With the inauguration festivities of the 44th president behind us, it is now time to look for change, the promise of which helped elevate Barack Obama to the highest office in the land. Change is needed, as the voters have declared in last year's election, and it is needed perhaps most urgently by the 47 million Americans living without health insurance in the greatest and wealthiest country in the world.
We need not listen too closely to hear the cry for real change in our health care system, for each year the number of voices calling for change grows in number and volume. U.S. Census Bureau figures show the number of uninsured Americans has grown each year for the past six years, and that in 2006 alone, 2.2 million citizens added their voices to that call for change. Right now, approximately 16 percent of our population is without insurance, and if we hold to the status quo and stay the current course, that number will increase dramatically in 2009, just as it did in 2008 and in 2007.
When considering the varying health care systems of the world and their resulting health outcomes, the United States has been ranked 39th among nations by the World Health Organization. To many of us it seems obvious that America's health care system is nothing short of an embarrassment: an old, failed relic, broken beyond repair. Yet as millions of Americans continue to suffer solely based upon their lack of health coverage, there are still those who wish to tighten their grip on our failing profit-driven system.
There are alternatives to a health care system that allows insurers to realize unprecedented profit and enforce extraordinary premiums, all the while labeling more and more individuals unprofitable and therefore uninsurable. There are models of health care systems proven time and again to be much more successful in health care outcomes than ours. But these models do not embrace a profit motive, and in fact spurn the idea of capitalizing on our unhealthy mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and, most of all, children. Therefore, it is no surprise such models are vilified by the mega-capitalists among us.
The solution is a complete paradigm shift away from a profit- driven model in the health care sector to a single-payer system. The trail leading us to this solution has already been blazed, and America is ready to take the first step. Public opinion polls show upward of 68 percent of citizens support such a shift, while 51 percent of American physicians are in favor of implementation of a single-payer system.
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Proposals have been drafted, including the much-discussed plan by the Physicians' Working Group for Single-Payer National Health Insurance and U.S. Rep. John Conyers' United States National Health Insurance Act (H.R. 676).
The wheel need not be reinvented, but a simple step forward must be taken.
The benefits are many and widespread. Immediately upon implementation, the number of uninsured men, women and children in Indiana alone would drop from an estimated 871,000 to zero. Nationally, the seemingly ever-increasing number of 47 million uninsured Americans would finally drop to the number our collective moral conscience should demand: zero. The health of our citizens would increase drastically, as all would finally be able to care for their health. The choice of provider would be taken out of the hands of the insurer and returned to its rightful owner - the individual. Health and well-being would trump profit, and in an economy where job certainty is floundering, the certainty of health coverage will not.
The time has come to take that long-overdue progressive step forward and implement a single-payer universal health care model in America. The time has come for our leaders to ensure that no citizen is ever again added to the list of those who have died due to a lack of health coverage, a list that adds 18,000 names each year, according to the Institute of Medicine. The administration of hope and change is in place, and therefore the question must be asked: If not finally this administration, then who? And if not now, when?