Healthcare for Dummies: Understanding the Basic Facts of the Issue


Published: October 22, 2009

It is mentioned in the media everyday. It is discussed and debated by individuals throughout the country. It affects all people, whether young or old, sick or healthy, rich or poor, black or white. It is the top priority of Obama’s presidency. So why is it that so many students today still don’t know the real deal about healthcare reform?

While an informed few keep themselves up-to-date with current affairs, others may not have the time or the desire to fully explore all the issues surrounding this controversial topic. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by lofty terms, complicated speeches and the emotional debate surrounding this topic, students should first understand the fundamentals of healthcare.

What is Healthcare?

– It is the system through which medical goods and services are provided by health professionals, including doctors, nurses, hospitals, prescriptions and medicine.

– The main purpose is to make those who are sick healthy and to prevent the healthy from becoming ill.

– Americans spend more money on healthcare than any other nation in the world (approximately 17.6 percent of the United States’ financial output is spent on healthcare).

What’s All the Drama About?

– The storm brewing today centers on how to effectively deliver healthcare, which is primarily facilitated through health insurance.

How Does Insurance Work?

– Similar to car insurance or cell phone insurance, health insurance is the back-up plan used when things go awry, specifically when medical problems arise.

– Instead of paying huge fees for a freak accident or a chronic disease, one can pay per month to an insurance company who holds onto the money until emergencies appear.

– However, this comes at a steep price that is paid for by the public in two ways.

1) It is taken out in taxes. Each paycheck an employee receives has a portion of money deducted for government-funded healthcare insurance plans. These healthcare plans include financial assistance for the elderly (Medicare), for the poor and/or disabled (Medicaid), for veterans and for those in the military.

2) Through private insurance providers such as Health Net, Cigna, American Family Insurance and Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield. The majority of individuals who have health insurance receive it through their employers, who work out deals with specific insurance providers.

Why Has the Cost of Insurance Skyrocketed?

– The price is rising due to the overall rising cost of health care technology, prescription drugs, medical tests, administrative costs, treatment of crisis situations for the uninsured and the increasing aging population.

– Consequently, the price of health insurance has risen dramatically, which places a burden not only on companies that provide insurance to employees but also on those who have a difficult time affording healthcare.

– More and more people are unable or reluctant to purchase insurance, resulting in 45 million people who do not have health insurance. This number also includes those who do not wish to purchase health insurance, illegal immigrants and those making over $75,000 who may wish to purchase their own insurance.

What is Obama Proposing?

– Obama’s plan for healthcare insurance reform includes what is known as the “public option.” This  means that there will be an alternate healthcare insurance provider that is free and run by the government.

– Under this system, individuals will have their healthcare needs met by government workers. His new plan will allow for the uninsured to receive increased medical care.

– Proponents of this plan believe that it will also keep medical professionals from worrying about insurance procedure and malpractice liability, allowing them to focus solely on the patients’ needs.

What Does the Opposition Say?

– Some are skeptical of Obama’s new plan because they feel that too much government control will result in inefficiency and corruption.

– Critics are also fearful because they believe that this public option may lead to a single-payer option, where all citizens would be directly under government-controlled healthcare.

– This could mean lessened privacy and the possible emergence of a new socialized economic system that would discourage individual ingenuity and competitiveness.