The U.S. Healthcare System Must Be Fixed



Mike Pence

President Trump discusses replacing the Affordable Care Act on March 10, 2017.

Srilekha Cherukuvada, Dreamcatcher Editor in Chief

Luca Palmiscino was born with alveolar capillary dysplasia, a rare congenital lung disease, and Hirschsprung’s disease, a condition affecting the large intestine. At only five months old, he had to get a lung transplant after several doctor’s visits, surgeries, and an instance of cardiac arrest. His parents had to turn to fundraising almost immediately to keep up with the insanely high bills they had to pay. That’s when the ‘Luca’s Lung Transplant Story’ Facebook page and GoFundMe were created. In the end, his life was saved not because his parents could afford it, but because other people were willing to spare a dime.

But most are not as lucky as him. 45,000 people die each year simply because they have no health insurance. These victims and their families suffer because the U.S. healthcare system is broken. 50 million people don’t have health insurance, and of those who are insured, 25 million are underinsured, meaning they pay extremely high deductibles and copays. It’s in the numbers. It’s in the grief of all of those families who have experienced the worst end of the failing system. Our healthcare system is crumbling to pieces before our eyes and we need to stop it.

Before figuring out proper solutions, we must understand the roots of our healthcare system and how it works. We have all heard the terms “Medicaid” and “Medicare,” but we never really stop to figure out what they all mean. Our healthcare system is quite different from other economic markets. Typically, a consumer shops around for the best deal or best quality of a good or service they can get. However, if someone is having a heart attack, there’s no way to choose the “best hospital.” They’re going to get taken to the nearest hospital and they’re going to have to pay a huge amount of money in hospital bills. Because of this unpredictability and large cost, medical expense insurance began in the 1920s to help cover the costs of healthcare. 

Our healthcare system is crumbling to pieces before our eyes and we need to stop it.”

Health insurance companies collect money periodically from individuals or their employers through what is called a premium. In the U.S., most healthcare institutions are private, meaning that they are built for profit. This means that healthcare institutions can price their equipment at any price they choose, causing the insanely high costs for visits and medical examinations. Meanwhile, the U.S. does have a single-payer system for those over 65 or below the poverty line, in which the government pays for the majority of recipients’ healthcare. Medicare is the publicly funded insurer that pays for the elderly and disabled. Medicaid is very similar, but is funded by both the federal and state governments and is for lower income households, pregnant women, and the disabled. 

Analyzing the evaluation of healthcare is also crucial for finding the solutions to this problem. Economists evaluate healthcare systems across the world off of three basic principles: cost, access, and quality. When looking at these criteria, the United States healthcare is without a doubt underachieving. First of all, the cost to go to the doctor with health insurance costs an outrageous amount of money, and when compared to the cost without health insurance, it’s no wonder the system is failing. An annual checkup with the doctor could cost upward of $100 without insurance. Even more horrifying is that a visit to the emergency room could cost almost $3,000 without insurance. Tests and medicines add even more to these already-substantial amounts.

Access is also an issue in the U.S. Over half of the 50 million people who don’t have health insurance are African American. There is also a disproportionately large amount of hospitals and doctors in wealthier areas, while hospitals are shutting down in poor areas where they are needed the most.

These disparities can be found in the quality of U.S. healthcare as well. For example, the quality of care given to people of color and women, is usually lower than other demographics, which is why the 10-year survival rate for people with cancer is 60% for whites but 48% for African Americans. 

Beyond these principles, there is also a rising issue with hospitals caring more about how much profit they’re making than how many patients they’re saving. To some medical professionals, it is becoming more important to be the person who bills the most. Over 700,000 families go bankrupt each year trying to pay for their healthcare, even though 75% of them are insured. Meanwhile, the five largest health insurance companies made a combined profit of about $12 billion in 2009. Of course, not all doctors and hospital boards are like this, but greed in healthcare is unfortunately becoming a more widespread issue.

Finding solutions to this failing healthcare system has been something politicians have been working on for ages. However, this issue is often overshadowed by others such as immigration and abortion. Along with this, many politicians are trying to go backwards and repeal past healthcare policies. For example, President Donald Trump made it one of his primary goals in his 2016 presidential campaign to repeal Obamacare. The healthcare system is truly the root of our country. Without a stable system, there is no way for Americans to survive. People get hurt. It happens every day. What do we do when we need a doctor? What are we going to do when we receive that $10,000 hospital bill?

Healthcare isn’t part of the economy, it’s part of our lives.”

Politicians and lawmakers are the only ones who can dig us out of this hole now. They need to revamp the system by starting from the roots. Lowering hospital costs for equipment and medicine can help by allowing insurance companies to lower their deductibles and the price recipients of insurance will ultimately have to pay. Getting rid of the private sector of healthcare could also eliminate some of the ethical problems the system is facing.

At the individual level, we can take the initiative to get informed. Whether it be simply watching a documentary about the corruption surrounding healthcare or researching statistics, knowing more about our healthcare system makes you a more aware citizen. The next step forward would be to get involved. Contact a nearby nonprofit or organize your own event to help bring awareness to the healthcare reform movement. Get in touch with politicians. We need to tell them that things need to change. We need to tell them that healthcare isn’t part of the economy, it’s part of our lives. It shouldn’t be filled with businessmen and profit margins. Healthcare isn’t business. We need a new system. It’s time to finally start picking up the shards of broken glass from our healthcare system and put them back together the right way. It’s time to start now.