The debate around healthcare in the United States often centers around the extent to which the government should aid its people in providing coverage. The left argues that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, there is simply no place for people to be going bankrupt because they get sick – a valid point. The right often counters by bringing up the vast cost of a universal healthcare program -potentially unaffordable with our 20 trillion dollars in national debt – and an equally valid point.
The issue, therefore, centers not around the fact that the right supports sick people going bankrupt, but instead centers around the expense of healthcare in the United States of America. Healthcare spending is at a whopping 16% of GDP in the United States of America, compared to around 8.9% as the OECD average. And the reason why healthcare is so expensive is due to a number of reasons – but the most important involve pharmaceutical prices, administrative work, and defensive medicine. Once these costs are reduced, a universal healthcare system can be safely implemented.
Pharmaceutical prices in the United States are nothing short of ridiculous. Drug prices in America are 3-4 times higher than those in Europe, and 16 times higher than the world’s cheapest pharmaceutical market – India. The solution to this problem lies in what these other countries are doing. Rather than simply allow every safe drug to be released onto the market, the US government needs to treat drugs as a public utility. This means that the price of drugs would be negotiated by the American government – in this case, an appointed panel of healthcare experts – which would tremendously drive down the cost of prescription drugs. This translates into hundreds of billions of dollars in annual savings.
Administrative work is also far too high of a cost, especially in the digital age. 25% of healthcare costs involve administrative tasks. The solution is relatively simple – automation. Most jobs that involve processing paperwork can be automated, and algorithms can sort through paperwork much more quickly and accurately than a human being can. Furthermore, under a universal healthcare system, the paperwork required would be drastically reduced. This also translates into hundreds of billions of dollars worth in savings.
Finally, an often ignored factor is the practice of prescribing defensive medicine. This practice essentially describes when a doctor prescribes unnecessary drugs and performs unnecessary tests in order to reduce the risk of being sued for medical malpractice. According to a survey by Jackson Healthcare, 75% of doctors admit to doing this, adding up to a total of anywhere between 46 billion and 650 billion dollars being wastefully spent annually – the number is incredibly difficult to estimate.. The solution lies in eliminating the motivation to practicing defensive medicine – we must prevent doctors from being sued for medical malpractice. In order to properly compensate patients who have suffered from medical malpractice, instead of dragging them through a costly legal process, patients would have a hearing in front of a panel of healthcare experts. They would then be properly compensated in the event that they have indeed suffered from medical malpractice. Compensation money would come from the government – therefore implementing a “no-blame” system and allowing for physicians to be more open about their mistakes, ultimately leading to less mistakes in the future.
Only when these cost-saving measures succeed, can we deem it right to implement a universal healthcare system. Both sides have valid concerns – addressing these concerns and ultimately moving forward with a pragmatic solution will ultimately ensure that in the wealthiest nation in history, every man, woman, and child receives quality healthcare.