Christopher McBriarty — Staff Writer
Last week the touching story of Drew Cox, a 6-year-old from Gladewater, Texas, gathering more than $10,000 in one day at a lemonade stand he set up to raise money for his sick father, made headlines across the country.
Drew’s father, Randy Cox, was diagnosed with Seminoma, a form of testicular cancer, which in Cox’s case is treatable through chemotherapy. And while Cox has health insurance, the treatment still requires thousands of dollars out of his own pocket—now covered thanks to his amazing son.
But people get devastating news like Randy Cox did everyday in America, and not everybody is lucky enough to have a story touch so many and have money raised to cover medical bills. It shouldn’t have to be like this in such a great country; everybody should have the right to health care without fear of bankruptcy.
The Founders even believed in a similar notion that is currently being debated in the Supreme Court: whether president Obama’s healthcare mandate is constitutional. Einer Elhauge, a professor at Havard Law School, published an article in The New Republic earlier this month showing how the Founders passed many mandates.
In 1790 Congress passed a mandate for all ship owners to buy health insurance for their seamen. The law was then signed by then-president George Washington. That law didn’t cover hospital stays, so six years later Congress passed a law that all seamen must purchase hospital insurance. Yes, Congress passed, and then-president John Adams signed an individual mandate requiring the purchase of health insurance.
But the system in place today is one of the primary factors in creating my passion for American politics. The election in 2008 and the Obama health care bill opened my eyes up to explore how the system here in the U.S. works, and my immediate feeling was that of disgust.
I couldn’t believe in a country I grew up idolizing, where you could lose everything because you became sick. The stories of health care companies not paying out to patients who had become sick; stories of people selling everything they own to cover costs of either themselves or their family members, and; the most loathsome of excuses to not insure somebody: a pre-existing condition. As well as countless others.
In England, my experiences with National Health Service have been very different to the stories I’ve read and now personally experienced here in the U.S. In England I typically walk into a hospital or my local doctor’s office, ask to see a doctor and have my problem attended to — no cost involved. No insurance company questions to ask. No worrying if this is covered by my insurance. None of what I call problems, which American health care customers find normal.
And yes, that’s correct; you aren’t a patient, you’re a customer. In a hospital here in Connecticut that I visited in December there was a sign in my friend’s room which read: “We will provide superior services that exceed our customers’ expectations.” I was outraged; that’s the problem summed up in one sentence: You are a customer, not a patient.
Health care is a right. Not a privilege. I find it disgusting that there are people making a profit off of a family or an individual’s life being, in too many cases, torn apart – either by being sick, or the financial implications of being sick. When you’re in that position the last thing you should worry about are the financial ramifications.
The U.S. has the highest health care costs in the world, and in return gets absolutely nowhere near the best care. In 2011 a study was compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which included 34 countries, and of those the U.S. pay the highest amount for health care. It costs $7,900 per person, each year; yet for life-expectancy the U.S. is ranked number 28. The study also revealed that pharmaceuticals here cost roughly 60 percent more than in Europe.
Reuters reported that Mark Pearson, head of the OECD health division, believes the costs are so high because there is no government involvement to keep costs down. “That’s simply not there in the U.S. system. So it’s a structural defect,” he said.
And that lack of government involvement is the problem. If by paying a little extra tax I ensure my neighbor and I have the chance to live a healthy life, it is worth it. In my eyes, that is not socialism, or communism, or any other political tagline used to discredit a health care system with better results than the one in place here; it’s the very simplest form of human decency.