Health Care:  Another of America’s Paradoxes

I made the mistake, or perhaps had the good fortune, of sharing a post by a friend on Facebook©.  This friend, a candidate for Congress, opined about the lack of direction on health care in the current federal administration.

He was incredibly accurate in his description, of course. And, although I only shared it with mostly like-minded friends on Facebook©, some others began commenting on the post.

The discussion, if that is what one calls it on The Facebook these days, devolved into a debate on whether health care was a right in America. It begged the question:  Where is the nation headed on healthcare?

Since 2001, Gallop has asked the exact same question of Americans:  “Do you think it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage or is that not their responsibility?”

Not surprisingly, the number has fluctuated over the past 19 years, from a low of 47% of Americans believing it IS a Federal responsibility, to a high water mark of 69%.

Interestingly, for those who believe it is not the job of the federal government to ensure healthcare for all Americans, the number also has been between 28%, to a high of 50%:  both being 22-point differences.

In 2019, 54% of Americans believed it was the government’s responsibility and 45% disagreed.  This number is bound to change with the Covid-19 pandemic ongoing and the federal government’s tardiness and ignorance.

Additionally, since 2015, a majority of Americans have felt that it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage.  And this is both before and after the election of Donald Trump to the presidency.

The other issue is affordability of health care in the nation.  Since 2001, for only one year, were a majority of Americans satisfied with the availability of affordable health care in America.  That year was 2014. Also, since 2018, 60% or more of Americans have been dissatisfied with its availability.

Moreover, since 1993, not less than 71% of Americans have been dissatisfied with the total cost of health care in the country.  The latest Gallop poll indicated 74% were dissatisfied in November 2019. The year before, the number had been 79%.

Indeed, these numbers seem to coincide with a similar number of Americans who believe the U.S. healthcare system today is either in crisis or has major problems.  That same November 2019 poll showed 63% of Americans held that view, while only 35% said the system had minor problems.

The issue of a government-run health care system, however, is apparently not the solution, according to a solid majority of American citizens. Only one time in the survey’s nine years, has a majority of Americans thought it was.  Otherwise, from 2010 through 2019, between 53 and 61% of Americans preferred a healthcare system based mostly on private health insurance.  In the year when a majority supported neither system, a plurality still preferred a private health insurance run system.

And this appears to be where the real question lingers going into the 2020 election and the outcome of this pandemic.  Will these numbers finally flip?  Or, will the Democrat’s idea of morphing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into a system where individuals can buy into the Medicare system, reap dividends?

At one point during the presidential primary season, the GOP made a huge deal of labeling Bernie Sanders’ campaign as one of socialism, in order to cast the campaign as capitalism v. socialism:  which these numbers regarding government-run health insurance would seem to suggest is a winning strategy.

The chaos of the pandemic has underscored that not everyone can pay for the tests, and not everyone is getting tested.  The only organization that can do so effectively, efficiently and completely, is the government, through a system where all of the tests are paid for by one entity or another.  If people think they can’t afford a test, they won’t go get one.  If people are turned away from being tested because they have no type of insurance, they won’t get one.  Yet, these are answers that epidemiologists must have in order to accurately know the numbers and to isolate and control the spread of the virus.  The current system is flawed, and the GOP has no remedy for this.

While the debate rages on between government-run health care or government-based health insurance, we should look to the numbers taken – not by the election results in November- but by the Gallup poll questions regarding health care.  Will these numbers be forever changed by this pandemic, and will they  spell the end of the Americans belief in the private insurance health system in the United States?

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