Healthcare in the United States Is Struggling, but We Need a Sensible Solution
The political discourse surrounding healthcare in the United States is downright embarrassing. Conservative politicians on the right seem reluctant to consider even the most basic progressive changes to healthcare, fearing they’ll give more power to the government or waste taxpayers’ money. Liberal politicians on the left seem unable to consider the fact that universal healthcare isn’t necessarily the best or most efficient solution to America’s healthcare needs.
But the fact remains, healthcare in the United States is in a terrible spot, and people on both sides of the political aisle should agree that something needs to change before it gets any worse. So what would a sensible, grounded strategy for American healthcare look like?
The Problems With American Healthcare
First, let’s dissect the problems with American healthcare—without resorting to the hyperbole or drama usually associated with such discussions.
- Rising costs. First, there are the rising costs of healthcare. Healthcare is getting better in the United States, which is a good thing, but it also means more people need to be paid and more expensive equipment needs to be bought. On top of that, insurance company politics and bureaucratic pharmaceutical companies are making these rising costs even worse.
- Inaccessible insurance. Insurance isn’t always easy to get. In some cases, having a pre-existing condition can completely disqualify you from getting an insurance policy. In others, it may sharply raise your premiums, making it unreasonably expensive.
- Doctor shortages. Our population is aging, but there’s a limited number of people able to serve them as their healthcare needs grow. The doctor shortage is very real, and it’s making every other problem with our healthcare system worse.
- Fragmented systems. In the United States, our healthcare infrastructure is highly fragmented. There are many different specialties, and different organizations that don’t necessarily share records easily with one another. This makes it difficult to have a set standard for care, which is especially important considering the number of neglectful or abusive establishments in the United States; pressure sores have become more common in the elderly in part due to poor standards of care in nursing home and other care facilities.
- Escalating needs. People who can’t afford basic healthcare services, like regular checkups and physicals, are more likely to develop conditions that grow worse over time. Ultimately, people pay more for their healthcare because they can’t afford to invest in preventative medicine.
Why Universal Healthcare Isn’t the Solution We Need
Many people on the left would suggest that the proper solution is a universal healthcare system—one that provides adequate healthcare coverage for everyone in the United States. While this would indeed by nice, it would only solve some of the problems with our current system.
- Rising costs and taxes. Universal healthcare isn’t going to solve the issue with rising costs; if anything, it’s going to make it worse. Instead of individuals and insurance companies fronting the costs, taxpayers will be responsible for paying them. And if people have unlimited, free hospital visits, they’re going to use them—ultimately raising the collective bill for taxpayers, oftentimes unnecessarily.
- Doctor shortages and wait times. With a universal healthcare system, doctors may be making less, and may have fewer incentives to join the profession. Simultaneously, demand for healthcare will rise. This will exacerbate the doctor shortage problem, and sharply increase wait times for healthcare services.
- Complexity of implementation. Liberals often point to European countries as examples of how universal healthcare can work. However, these countries are very different from the United States; trying to implement this kind of system after what we’ve had in the past will be incredibly difficult.
What Would a Sensible Approach Look Like?
So what would a sensible approach look like? Ideally, it will accomplish several goals simultaneously:
- Provide affordable healthcare to more people. This is a given. Everyone wants Americans to have better access to healthcare.
- Reduce costs, rather than increasing them. We need a solution that utilizes economic structures that reduce costs at every stage of the process, rather than increasing them.
- Focus on preventative and early-stage care. Early-stage medicine is much cheaper and easier than later stages of care; our new system needs to focus on this as much as possible.
- Incentivize healthcare professionals. To solve the doctor shortage, we need to create and improve incentive structures for healthcare professionals. That means making it easier and more rewarding to become a doctor.
- Change our system over time. Our healthcare system is too fragmented and too complicated for an overnight solution. We need to take baby steps toward improvement.
This doesn’t suggest a perfect solution; instead, it suggests the qualities that both conservatives and liberals would like to see in a future approach to healthcare improvement. Without a grounded conversation, and one that incorporates both the pressing need for healthcare reform and the logistics of implementing an efficient system, we can never make progress.
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