(Photo Credit: Golden Cosmos/ NBC)
By: Daniel Ohiri
Currently the United States is struggling to address the global COVID-19 pandemic. As Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified to the U.S. House of Representatives on March 12, 2020; the United States is failing in its coronavirus testing. “The system is not really geared to what we need right now,” Dr. Fauci added. In this election year, we should push for not only the system we need but the system we deserve.
On March 13th, the Trump administration belatedly declared what most Americans knew —that we are in the midst of a national emergency. Policymakers and public health officials are attempting to cope with the lack of coherent leadership from the White House and its coronavirus task force. This coming week, Americans can expect that $40-50 billion of emergency funds will be freed up to combat coronavirus. Moreover, we can expect that Congress will pass, and the President will sign, a bill that will provide free coronavirus testing, $1 billion in food aid, and extended sick leave. Nevertheless, as the President said in the Rose Garden, “we were given a set of circumstances and we were given rules, regulations, and specifications from a different time. [It] wasn’t meant for this kind of event”. Trump is right – our healthcare system is not built for an overwhelming public health emergency. Let alone the fact that our healthcare system is not even built to provide affordable comprehensive health care to all Americans and residents. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted our public policy shortcoming regarding healthcare.
Healthcare is the number one issue voters are concerned about going into the 2020 election. Because of the importance of access to healthcare, this election will prove to be pivotal. Candidates have proposed everything from a single-payer system to a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act. But now is the time for Americans to explore the creation of a national health service.
If healthcare is a human right, which I believe it is, then it is reasonable to expect the government to enact and enforce that right. In the same way that public schools, police departments, and libraries are services provided to the public so should medical care. No human being in this country should have to face bankruptcy for an unexpected medical expense. No son should have to make a plea on Facebook or GoFundMe to raise money for his mother’s knee replacement. Just as it is in the United Kingdom all medical procedures and appointments ought to be free at the point of use.
The NHS was created in the aftermath of World War II. U.K. citizens often have to pay no more than about $10 in out of pocket medical expenses. The U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other OECD Nation at $10,586 per capita while the U.K. spends just $4,070—only 9.8% of the Kingdom’s GDP. Due in part to the NHS, the U.K. has a higher life expectancy than the U.S., along with a lower infant mortality rate, and a lower rate for potential deaths due to a lack of healthcare. The British NHS is a monument to effective social policy, it is a program that U.K. citizens cherish so much they proudly, and rightly, displayed to the world during the 2012 Olympic Games.
The average American household paid $6,015 for coverage in 2019 through its laggard, patchwork system. In Canada, a nation that has adopted a single-payer system over a national health service, the average citizen paid $6,604 in taxes for healthcare coverage. In both the United States and Canada, insurance is not comprehensive. Even in Canada, the government only pays 70% of healthcare costs ignoring coverage for prescription drugs, dental, and vision. Whereas, while in the U.K., the average citizen paid just $2,000 in taxes for coverage. The U.K. National Health Service is extraordinarily broad, providing in-patient care, vision, dental, mental, long-term, and rehabilitative care. In the NHS model, there is are very little cost-sharing and copayments are low. By administrating and staffing the hospitals, the United Kingdom lowers most barriers to access seen in the American and Canadian models; moreover, it virtually eliminates regional pricing discrepancies in ambulance, diagnostic, and other healthcare fees.
The United Kingdom’s National Health Services has enjoyed over 70 years of success and satisfaction. The NHS enjoys a 54% approval rating while only 30% of Americans are satisfied with their healthcare. In Great Britain, no qualified resident is uninsured, while in the United States 87 million adults were either uninsured or underinsured. The American healthcare system cannot stay the course, the status quo is reckless and deadly. The U.S requires a major overhaul to address lack of access, coverages, cost, and satisfaction. It is time that we seriously think about adopting a national, universal health care system in the United States.
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