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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Hemorrhaging health care needs fix

    The U.S. spends far more money on health care than any other nation in the world – 15 percent of its GDP. Despite this, the World Health Organization ranks the U.S. 37th in comparative health care systems of nations. To what do we owe this absurd absence of efficiency? In a word, insurance – or a lack thereof.

    Today, there are between 44 million and 46 million citizens nationwide without health insurance, the vast majority of whom simply cannot afford it. It is a problem that is only growing: From 1990 to 2005, the number of uninsured has risen by 17 percent.

    However, that does not mean that the uninsured do not receive health care; rather, they place an undue burden on hospitals and other facilities that serve those who cannot pay. Out of principle, those institutions serve the millions of uninsured but end up bearing the burden of the bills themselves without help from insurance companies or the federal government.

    Last week, Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts signed the most sweeping health care legislation ever at the federal or state level. The bill constitutes a near-universal health care system that is projected to help nearly 95 percent of the state’s uninsured get under some form of health coverage. It requires those who can afford health insurance to buy it while implementing state coverage for those who cannot, an idea akin to requiring car insurance, which all states have.

    What about Arizona? According to the Center for Disease Control, 17 percent of Arizonans live without any form of health insurance, and the state ranks an abysmal 40th in the nation in terms of overall health care. The most disturbing part about this is perhaps a lack of health insurance for those that are employed. A full 59 percent of those without insurance work full time, and 64 percent of those without coverage have an income of $25,000 or more. The problem stems from companies that are unwilling to offer health care packages as fringe benefits of employment and the expensive, often prohibitive premiums required for independent health care through HMOs.

    The vast majority of the uninsured population falls in an age group all of us should be concerned about: Nearly one in three uninsured people are between the ages of 18 and 24, although nationally, this age group constitutes only nine percent of the population.

    The UA, however, has done its part to combat the lack of health care provided to college-aged people, offering students three ways to stay covered. Any person carrying one unit or more of classes at the UA is eligible for services at Campus Health Service, which offers a variety of resources for students, from acupuncture to urgent care, through fee-for-service coverage. A second option provides students unable to maintain full health coverage with a supplemental health care plan through the UA’s CampusCare program for only $60 per semester, which includes minimal co-pays for various Campus Health services. Lastly, eligible students can access UA’s student health insurance, which gives students health insurance that can be used anywhere, not just Campus Health, for $627 a semester.

    While the UA has done a commendable job of setting up a safety net for its campus citizens, the same cannot be said for the state of Arizona itself, which has done little in the way of addressing its discombobulated, broken health care system. Hospitals across the state continue to be inundated by those who lack health insurance, raising costs and forcing many to close down critical services offered to communities.

    Ensuring that our population has adequate access to health care is imperative – not only to slow the hemorrhaging of the health care system, but in order to provide the services that are essential to basic human health at all levels of society. The first step is a change in the way we insure the public in a way that reduces the inefficiencies that have caused us to fall far short of our potential in health care services.

    Shurid Sen is a junior majoring in political science and economics. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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