A universal health care system for the United States is, simply put, one whose goal is health insurance for all Americans. One of the most hotly debated provisions is a public option, essentially a health insurance program operated by the Federal government. As Congress kicks around ways to implement health care reform, this option is, to quote singer Bob Dylan, “blowin’ in the wind.”
According to WebMD, the model for the proposed public option has been a single-payer system. An insurer negotiates payment for costs of the care provided for a group of people who are insured. The option requires negotiating contracts with hospitals, physicians, clinics and other providers to provide care for the group of insured patients. The system includes benefits, premiums and co-pays. One of Congress’ big concerns has been who will pay for what.
The public option is just one component of a proposed U.S. universal health care system. The larger picture is a requirement that all Americans be covered by some form of health insurance.
As Congress began to discuss the form this system should take, the public option was added to proposed legislation by one Congressional committee, then dropped by another. One week, Congress leaves it in. The next, it’s gone.
BalancedPolitics reports on the pros and cons of providing free universal health care for all Americans. The same arguments are common to a system in which the patient has to pay at least something for care. Among the pros of such care is a probable reduction in the number of the uninsured, which has ballooned to more than 45 million when including illegal residents.
Proponents think a universal system will put a lid on the ballooning cost of treatment, now increasingly unaffordable for both businesses and individuals. They also propose it as a way to eliminate wasteful practices such as duplicate paperwork, insurance submissions and claim reviews.
Supporters cite easier diagnosis and treatment of conditions with the development of a centralized national database. All of this will supposedly allow medical staff to focus on healing their patients rather than spending hours dealing with insurance procedures and malpractice liability policies. One of the most convincing arguments is that individuals with pre-existing conditions would be able to obtain health insurance.
The list of reasons not to implement a universal health care system begins with the question of which Federal agency could possibly run it effectively. Criticism focuses on the belief that motivation for profit, competition and personal ingenuity has historically always resulted in cost control and effectiveness.
Naysayers believe patients would experience less flexibility and worse patient care under Government-dictated operating procedures. They also maintain that just because an American is uninsured doesn’t mean he or she has no access to health care, noting that it’s illegal to refuse emergency medical treatment to individuals who don’t have health insurance.
A common complaint is the belief that healthy people will forced to pay for those who are unhealthy due to practices like smoking or conditions such as obesity. Those against a universal system cite the possibility of a long and difficult transition that includes the loss of jobs in the insurance industry and the closure of many businesses. They also fear that many doctors will close their private practices and that many prospective students will shy away from the medical profession.