The humanity of health care

Jenna Staul

A tidal wave of stabbing pain rushed from my lower back to my limbs as four nurses attempted to lift me from my hospital bed to transport me to an MRI three weeks ago. Dazed by the blistering sensations pulsating through my body, I closed my eyes and waited for the effects of my morphine to set in.

I was lucky – I was able to receive the medical attention I needed.

But according to the National Coalition on Health Care, 47 million Americans without health insurance would not be as lucky. Millions more would struggle with only limited coverage. The United States’ emerging health care crisis has become the proverbial elephant in the room no one wants to talk about, and millions needlessly suffer as a result.

Of the patriotic bumper stickers adorning cars in the post-Sept. 11 era, it’s doubtful any read “We’re Number 37!” Yet by the World Health Organization’s rankings, the overall performance of the U.S. health care system holds a dismal position between numbers 36 and 38.

It should come as a blow and wake-up call to America’s nationalistic ego.

Despite touting itself as the most prosperous nation, the United States’ privatized health care system is ineffective and inefficient, arguably failing its public.

Nearly 16 percent of the country’s population goes without the means to pay for medical attention – a fundamental necessity no person should go without – yet it spends more on health care than any other industrialized nation. In fact, health care spending costs are skyrocketing, projected to reach $4 trillion by 2015.

Outside Washington, D.C., change is already underway. Massachusetts has reforms currently in the works to deliver health care to nearly all its residents. Presidential hopeful John Edwards has made universal health care coverage funded by tax increases for the wealthy a centerpiece of his campaign.

The opportunity to be healthy should be an inalienable right afforded to everyone. Education is viewed as fundamental, thus all U.S. citizens are ensured the right to one through high school. Why not ensure treatment for all citizens should they become injured or fall ill? Health care is just as paramount to national interest as education, yet it is less of a priority.

If the government places a higher premium on human rights than it does on its ties with pharmaceutical and insurance company lobbyists and corporate cronies – who routinely expend extravagant budgets to influence lawmakers and public policy in their favor – it will take notice and take action.

The rest of the industrialized world has embraced universal health care coverage funded by tax dollars, and it’s time the United States reform its system to cover all citizens. With government taking the reins, costs could be regulated and millions of people who cross their fingers hoping they won’t become sick could rest assured knowing the coverage they need will be provided for them.

After all, the last thing an injured person should have to worry about en route to an MRI is footing the bill for the care they need.

Jenna Staul is a sophomore newspaper journalism major and a columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].