system, the president still has the right idea.

    Providing universal healthcare should be one of our government’s fundamental functions. It would cover the nearly 50 million Americans who went without healthcare in 2010, simplify our bloated system and make it easier to gain access. On top of that, it should be free. Yes, free: we’re behind the times.

    The U.S. is the only developed nation that does not guarantee healthcare for its citizens. Even countries that the United Nations doesn’t consider developed, like China, are taking steps toward universal care. The U.S. ranks with Turkey and Mexico as being the sole countries without universal health coverage according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Despite our disconformities, we spend far more money on healthcare — 17.4 percent of our gross domestic product — than our counterparts, who spend an average of just 10.6 percent, according to a 2012 study done by The Commonwealth Fund. And although we spend top dollar for health care, the actual health of Americans is subpar.

    Opponents to universal healthcare argue that it would be detrimental to the quality of our medical services, but researchers have found that our current healthcare system isn’t superior to that of other developed nations who provide universal health care. According to the same study, the U.S. is second to last in number of practicing physicians. Also, the U.S. has less than the average number of hospital beds and below average length of stay for acute care. The cost of U.S. healthcare per person is $8,000, more than Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands and Luxembourg. These countries spend less and also live longer than the average American. The average life expectancy of an American is 78.2 years, the 27th highest compared to the developed country average of 79.5 years. The U.S. also lags in other measures such as infant mortality and potential years of life lost according to a report from the World Health Organization.

    Critics also argue that free universal care would lead to extreme wait times and a lack of drug innovation from pharmaceutical companies. However, these claims are unfounded.

    Evidence shows that wait times may have little to do with universal healthcare. According to a 2005 survey provided by The Commonwealth Fund, only 30 percent of Americans were able to visit with their doctor on the same day they were sick, a lower figure than any other country but Canada at 23 percent. More importantly, 51 percent of U.S. patients reported having medical needs unmet due to costs, a number that almost doubles Canada’s. This is an example of a problem that could be solved by free healthcare.

    Those who argue that drug companies would cut back drug research and development due to losses in profit are also misinformed. A loss of profit wouldn’t hurt innovation, said sociologist Donald Light of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and economist Rebecca Warburton of the University of Victoria, due to drug companies spending little on drug research to begin with. In reality, federally funded universities do most of the basic research, while drug companies delegate most of their spending towards marketing.

    Establishing free universal healthcare takes time, but doing so we will modernize, simplify and improve our system. Even if Obama’s law doesn’t pass the Supreme Court’s test of constitutionality, we should still make efforts toward joining the rest of the developed world by providing everyone free healthcare.

    ­— Michael Carolin is a journalism and creative writing junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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