Healing Health Care

Levi Pulkkinen Op-Ed Paper March 10, 1997


As Grant nears the end of his forty-fifth year old age begins to shed
its ominous light over every aspect of his life. He has already watch four of
his teeth rot out because, although he works nearly sixty hours a week, he
cannot afford basic health care. As he enters the twilight years of his life,
earlier than anyone should, he is faced with failing health and no way to pay
the doctor bills. The fact that someone who has worked all their life may not be
able to obtain adequate medical and dental care because of their station in life
goes against all the ideals that have made America great.
As we enter into the twenty-first century we see new cures and
treatments springing into our clinics and homes at an unprecedented rate. Only a
fool would argue that these advances are not helping millions, but the costs
inherent with these new remedies make them inaccessible to many Americans who
would benefit greatly from them. From 1971 to 1991 the price of health related
goods and services climbed 30 percent faster that of other goods, placing far
out of the financial reach of the working class of this nation. It is time to
consider a true national health-care system, in order to insure that everyone,
not just the wealthy, can enjoy good health. As it stands, America is the only
civilized country where access to basic health care depends on where one works
and how much one is paid. For many well insured people there is debate about our
nation¹s stance on the separation between the individual and the state, but the
fact of the mater is that if our friend Grant had been born five hundred miles
to the North he would still have his teeth and a much brighter future.
In Canada, where they have had a national health insurance since 1967, a
citizen is guaranteed treatment for any illness that may afflict him or her. In
addition to keeping their people heather, and as a result happier, the Canadian
system has kept costs minimal while research and development has continued at
the same, if not faster, pace that we see here. Around the globe we can see the
correlation between national health care systems and better quality of treatment.
In Japan, they have countered the medical problems inherent with a crowded
society through national health insurance, and as a result enjoy a extremely
high quality of living. Even here we have harnessed some of the power of
collective medicine, through publicly funded institutions such as the Center for
Disease Control and many smaller research projects. These projects, sponsored by
state and federal, have yielded many important breakthroughs, yet many Americans
cannot afford the technology that they helped to pay for.
And if we continue on the course we have set for ourselves, more people
will become medical have-nots. The problem of skyrocketing health costs is
already beginning to force many employers to drop many important health benefits
from the insurance plans they offer new hires, locking many people into jobs
they no longer want for fear of losing benefits. Many small businesses have been
forced to stop offering health insurance all together because they cannot afford
to pay the bills. The American Hospital Association concluded that between 1995
and 1996 twenty percent of American workers would lose their employment-based
insurance, and ten percent of them would lose their retirement coverage. When we
add those millions to the millions who never had any health insurance to begin
with we can begin to grasp the magnitude of the problem that we must face.
We must also realize that those of us who know that if we became ill we
would be cured can never fully comprehend what life would be like without that
simple insurance. For the millions who cannot even afford to health care for
themselves, let alone their families, the trouble is frighteningly real. And for
the millions who are presently insured the problem is about to become much more
real unless we act quickly. That even one person would have to be sick when they
could be made well quite easily is a grave injustice, but that millions of
hardworking Americans are robbed of proper health care makes a mockery of all of
the principles that America has stood for. For a nation, our nation, to say that
it stands for ³life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,² and then let its
workers toil without hope of an