Narrow Change

The health care bill is only a small step in the right direction.

The health care bill is only a small step in the right direction.

President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have led Democrats in passing health care reform, and the reform could mean real changes for college students, who are less likely to have health insurance. But, the reform doesn’t go far enough in protecting United States citizens.

There are many positive steps in the bill’s pages. The much-heralded expansion of eligibility for dependents to 26 years old is one of the better-known measures. But there are more, including Congress’ new ability to oversee premium hikes by health insurance companies and the removal of insurance companies’ ability to deny coverage to someone for often meaningless pre-existing conditions.

But more needs to be done. Much like Jim Crow laws – which held black citizens to a lower social status than the rest of Americans – the cost and performance of America’s health care is an embarrassment to this country.

Different reports have placed the number of unnecessary deaths from lack of health care in the U.S. at anywhere from 20,000 to more than 40,000. More than half of all personal bankruptcies are due to medical debt. The U.S. is supposed to be the beacon of opportunity and freedom in the world, yet it falls behind 42 other countries in life expectancy.

These numbers are pathetic and put a black eye on the American dream. Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Costa Rica and 33 other countries best the overall health care system performance in this country. The U.S. just edges out Slovenia.

The truth is, our health care system performs terribly and costs far too much to justify its lackluster job of keeping U.S. citizens healthy.

In fact, there is only one measure of health care capability in which the U.S. outdoes every other country: responsiveness. Considering that our performance in terms of the level of people’s health lags at No. 72, there really isn’t much to celebrate.

The passage of health care reform is a great start and is cause for at least some celebration. But for the U.S. to improve its record, legislators and regulators must seriously rein in costs and improve the quality of and access to care. Pharmaceutical costs must be brought lower as well.

If Congress and the president can achieve this, then many college students and all the un- and under-insured people in the U.S. would actually have something to cheer about.

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