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Harsh Realities to Universal Healthcare

Healthcare costs are soaring, often times beyond the reach of the common man.  Let's instead nationalize healthcare and provide it for everyone, paid for with tax dollars.  In theory this works quite well, but then so does communism.  Universal healthcare or Public option rocketed onto the public conscious when it was enthusiastically supported by the Clintons during former President Bill Clinton's first term of office.  It has occupied a prominent spot in national debate since.  The inherent question is whether exchanging the problems of a for-profit health system for the problems of a government-run system are worth the cost.  Americans should weigh this question carefully before deciding if universal healthcare is the right solution. 

The reason cited most commonly in favor of universal healthcare or a public option is that good, solid citizens have found themselves priced out of the market.  Anecdotes are lovingly related of seniors who must choose between eating or taking vital medications, doctors who survive the same cancer one of their patients died of because the doctor could afford better care, families bankrupted by the million-dollar price tags of healing one deathly ill child.  There is little disagreement that these stories rend the heart.  Conversely, nations with universal healthcare have their own such stories.  It is jokingly asked that if Americans nationalized healthcare, then where would Canadians go to get treatment?  The truth behind the joke is that people die waiting for simple diagnostic procedures under nationalized healthcare programs.  It is doubtful to those suffering whether they would distinguish between dying due to inability to pay for care, or because the wait was too long.

Canadians are reported to pay 55% of their income in taxes, and a large portion of that is to pay for expensive universal healthcare.  A yearly report released by ATR showed that in 2008, Americans had paid for the cost of their federal, state and local government on July 16th, or slightly more than halfway into the year.  In short, Americans already pay roughly the same exorbitant taxes as countries with nationalized healthcare, without getting the healthcare.  It's a valid question as to whether the American taxpayers' wallet can be stretched far enough to afford the huge increase in taxes required by instituting a national healthcare plan. 

The Clintons' first efforts in the 1990's for a universal healthcare plan were blocked by an uncertain public and well-funded lobbyist.  The public is better informed today and more approving of the idea, but the lobbyists have not disappeared.  Healthcare is big business.  Insurance companies, hospital conglomerates and pharmaceuticals fund lobbying groups which wield enormous power on Capitol Hill.  Just one pharmaceutical company, Merck, was able to get legislation making a controversial new vaccine mandatory in Texas.  They will surely rise up as one to fight any plan for nationalized healthcare, as America provides most of their profits and a primary function of government-run healthcare is cost (and therefore profit) regulation.  The healthcare industry would face serious financial trouble under a nationalized system, and it is not only certain that they would attempt to block legislation, there is also a distinct possibility they would succeed.

Possibilities must always be weighed in the balance before vital national decisions are made.  There is the possibility Americans would merely be trading one set of problems for another.  There is the possibility Americans might not be able to afford the cost of universal healthcare.  There is also the possibility our political system would never be conducive to the passage of nationalized healthcare legislation.  Considering such prospects can lead Americans to workable solutions, which may be even better than options other nations have taken. 

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