The Problem With Private Healthcare

There once was a guy with strep throat,

He did not have too many banknotes.

He could not go to work,

So the economy suffered,

And on top of that he was American, and he didn’t have health insurance so he couldn’t get antibiotics that could have prevented it from getting worse and as a result his health got worse and there was permanent damage to his internal organs. 

In my eyes, my skills at composition of poetry are questionable, but you know what’s more questionable? The healthcare system of the U.S., because in a society that claims to have good human rights standards, it’s impossible to justify letting people die in the name of capitalism.

To start off, why does private healthcare — or rather a lack of public healthcare — necessarily put people’s lives at risk?

The most obvious concern is that it clearly puts low-income people at a disadvantage. Due to the exploitative nature of insurance corporations nowadays, health insurance coverage is often expensive and unaffordable for those suffering from socioeconomic deprivation. Even with Obamacare, many still choose to pay fees instead of get health insurance. Which leads to the second barrier for healthcare: inaccessibility of buying health insurance. Many people, particularly those in impoverished areas, simply do not know how to access healthcare, even if it is affordable. Healthcare seems to be a mysterious privilege afforded only to those who are wealthier, and as a result many opt to skip it and take their chances hopefully not getting hurt.

And even people who have gotten private healthcare plans are not safe from the antagonistic threat of insurance companies. All kinds of excuses exist for insurance companies to not pay for healthcare, and in fact it’s become a standard to deny compensation to those who have had pre existing injuries or conditions, when it’s often these people who need it the most. I think it’s pretty clear that the norms of conduct by insurance companies requires reform. Obamacare helps subsidize some of these plans, but does not eliminate all the problems with insurance corporations, nor does it guarantee that everyone has access to healthcare. 

Even if you’re not someone who is overly concerned with the protection of basic rights universally, note that the current private healthcare is overly expensive anyway. As illustrated in my unorthodox poem, when people don’t have access to medicine such as antibiotics, their condition deteriorates. This often means that treating them gets more expensive when they eventually are forced to go to the emergency room or risk death. Hospitals are required to provide emergency care for people, but this care is often very expensive and wouldn’t be very necessary if people had the money to take basic preventative measures or medicine to combat earlier symptoms. For example, a condition like diabetes if not treated can lead to heart attacks, which are costly to treat, not to mention that the treatment can fail in many cases. In the end, this treatment ends up costing more than it would have to control the diabetes to begin with.

What’s the solution to the healthcare crisis in the U.S.?

Obamacare is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough, especially because many people still don’t have health insurance, and even if it’s cheaper, it’s still too much for some people. But moreover, the concept of having to pay for healthcare shouldn’t be necessary because we agree that healthcare and consequently the right to be safe should be protected by the government — the World Health Organization classifies health as a basic human right. People having to pay for insurance seems contrary to this.

I think the only real solution is universal healthcare, though perhaps a two-tier system is more realistic, as we seem to endorse the mindset that there are two tiers of people. It’s much more plausible than many Americans realize, because the vast majority of Western liberal democracies already have this, including Canada. Obviously, it requires a major restructuring of the healthcare system, but it’s worth it in the end because it makes healthcare accessible for all and helps limit the corrupt regime of insurance companies over people’s lives.

The main legitimate opposition to universal healthcare arises out of instincts to apply free market ideals to healthcare. But what we don’t understand is that democratic ideals in healthcare don’t lead to better health, hence why Cuba’s life expectancy is longer than the U.S. despite being communist. In some part, Cuba’s healthiness can be attributed to healthy lifestyle and a sense of community that helps support vulnerable groups such as the elderly, but in a large part this is also due to access to public healthcare and preventative healthcare. It’s tempting to use a defence of capitalism to limit public services, but when people’s lives are at risk, this simply isn’t an option.

In Canada, we complain about the long wait times and bureaucracy around low-priority services like treatment for joint problems. But while this is a problem, it doesn’t come close to rivaling that plight of the U.S: where the government systematically denies people their right to healthcare, and as a result, their right to life. As someone who has grown up in a society where healthcare is seen as something that everyone just has access to, it’s almost unfathomable for me to think that in a nation so highly regarded as the U.S. could go to a hospital with a life-threatening condition and be denied treatment even if it means that it puts them at risk of death.

18 thoughts on “The Problem With Private Healthcare

  1. Agarwhale, I have a somewhat different view. I agree that we all have a right to life. however, where I disagree is how some people feel like they have the right to live their lives at the expense of other people.

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    1. You’re correct in saying that the right of one person to live is protected at the expense of others. But in my opinion, that’s not really a bad thing because it’s just the way the social contract works. For instance, let’s say the police protects one person’s right to safety. They are doing this at the expense of others because the police is funded by tax dollars. Similarly, I don’t think there’s an issue with many people funding the right to safety and life of individuals.

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    1. It would be probably be more affordable if everyone got private insurance. But many people can’t afford it, or don’t buy it, and even if they do have insurance, it often doesn’t cover everything and can be manipulated to make things cheaper for insurance companies. And on a principled level, I think people deserve to have their basic rights protected, especially if they can’t afford this themselves.

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  2. This is true. My issue with the idea of a “right” to health care is that it enables people to abuse the services of medical professionals. I know that Leftists cannot grasp the fact that no person has an absolute right to the services of another person.

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    1. I’m not sure that abusing medical services happens that much under a universal healthcare system. Honestly, I’d say that the distribution of medical resources is probably worse under private healthcare because people who need healthcare most aren’t always the ones who get it: a richer person with a minor problem may be prioritized above a poorer person with a major problem.

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  3. Agarwhale, I believe that people should be free to buy their own insurance policies or pay for the appointments out of pocket. There is no such thing as a free lunch. By that logic, free healthcare should not be a thing either.

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    1. I’m okay with two-tier healthcare, meaning that if people want to pay for the healthcare themselves, they’re welcome to. But I think that if people are unable to afford it, I think it should be free. If we use your lunch metaphor, if someone is unable to afford food for themselves, the government generally gives social welfare to support them (though if you’re right wing libertarian you might not support social welfare).

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