If healthcare for all is what the United States wants for its citizens, than some type of universal healthcare will become necessary. In an August 4, 2013 article in the Lewiston, Maine Sun Journal, Julie Pease M.D. discusses the healthcare situation in her state as the major providers try to increase their “market share” by putting pressure on the state government in the form of lobbyists. Dr. Pease asserts that as many as 1,800 individuals and families have had to file bankruptcy in 2012 due to medical bills. It is her believe that our current healthcare system “penalizes the sick” by overcharging or denying of care altogether (Pease). However, Michael Cannon and Michael Tanner dispute that universal healthcare is the answer. “Simply saying that people have healthcare is meaningless. Many countries provide universal insurance but deny critical procedures to patients who need them.” Further opponents of universal healthcare leaves us with the argument that, “Cheaper, more universal care, comes with the tradeoff of slower care” (Khazan). But the Commonwealth Fund, a nonpartisan organization that studies industrialized healthcare systems around the world concludes, “People in many countries that spend far less on healthcare than the U.S. are more likely to say they can usually get a same-day or next-day appointment when they need it, and to say they can get after-hours treatment without going to the ER” (Khazan). Of course, this is a generalization, but needs to be taken note of.
The discussion on healthcare reform in the United States ultimately comes down to money. “We spend $2.8 trillion on healthcare annually. That works out to about one-sixth of the total economy and more than $8,500 per person. If the healthcare system would break off from the United States and become its own economy, it would be the fifth-largest in the world” (Kliff). And the figures continue to grow every year. Prescription medication in the U.S. is much costlier than in other countries due to the fact that other countries have certain forms of controlling prices while the U.S. does not. “Defenders of the American system argue that price controls stifle innovation. Many say that our higher spending creates financial incentives for drug companies to come up with wonderful new drugs” (Kliff). Aside from drug costs, the U.S. spends far more on treatments, some quite unnecessary, than other countries and has created an atmosphere where the longer a patient stays in the system, the more money a doctor stands to make. “The best way for a doctor to make money in the United States right now is simple; prescribe treatments” (Kliff). Add to this the administrative costs to run such a complicated system and it is no wonder the U.S. is spinning out of control in terms of providing care for its people. Many other industrialized nations provide incentives for doctors to improve a patient’s health while “most American doctors aren’t paid on whether they deliver that improved health. Their income largely depends on whether or not they performed the surgery, regardless of patient outcomes” (Kliff). It must also be noted that Obamacare is running experiments in the Medicare program that rewards a doctor for providing effective treatment, while punishing doctors for patient readmissions for the same illness or procedural error. Since 2010, the number of readmissions has dropped (Kliff).
In 1943, the Internal Revenue Service allowed for health care benefits to be non-taxable and again in 1954, the IRS allowed for companies to provide tax free healthcare benefits for their employees. What this has created is a tax break that costs the United States Government $260 billion a year by not taxing these benefits. However, taking away this tax break for companies will require them to spend more on healthcare or not providing care for their employees. Although economists on both sides of the political spectrum do not like this tax break, the government essentially has its hands tied, thanks to an 80 year old tax law (Kliff). While it is fairly agreed that the pharmaceutical companies, and in a lesser part, the insurance companies are making the vast majority of profits in the U.S., we must be cautious in our approach to overhauling the system. Jon Hall, writing for the American Thinker, explains that our Medicare system is funded by payroll taxes while Medicaid does not have its own revenue source. Because of the missed tax revenue opportunities noted above, Medicare continues to be “raided” to make up for the lack of funds in Medicaid. This is called ‘cost-shifting’, a virtual band-aid for a far more serious problem. As more Medicare funds are used to support Medicaid, payroll taxes rise for both workers and the employers. In essence, money is taken from the medical insurance program (Medicare) and given to the welfare program (Medicaid).