“In 2005, the United States spent 16% (up from 14% in 2000) of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health care, a greater share than any other developed country for which data are collected by the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development.” This was a quote taken from the annual report issued by the CDC with regards to the state of healthcare within the United States. The cost of healthcare has risen around the world and even more so in the United States due to the sheer number of providers, costly system and huge malpractice insurance amounts that most doctors have to pay. These are not all the factors by any chance but they are some of the more significant ones. I am writing this article from three perspectives:
1. My dad has been a GP for all 25 years of my existence and has experienced some of these healthcare issues from the practitioner’s side.
2. I have worked for a major Healthcare provider in the USA and do have some first hand knowledge of the systems and costs involved.
3. I have paid for health insurance from my first day of college in America till the last day of work in my previous employer.
I decided to examine this healthcare issue because it is one of the more significant issues coming up to the election and in part due to a question posed on Facebook:
I think many people around the world often listen to the promises of politicians but do not actually examine the facts behind what they say. I have done this and examined both the Healthcare plan as offered by Hillary Clinton and the plan offered by Barack Obama. Here are some of my conclusions in no particular order because they all warrant attention (All information regarding the plans were extracted from the candidates websites):
1. The first thing you will notice is that Senator Obama’s plan is 15 pages including references while Senator Clinton’s plan is a mere 3 pages. I realize this does not mean a lot but if I was a gambling man, I would say Senator Clinton relies on more than just the facts to sway the minds of the voters.
2. The plans are essential the same in a broad sense with both candidates mentioning that they want all Americans to be covered by health insurance and they use the number of 47 million Americans being uninsured. Both candidates also reference the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program as a basis for the national healthcare plan that they will create. Another similarity is that both candidates state that no American will be excluded on the basis of pre-existing conditions.
3. With the similarities out of the way, we can go to the most significant difference that being the explanation of the plans. Senator Clinton’s plan is vague at best with two to three lines of detail over each sub-topic. She mentions modernizing the health system however unlike Senator Obama she does not go into detail as to how it gets done. Senator Obama mentions the key phrase “Health IT Investment”, as a former employee of a healthcare company, I can say this is essential in any potential health plan as the costs are quite outrageous. I cannot go into speciic amounts but my organization was paying a minimum of $10,000 a month for our I.T system which if reduced, we could pass on the savings to our customers. Working for a healthcare company, I was paying $100 a month as a premium for healthcare coverage. I also remember when I was in College, I looked around for private healthcare for just myself and the cheapest quote I could get was $140 for myself as a student. These costs are even more absurd when you consider the co-payments you will have to pay when you visit the Dentist or Doctor. Senator Obama mentions an integration of healthcare systems around the country in order to minimize costs associated with paper methodology. My father has never practiced in America but I can see from personal experience here in Ireland and in the USA that many doctors have modernized but still heavily rely on paper. This needs to stop and this is one of the more important differences I noticed in my analysis of the two plans.
4. I will acknowledge that Senator Clinton uses two words that Senator Obama does not in his plan which is “Fiscally Responsible.” Modernizing the healthcare system is all good and fine but where is the money going to come from? There is only so much that the Government can afford to spend and take of the drug companies, insurance providers before the cost falls to the consumer. Any potential healthcare plan must (with a capital M) be cost effective so that an already tight financial situation in the USA is not worsened because some candidate is forced to keep his promises.
5. Senator Obama mentions the use of generics; this was a major issue in the USA a few years ago because the mayor of Springfield, MA allowed his citizens to buy drugs from Canada even though the federal government declared it illegal. Generics save a lot of money and the fact that the Federal government has outlawed them thanks to the lobbying from the big drug companies is crazy. The needs of the people must be taken over the needs of big business, as long as the generics are tested fine, I see no reason why citizens of the USA cannot order medication from countries like Canada where it is far cheaper.
6. There are many other differences between these two policies but the last and probably the most important thing I would like to discuss with reference to these two candidates is that Senator Obama mentions the need for American’s to change their lifestyle. He used a good statistic referencing that 133 million Americans suffer from chronic illnesses like Diabetes, Asthma, and Obesity. As someone who lived in America for 6 years, I know all about the lifestyle. Many people drive everywhere unlike Europe where people walk a lot more, the meals are actually larger in the USA because I have compared a Large Quizno’s sub to a Large here in Ireland and the Irish Quizno’s is decidedly lacking. Senator Obama makes a good point in that Americans need to change their lifestyle in order to improve the health of the whole country and eventually productivity since people who are sick are a strain on the healthcare system and cost the whole country at the end of the day.
Changes like these are by no means instantaneous and especially the last point but my whole point in this article is that I urge voters to research beyond what the candidate says and look at the hard facts. Senator Obama’s plan is more comprehensive and covers the essential measures that effect America today and for the years to come. Healthcare needs to be an evolving concept that intertwines the average citizen, the government, the drug companies and the insurance companies in an equilibrium that benefits all and it is my view that Senator Obama is the person who can create such a plan.