Current Status of Public Health in the United States

Introduction

Like in any other country, the healthcare system plays a major role in the economy of the United States. Based on this, there have been profound efforts by leaders, to streamline the sector through reforms, some of which have had serious implications on the country’s economy (Jonas & Goldsteen, 2007). This essay gives an analysis of the current status of public health in the United States, focusing on the impact of reforms, which have been witnessed in recent years. Of great significance will be a review of the president’s plan for healthcare reform, focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of the plan, as well as plausible recommendations for its improvement. The last part of this paper will present a budget for a hypothetical state program based on priority health concerns, from Healthy People 2010.

Public Health in the United States

America’s healthcare is principally provided by several entities, which have been authorized by the state. Importantly, the private sector owns and operates most of the health facilities in the country. Health insurance makes the services more affordable and is majorly provided by the government. It is worth noting that programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE continue to play a crucial role, especially in providing healthcare services to Americans (Niles, 2010).

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In order to provide quality health services, the American government has remained focused on this course, through various programs, which cover up to 27.8% of the country’s population. This figure translates to a total of 83 million people and comprises the elderly, poor, handicapped, children, and veterans. Importantly, federal law allows citizens to be provided with emergency services, even when they are not able to meet the cost (Niles, 2010). Notably, America is ranked highest by the United Nations, in terms of per-capita spending on healthcare.

Furthermore, benefits, which are derived from employer-sponsorships, are always exempted from federal taxes. It is estimated that $150 billion is lost annually as a result of this exemption of employer-funded benefits (Riegelman, 2009). The government has also established local programs, which target those people who are poor. By the year 2007, Medicaid covered approximately 39.6 million low-income earners, while Medicare covered 41.4 million handicapped and elderly Americans. Future projections reveal that about 77 million Americans will be registered by the year 2031. Nevertheless, there have been several reforms in American healthcare, aimed at improving the quality and affordability of these services (Riegelman, 2009).

Public Health Reforms

Healthcare reforms in the United States have become a serious issue in America, based on the ever-increasing number of uninsured citizens, high cost, and compromised quality of services offered. It has been cited that over forty-five million Americans are uninsured, thus making it hard for this group to pay for health services (Fernandez et al., 2009). More importantly, all these concerns lead to tough challenges, which complicate the process of finding workable solutions. Opponents of the reforms argue that some of the proposed solutions may conflict with each other, leading to a more complex problem to handle.

For instance, expansion of coverage to citizens who lack insurance is likely to lead to an increase in healthcare costs and expand public expenditure. Additionally, reduction of costs may threaten the ability of the government to provide high-quality services to its people. Addressing the needs of stakeholders is also considered a hurdle in implementing healthcare reforms since they play a significant part in the current health structure (Fernandez et al., 2009). There is also widespread fear about the success of the new system since it has not been tested. This mindset has triggered rigidity among citizens in supporting calls for reforms in America’s health system.

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President’s plan for healthcare reform

The healthcare reform plan is one of the issues, to which the president has accorded immense attention and energy in recent years, even though the efforts have been met with mixed reactions. According to the plan proposed by the president, the country will spend $940 billion in a span of ten years (Moore, 2009). Of great significance will be increased coverage as compared to the number of Americans who can afford healthcare services. In essence, the plan is expected to extend healthcare coverage to more than thirty-two million Americans who remain uninsured. The comprehensive coverage would also include mental, maternal, and child health. It will limit the amount paid by all enrollees per year. Furthermore, the plan will provide drug coverage to all Americans, unlike the current system where these drugs are provided through private plans. Moreover, the plan will modify Medicare, to ensure that all disabled and elderly people are provided with relevant drug coverage. Based on this plan, every American will be able to acquire health insurance or pay a fine of up to $695 annually. However, this individual mandate has special provisions for poor people (Troy, 2011).

Strengths of the plan

Based on the structure of the president’s healthcare plan, it is believed that its greatest strength is to increase insurance coverage for every American. This would be of great significance, especially during this time, when Americans are losing their jobs. Even though the current system allows coverage after becoming jobless under COBRA, it is sometimes considered to be expensive (Troy, 2011). Besides extended insurance cover, the plan emphasizes transparency, to allow delivery of quality healthcare services. Furthermore, this transparent model of service delivery will promote accountability, through rules, which prohibit exploitation by the insurance industry. As a result, there will be no discrimination against Americans who have pre-existing conditions. Most of them are denied healthcare services by some providers. Lastly, the plan has the potential of reducing the country’s deficit by stabilizing the budget and the economy. It is estimated that almost $100 billion of the deficit will be cut down in the next ten years, after the implementation of the plan (Steele, 2009).

Weaknesses

Opponents of the president’s healthcare bill argue that the proposal does not represent credible reforms in the country’s healthcare system. Even though the plan suggests universal healthcare coverage, it would be meaningless if existing challenges like low reimbursement rates, force medical practitioners to reject other patients. Additionally, the plan promotes the government’s dominance in deciding the nature of healthcare services, which patients get. It has been argued that this should not be the case, since patients are key players in the healthcare system (Tanner, 2009). With the necessary incentives, it is possible for individual patients to make decisions, regarding their health-needs. By allowing patients to own their healthcare resources, it would heighten the need for transparency, with regard to the quality of services and their cost.

Recommendations

From the above analysis, it is evident that the U.S. healthcare system has a wide-range of intertwined issues, ranging from insurance to the president’s plan of reforms. For the country’s healthcare system to be more effective and workable, the reforms should focus on several elements like the cost and quality of services (Ros & Crist, 2010). Additionally, patients should have the autonomy to decide the kind of services to receive instead of the government’s regulation. Patients should also be given incentives and a chance to choose their preferred coverage package, based on their needs. In other words, the system should empower those in need, in spite of their financial limitations. This will ensure that nobody fails to access healthcare services because of his or her financial status.

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Budget

This segment gives a hypothetical budget for a state program, based on priority health concerns from Healthy People 2010. The program is aimed at funding healthcare needs in one of the country’s states. Some of the major issues, which will need funding include but not limited to equipment, marketing, and personnel. Importantly, the program will be funded by the federal healthcare scheme, through Medicare and Medicare systems. Additionally, the state will receive funding from Affordable Care Act grants.

Budget

References

Fernandez et al. (2009). Health Care Reform: An Introduction. Congressional Research Service. Web.

Health Reform. (2012). The Affordable Care Act: Immediate Benefits for Florida. Health Reform. Web.

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Healthy People. (2012). HHS Prevention Strategies. Healthy People 2010. Web.

Jonas, S., & Goldsteen, K. (2007). An Introduction to the US Health Care System. New York: Springer Publishing Company.

Moore, P. (2009). President Obama Has a Health Plan for America (But Is It Good for You?). Men’s Health, 24 (8), 130-166.

Niles, N. (2010). Basics of the U.S. Health Care System. Burlington, Massachusetts: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Riegelman, R. (2009). Public Health 101: Healthy People – Healthy Populations. Burlington, Massachusetts: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Ros, V., & Crist C. (2010). Healthy Communities, Healthy People: Making a positive impact on the health of Floridians. Florida Department of Health. Web.

Steele, M. (2009). The President’s Health Care Plan. Vital Speeches of the Day, 75 (9), 395-400.

Tanner, M. (2009). Obamacare: Seven Bad Ideas for Health Care Reform. USA Today Magazine, 138 (2770), 14.

Troy, T. (2011). ObamaCare Repudiated. Commentary, 131 (3), 27-31.

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