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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, June 22, 2024

Health care a basic right

 Late Saturday night, by a narrow vote of 220-215, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the most significant health insurance legislation since the creation of Medicare. The bill still requires Senate approval—less likely to occur—and President Obama's signature to become law.

As students, we should be ecstatic about options for more competition in health-care prices as we graduate and slowly but forcibly get weaned off parents' and university coverage.

Like most college students, I had my eye on Twitter Saturday night. Barack Obama tweeted like a madman throughout the evening, complimenting particular representatives and saying ""This is history,"" and ""We won!!!!""

His enthusiasm is understandable. The fight to ensure and insure the health of Americans dates back further than Hillary Clinton's failed crusade for health-care reform in the early 1990s. In 1948, President Truman proposed a national, single-payer health-insurance system, which was lambasted as communist. As early as 1912, President Theodore Roosevelt ran on a platform including a national health insurance program.

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In politics, numerous issues are hyperbolized as ""life or death"" scenarios. This time the issues at stake carry such gravity for millions of our neighbors.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 47 million Americans, or 20 percent of the population under 65, are uninsured.

John, a close family friend, is waiting for a pacemaker implant that he will not receive without insurance and cannot afford without coverage. John is unable to work or find a job that provides insurance or a plan that will cover him with his current pre-existing condition. In the end, this 45-year-old man may die early because he cannot produce the money required for such an expensive procedure.

Who is to decide who should have access to medicine and who shouldn't? The all-seeing, benevolent dollar? We all have the right to pursue happiness, but why not the right to equal access to health care?

The average Republican does not desire any Americans to go uninsured. Most Democrats understand that without being economically viable, no health-care plan can work. Yet, how was this issue so partisan in the House? The political desire to make this ""Obama's Waterloo,"" as expressed by Sena?tor Jim DeMint (R-SC), over-politicized a critical issue for all Americans. The 215 votes for the status quo must be blind to the inefficiencies in the current system and the need for swift change. Even with Democrat Bart Stupak's (D-MI) commendable addition of an amendment banning coverage of abortion under the public option, many conservatives could not be swayed.

Guaranteeing insurance to 96 percent of Americans, as the House bill would do, scares many of us. That common fear is not a disregard for other people, but a concern for oneself. ""I have health care, why overcrowd hospitals with more people?""

The bill at hand, however, is not universal, single-payer health insurance. Not every American will be covered instantaneously. Implementation of a public, federally subsidized option and the choices consumers consider will allow time for medical facilities to adjust to changing practices. The system will and should change, but that change will not result in a spontaneously unrecognizable American health- care system. With the current dysfunctional system, emergency rooms are packed with impoverished and uninsured individuals who will not and cannot pay their bill. If more Americans have insurance, more Americans can see primary care doctors instead of visiting ERs for minor problems or waiting until minor problems become significant.

Using insurance to cover checkups can detect heart disease before it becomes an expensive heart attack.

With an estimated $1 trillion price tag over 10 years, we must ask if we can afford to enact health-insurance reform right now. With the future in mind, we cannot afford not to overhaul the system immediately.

The way the federal budget currently operates is not sustainable, primarily because of the rising cost of health care, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Such action, as approved by the House, can ensure that America's health-care expenditures are reigned in and reduced.

Although it's difficult to predict, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claims the streamlined system will reduce the federal deficit by $30 billion over the next decade.

Any honest accounting must prepare for the fact that health care reform will require additional costs in the short term in order to reduce spending in the long term,"" Obama said.

A combination of fundraising measures will cover the initial cost, including equalizing the amount of tax deductions a person earning over $250,000 a year can claim. It is unfair for wealthier people to get a bigger tax break than middle-income taxpayers for claiming the same deductions on the same charitable contributions, yet that's how the current tax system operates.

The new plan will also lead to a reduction in disproportionate share payments the federal government makes to hospitals with large numbers of uninsured patients.

As more and more patients become insured, the costs and time involved in care will be reduced and moved from the ER to primary care. People will not experience more or less instances of heart disease or broken ankles under a reformed insurance system, but the efficiency of how we treat and pay for those problems will increase.

In the end, economics are vital to the success of any such undertaking. But we cannot overlook our morals. The current state of inequality is unacceptable.

How can we as Americans sit back and allow our neighbors to suffer, die and clog the system for the rest of us because they are uninsured? Isn't it time we took care of ourselves?

Jamie Stark is a sophomore intending to major in journalism and political science. Please send responses to

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