Americans are rightly frustrated with the ever-increasing cost of health care and many are worried about losing their coverage. Many also believe in a nation as prosperous as ours, no one should go without the health care they need.
Approximately 47 million Americans lack health insurance. Our health care system, as it is today, is too expensive and inaccessible for far too many. In 2008, health care spending was estimated at more than 16 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product and projections show that number will only grow if something is not done to curb rising costs.
The need for reform is not the question. The real question is what type of reform.
Americans want health reform that makes care more accessible and affordable. Many people, however, are happy with their current level of care and do not want to see the quality of available care diminished. It is essential that health reforms address the problems inherent in our current system while not destroying its strengths.
Some in Washington are instead offering a plan that would take away the care people already have-care the majority of them are satisfied with-and replace it with a government-run system that would make treatments and procedures less accessible or even impossible to obtain. A comparison of five-year survival rates of cancer patients in the United States and Europe, where social health care is commonplace, illustrates this.
The study showed male cancer patients in the U.S. have a nearly 20 percent higher chance of living at least five years after being diagnosed with the disease when compared to their European counterparts. The survival rates of American women are also higher-7 percent. This is no doubt linked to the availability of cancer care and medicines within our country. This is something Americans do not want changed, but could very well change if a government-run health system, like those commonplace in Europe, is adopted.
A government-run system would not only affect the quality and availability of care, it would also add to the massive debt that already burdens the federal government. Estimates show the implementation of a public health plan would cost up to $2 trillion. America already has Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid systems that are financially unsustainable. Adding another expensive government program is irresponsible when our children and grandchildren are already saddled with a colossal debt.
We need reform that controls costs and at the same time protects patients. Some of the ways we can achieve this are through the implementation of prevention and wellness initiatives that have been proven to work in companies like Safeway. We can also reform the way we test and retest for disease. In addition, we must address the needs of America's small businesses without imposing mandates or taxes, which would lead to more unemployment and drive up even higher the number of uninsured.
Any changes to our health care system will impact every American. It is essential, therefore, we get it right. It will take a collaborative effort of public policymakers, consumers and providers of health care to build a workable solution. As always, solutions imposed by mandate without allowances for real-world conditions will fail. We must address this serious issue, but it must not be rushed through or result in a government takeover that delays treatment, denies medication and reduces our quality of care.