U.S. healthcare: The rich prevail

Shary Ali, Staff Writer

A father of two sons has a stroke. However, the old man earns just above minimum wage, and unable to afford the costs of emergency hospital procedures, the sons both watch their father slowly pass away. This is just one of the many examples of hardworking people who are adversely affected by the severe costs of medical treatment. According to CNBC, the cost of insurance rises exponentially each year, leading many to deem healthcare a luxury rather than a necessity. With many families surviving on barely above minimum wage, the cost of healthcare may actually dissuade the public from actively pursuing their medical needs.

“When it comes to certain treatments, people are discouraged to [go to] hospitals because they have to pay for it,” junior Sebah Khiar said. “Those are the problems we go through. We’re so stunned by its cost that we just won’t get the medical help.” 

The Institute of Medicine approximated that 18,314 Americans between ages 25-64 die annually due to a lack of health insurance. Exorbitant healthcare prices discourage citizens from accessing necessary medical aid, and thus can be classified as an indirect contribution to these deaths. 

“Healthcare providers and drug manufacturers have too much power,” junior Thirtha Unnivelan said. “They have the ability to raise prices on medicine with little to no repercussions.” 

In 2015, the Global Research Center discerned that the median revenue of drug channel companies within the Fortune 500 was $95.1 billion, and from 2003-2012, pharmaceutical companies’ top eleven corporations amassed net profits of nearly three quarters of $1 trillion. Wealthy pharmaceutical companies often engender doubt within the minds of Americans, as their drug prices usually increase sporadically with little to no prior warning.   

According to South Texas College, only 43 countries worldwide do not have access to free or universal healthcare; the U.S., of course, is among the few. With the majority of the globe maintaining a system of free and universal healthcare, evidence of success could serve as a model for a reformed healthcare system in the United States. 

“Canada, just like America, is a very well-developed country,” Unnivelan said. “They have free healthcare, so why can’t we?”

In 2018, PBS observed that 44 million Americans had no health insurance, in addition to another 38 million with inadequate healthcare. The Affordable Care Act, enacted in 2010 by former President Barack Obama, attempted to target the most expensive costs within the health industry. However, currently one-third of the U.S. population still lives constantly without the comfort of knowing that medical care is available when needed. 

“People will lose faith in the American system, as other countries care about their people enough to provide for them, while the U.S. [gives] off a feeling of apathy,” sophomore Aishwarya Suresh said. 

The overall verdict of the U.S. healthcare system is that it’s all about the profit. In 2017, a Health Care Cost Institute study estimated that the cost of emergency rooms averaged at $1,389, with a simple allergy treatment reaching prices like $345, corroborating the enormous extent to which health costs rise. These expensive prices lead to deleterious effects on society, and changes must be made in order to effectively remediate the healthcare crisis. If the government loses income with the implementation of free medical care, then we should use different approaches to obtain this same level of revenue. 

“A policy I propose is to get rid of any loopholes rich people take in order to avoid paying taxes,” Suresh said. 

Others embraced the idea of channeling revenue with other tax proposals.

“If the money for health care isn’t being funded through us, then honestly why don’t we just raise taxes?” Khiar said. “I’d rather pay higher taxes than pay for healthcare.”

Albeit, these are rudimentary ideas that could be added in replacement for our costly healthcare system, no free healthcare solutions have been actively pursued by past governments. Luckily, many of the current presidential candidates ally with the proposition of free healthcare.

“A perfect candidate would be Bernie Sanders, because he believes in free healthcare,” Khiar said. “He wants people in these poor neighborhoods, and people in general that experience financial problems, to have the same benefits.”

With this primary vision of insurance being promoted by public figures, the future of the U.S. healthcare system looks bright. 

“Hopefully in the future, healthcare will not be based on socioeconomic standing like it is now,” Unnivelan said. “Instead, it will be accessible to everyone.”