By ARIANA APOSTOL
The United States needs universal health care – and we need it now. With 35 million Americans lacking health care, according to PBS, this issue is undoubtedly in want of more national attention. The effects of inadequate health care are far reaching and long lasting, beginning with infants who fail to get vaccines and checkups and ending with the elderly or terminally ill who are unable to attain proper treatment.
The United States is the only country out of the 34 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development besides Mexico that does not offer universal health care. In fact, according to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights as well as the World Health Assembly Resolution, both of which the U.S. signed, all people have the right to adequate health care. Both Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have made the issue of guaranteeing all Americans the right to health care a key point in his campaign. In a Democratic presidential debate in Iowa last June, Sanders stated that “we need to join the rest of the industrialized world. We are the only major country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people as a right.”
According to ProCon.org and the American Journal of Public Health, providing all citizens with access to public health care could actually lower its price. Canada, a country known for its successes with universal health care, spends half as much as the U.S. does per capita on health care. Although their wait times for doctors may be longer than those of privatized U.S. health care, the fact that Canada’s health care is provided without a fee makes it more than worth the wait.
Failing to provide everyone with health care has more serious effects than most can imagine. Until October of last year, I supported universal health care, but did not feel that whether or not it existed would affect me in any way, since my mom and I have always had financial coverage. However, at the beginning of the school year, my father was diagnosed with advanced cancer. I was devastated, not just because I knew I would probably be losing my dad, but also when I found out why. He had gone to the doctor more than a year prior to his diagnosis and knew something was wrong, but could not afford follow up without health insurance. If universal health care had been available to him when his cancer was in its earliest stages, his tumors could have been removed and he would probably be completely cancer-free by now.
My father is far from the only one who has suffered from a lack of universal health care in America. A study done by Harvard researchers in 2009 discovered that a lack of health care results in as many as almost 45,000 deaths each year.
There are no excuses for America’s failure to ensure its citizens the right to health. The U.S. Declaration of Independence states that all citizens have the right to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Without health care, many Americans are unable to live their lives, protect their liberties and pursue their happiness . While it is absolutely true that taxes would probably increase as a result of a universal health care system, this is a small price to pay for thousands of lives.
Additionally, it can hardly be said that people without insurance somehow deserve their fate because they find themselves unable to pay. Children of low-income families are often unable to get healthcare when they are young and have poorer health as they age, according to a study published on Medscape.com. Americans with low socioeconomic statuses often face several barriers when trying to access health care treatment, and the chances of rising in economic status, especially for those who are not fluent in English or do not have an adequate educational background, are little to none.
It is completely unfair to deny millions of Americans access to medical treatment simply because they have had disadvantage after disadvantage in their lives. The time for change is now, and there are no excuses.