BETWEEN CLASSES: Healthcare system today is a putrid stew

Imagine if almost everybody in our country were healthy.

Society would

function more smoothly. More individuals would succeed in the world of business and industry, amping up our already imposing economy. Bankruptcies would be cut in half. Crime and homelessness would diminish. These are benefits even conservatives would extol as worthwhile.

But how do we get our citizens healthy? Socialized healthcare is the only way to cheaply provide healthcare to the masses.

Currently, the Unites States spends more money than any other nation on healthcare:

$2.3 trillion in 2007 or about $7,600 per person. Paradoxically, we fall into line a neat 40th in the ranking of healthiest citizens, after France (first), Italy (second), Malta (fifth), Oman (eighth), Colombia (22nd) and Saudi Arabia (26th). The United States is 33 percent worse than the leading country as far as preventable deaths. Infant mortality is at seven per 1,000 live births, compared to 2.7 in the top nations.

An astonishing 16 percent of our GNP goes toward healthcare, and our system is mediocre at best.

In 2006, about 16 percent of the United States’ population went uninsured; about 47 million people paid out of pocket or could not afford to treat themselves. More than 80 percent of those uninsured are from families with working members.

The American healthcare “system” today is a putrid stew of waste, fraud, inefficiency, incomplete care and poor management. With nearly 75,000 preventable deaths occurring annually in the U.S., our system is becoming more and more muddled by bureaucracy. Currently, one third of those working in the healthcare industry are merely involved with paperwork. With our current system, policyholders can’t switch providers if they have a severe medical condition.

The present system is designed so the people who need care most are excluded from receiving help. Conservatives worry that a universal healthcare system would end up supporting individuals with unhealthy lifestyles at a cost to more responsible members of society. But today, taxpayers’ money already goes to meet the care of the uninsured through free clinics.

In a nation with no uninsured, less money would be spent on people living dangerous lifestyles because they would have regular meetings with doctors. This is a much safer and cheaper situation than having sick, destitute people waste taxpayers’ money on expensive and valuable ER time.

Now, with a new presidency looming, Americans are faced with choosing a new system of healthcare. The two plans presented to us are those of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Both require that insurance companies insure even those with serious medical conditions.

The major difference between the two proposed plans is that Obama, who has consistently shunned mandates, would not be able to provide coverage to all Americans, while Clinton’s plan would, with the help of mandates. Obama’s plan, at a cost of $102 billion, would cover approximately 25 million uninsured citizens, averaging out to about $4,400 per person.

Hillary’s plan, for just slightly more, $124 billion, would cover 45 million (almost everybody), at a cost of about $2,700 per person. That is nearly $5,000 less that the amount spent on each American with today’s system, and 18 times what Americans spend total. Clinton, known for her details, is also much more explicit about how much each family would have to pay depending on their income, and her proposal makes room for federal subsidies.

We need to push aside our exaltation of capitalism and our old-fashioned aversion to socialism, and create systems from both worlds that strengthen our society.

There is nothing to fear in “socialized” healthcare. Providing safety and care to all Americans should be a high priority for any presidential candidate, not just liberals. If a government can’t keep its citizens healthy, what good is it?