During and my own extended family members losing

During the 2016 election cycle, the board members of the Amnesty International Club (AIC) scoured newspapers everyday, to develop topics for discussion at our weekly meetings. There are many great things about America —and I, as the son of immigrants, can attest to them all — but as member of our AIC board, I became increasingly aware of many injustices existing in our society as a whole, as well as in our local communities. Healthcare is one of the most egregious areas of unfairness. I watch as my mother pays $200 for an Epi-Pen that could save my life in a dangerous situation. I see friends and my own extended family members losing their homes because of medical bills. The state of our healthcare system affects everyone in the country. Everywhere I look—Twitter, television at school, at the gym—I hear people arguing over how problems in our healthcare system should be solved.  So here are my two cents on this debate: I believe, three basic principles of any healthcare system should be considered paramount. First, every person should have guaranteed access to quality healthcare because, I consider healthcare a right, not a privilege. Second, a healthcare system must provide healthcare for everyone in the most cost-effective way possible. And lastly, the first priority in healthcare should be disease prevention, as opposed to disease treatment. The current U.S. healthcare system fails to uphold these basic principles. America is the wealthiest nation in the world and yet millions of her citizens lack access to healthcare because they cannot afford health insurance. When my cousin twisted her ankle, for example she asked first responders if she could take an Uber instead of an ambulance because her insurance doesn’t completely reimburse transportation. When my neighbor had several back surgeries, to alleviate pain related to his prostate cancer, an insurance company denied his claim saying it was not medically necessary. Over 45,000 Americans die every year because they cannot see a doctor when they need to. And yet, compared to other industrialized counterparts, we still spend almost twice as much per person on healthcare. This is due, in large part, to the inefficient and profit-driven bureaucracy endemic in our healthcare structure. Lastly, and what I think is most concerning for public health in the long term, is the gap between the number of primary care providers available to patients and what is needed to deliver quality care to all citizens. Because primary care is critical to early detection and monitoring of chronic health conditions, this gap is especially problematic. In my opinion, this situation largely stems from our financing model: the multi-payer insurance system. In this framework, hundreds of private insurance companies compete to provide an individual’s coverage. The drawback to this system is the need for insurance companies to provide profit to shareholders, which runs counter to the need for access to quality healthcare. Even those who can afford the insurance do not get good value for their money. Insurance companies often fail to cover all components of a patient’s care: they refuse coverage for pre-existing conditions, they institute nefarious policies like life-time limits, and they often limit coverage to a select number of providers— all of which limits options for middle-class American families. These conditions point to the need for transformative change. I’d like to see implemented in our country a single payer national health insurance model, one in which, a public agency finances all healthcare, and care is delivered primarily by private sector providers. Importantly, this model meets all three principles, I mentioned: equal access, cost effectiveness, and a focus on preventative medicine. A single payer system would guarantee healthcare to all, regardless of ability to pay— a model in which, the government cannot discriminate in the ways private insurance companies can do. A single payer system would also eliminate wasted capital because multi-payer systems are made up of a complex patchwork of procedures and bureaucracy that force hospitals and physicians to hire armies of staff solely for the purpose of administration instead of direct patient care. With single payer, these costs would be largely reduced because of standardized billing. Another form of savings is in the bargaining power that a single payer insurer would have. For example, a single payer entity could negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for lower prescription prices because medications could be purchased in larger quantities. Finally, the single payer model could focus on cost-effective preventative medicine, decreasing current and future disease in its population, and reducing overall health care costs at the same time. A teen enrolled in a smoking cessation program, for example, would require coverage upfront, but not for treatment for smoking-related illness down the line. One of the common arguments made against the single payer model is that it will increase the burden on taxpayers. Yes, the single payer model would likely mean a raise in taxes for Americans, but, it’s time for citizens to examine the value of saving a couple of hundred dollars a year, versus turning many poor and sick people away from clinics because they lack insurance. Turning our back on our fellow citizens in this way, runs counter to our values as Americans— and as human beings. A single payer system would be good for the healthcare industry, the American economy, and most importantly: the average American.

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