Why America Needs Socialized Medicine

George and his sister Tina lived in Buffalo, New York. Diagnosed with diabetes as children, their disease frequently went untreated because they were uninsured. Tina worked as a waitress and George at a factory but neither of their employers offered insurance. They made too much money to qualify for Medicaid and too little to afford private insurance so they went without insulin, syringes and glucometer sticks.

George went blind at the age of 20 and died of multiple organ failure at the age of 21, having qualified for Medicaid, due to his blindness, too late. Tina's first and only child died in the hospital at five months of age due to gestational diabetes. A year later Tina died of a heart attack. "George and Tina had a strong work ethic. I had to face their mother at the funerals knowing if they had gotten good care for diabetes, we could have prevented all their end organ disease. George would not have gone blind. The baby would have lived. Neither would have had heart or kidney problems," says Dr. Debra Richter. (Bell)

42 million Americans are uninsured which amounts to one in six Americans. Another 70 million have insurance but their coverage is so minimal that they can't afford to get sick. The average uninsured American is Caucasian and the majority are from working families with one or both providers working. An estimated 18,000 Americans die every year because they lack health insurance.

The US ranks the first in the world on health care spending, spending on average $5,000 or more per person. Other democracies spend half that amount. Our overhead is double that of countries who have guaranteed health care. Due to skyrocketing drug costs many Americans are illegally buying drugs from Canada and other countries that put a cap on drug prices or face choosing between medication and food.

Medicaid was created to provide health care for impoverished Americans provided that they qualify. Medicaid only covers adults who are disabled, pregnant, elderly or take care of dependent children. A parent working full-time at minimum wage makes too much to qualify and too little to afford the premiums of private health care.

HMOs have very stringent requirements a person must pass in order to qualify (If a person with a preexisting condition is forced to switch HMOs, finding one that will take them can be like pulling eye teeth) and because they are for profit organizations, they often restrict a physician's ability to treat his patients. The HMO system as created a kind of Lord-of-the-flies culture among hospitals with each competing for the most contracts. Hospitals, or physicians, without contracts find themselves without patients. Many physicians have left the field, frustrated by the strict restrictions that limit the number of tests or treatments they can give a patient.

Of course, there's always the emergency room, opponents of socialized medicine argue. Many uninsured depend on the emergency room for their health care because the hospital is required to treat every patient that darkens its door. However, they cannot force them to pay. Hospitals do make some effort to track down patients but most of the time what happens is that the hospital absorbs the loss, resulting in higher prices for everyone else. Emergency rooms can't treat long-term illnesses such as cancer and they do not provide preventive care, which would have saved George and Tina. So what opponents are arguing in favor of is an incredibly inefficient form of socialized medicine.

Another possible snafu with socialized medicine is long lines, say opponents. However, long lines exist for even the well-insured under the American health care system. Patients can expect to wait weeks or months before they can see physicians. Unless it's a dire emergency, you can expect to wait a long time to see a doctor. Under single-payer or socialized medicine, care is distributed according to need rather than ability to pay.

Bottom line, the American health care system is a bloated, expensive beast that fails to provide basic necessities to a large subset of the population. In Canada, you get sick, you get help. There's no middle man counting beans to ensure that no amount over the bare minimum is spent. In Canada, less money is spent on health care but more benefit from it.

America has always prided itself on being a forerunner in human rights. It introduced democracy to the world and foremost among its principals is the value of man. We've always prided ourselves on our social programs which take care of society's weakest members. Why then, do we dig our heels and refuse to join a system that allows all people, rich or poor, fair and equal access to some of the best health care in the world?