The medical system of the United States is a hot button topic for all political parties, not just the Republicans. While everyone is divided on what to do about it, almost everyone agrees that it needs to be changed. If you're from Canada and you can get in to see the best plastic surgeon in the province for free on your government health plan, you might not fully understand how difficult things are for some Americans. This article will give you an overview of the subject so you'll be prepared to form an opinion on the debate.
In the United States, health care facilities are owned by the private sector. Everything from emergency care to Autism treatment is provided on a for-profit basis, with the money coming from either government health care insurance programs, private or company provided health insurance, or out of pocket from the patients themselves. Contrary to popular belief, the US government does spend money on health care - they're the 4th highest spending nation per capita - but all their spending only manages to assist about 60% of the population.
Even in countries that do have extensive public health insurance systems, there is quite a large amount of free enterprise within the health care field. In Canada, family doctors run their own clinics as independent sole proprietorships. And ancillary services such as physiotherapy or dentistry are typically not covered within the public system, although these services are often partially covered by private insurance (through "extended" health benefits). Even more confusing, some dental procedures may be covered, depending on whether there is a medical need; for example, seeing a dentist for a routine check-up would not qualify for coverage, but visiting a foot clinic in Scarborough due to pain, might be.
The debate around the health care issue in the United States is active on many fronts. One of the questions that is often asked is whether the government should spend more to subsidize medical insurance for those who are not yet covered or whether the government should adopt a welfare state model and attempt to alter the system, transferring ownership of facilities to the government so that hospitals cannot continue to become rich on government health insurance dollars.
Another health care issue that is often under debate is who in the United States has the right to health care. Government health insurance has already been extended to seniors, veterans, the disabled, low income families, and children. Who else should qualify? People who moved from Canada and are permanent residents? Illegal immigrants? The wealthy? These are the questions often debated by Republicans and Democrats around election time. Among industrialized nations, the USA is one of the few that does not guarantee universal health care, and many want that to change.
Other aspects of the health care debate that are often fought over concern the access to health care - some people can fly to see an MD while others are limited to cut rate clinics - the cost of health care procedures as set by the facilities, the quality of the facilities offering care in the United States, the efficiency of the system, and whether it treats all patients fairly. With the United States spending more but achieving lower success rates with life expectancy and infant mortality, almost everyone agrees that more should be done.