Monday, March 22, 2010

American Health Reforms Slightly Better, But Long Way to Go

Healthcare American-style – you still have to pay for it out-of-pocket, but at least you can’t be turned down so quickly.

That’s the gist of the newest social reform for the United States of America in several decades, and it’s all part of American President Barack Obama’s call for universal healthcare across his country.

Here in Canada, we’ve had free, basic, universal healthcare since the founder of the New Democratic Party (NDP) Tommy Douglas in made it so in 1962 – Medicare began in his home province of Saskatchewan and was later adapted across Canada by Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson in 1965.

However, the word “free” never seems to apply to Americans and healthcare. Although American President Obama has done something many past presidents have publicly wanted too, it still is a long way from ensuring all Americans have healthcare.

Quite the contrary – in many instances this new healthcare reform may actually cause more harm, than good.

President Obama’s healthcare reform ensures that companies which provide health insurance – in the States they are commonly called Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) – can no longer turn down people because they or their family members have extensive health-related issues. It isn’t uncommon for HMO’s to turn down applicants for health insurance, due to past or present illnesses and diseases.

This is good news for someone who couldn’t get health insurance before, now they can, and they can finally have some or all of their medical costs covered.

However, this new law mandates that all Americans must have health insurance. So those who didn’t have health insurance simply because they couldn’t afford it, now must fork over the money to purchase it, else they can be fined between $700 to $1,000 USD.

This is a very different concept from the Canadian healthcare system. Upon becoming a Canadian citizen, automatically you qualify for government-run health insurance, which covers most basic costs, such as ambulatory care, check-ups and routine tests and procedures.

In fact, President Obama’s healthcare reforms don’t really guarantee universal healthcare – all they do is establish fines for HMOs if they fail to cover someone, and fines for American citizens for failing to buy healthcare insurance.

Real universal healthcare must be provided by the state – anything else just – pardon the pun – passes the buck.

Instead of ensuring Americans have universal healthcare, the new rules penalize the poor who can’t afford health insurance.

What President Obama should have put forward – although he had enough trouble getting his current reforms passed – was a truly universal Medicare system. One where it doesn’t matter what you have – or don’t have – in your wallet, you know if you break your leg, you’re covered.

The way it stands in the States now – if you break your leg and you don’t have either money or health insurance, you might as well just hop home – no doctor will even consider looking at you.

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