Get Better Soon? The future of America’s healthcare policy

For decades, reforming America’s healthcare system has been the key focus of government – but little firm progress has been made. Looking ahead to the future, it is clear that this area of policy will remain the key focus of the current administration until the next presidential election in 2020.

A poll released in March 2008 by the Harvard School of Public Health and Harris Interactive found that Americans are divided in their views of the U.S. health system, and that there are significant differences by political affiliation.

When asked whether the U.S. has the best health care system or if other countries have better systems, 45% said that the U.S. system was best and 39% said that other countries’ systems are better. Belief that the U.S. system is best was highest among Republicans (68%), lower among independents (40%), and lowest among Democrats (32%).

Over half of Democrats (56%) said they would be more likely to support a presidential candidate who advocates making the U.S. system more like those of other countries; 37% of independents and 19% of Republicans said they would be more likely to support such a candidate. 45% of Republicans said that they would be less likely to support such a candidate, compared to 17% of independents and 7% of Democrats.

A 2004 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report said,

“…The United States is among the few industrialized nations in the world that does not guarantee access to health care for its population.” There is currently an ongoing political debate centering on questions of access, efficiency, quality, and sustainability.

Whether a government-mandated system of universal health care should be implemented in the U.S. remains a hotly debated political topic, with Americans divided along party lines in their views of the U.S. health system and what should be done to improve it. Those in favor of universal health care argue that the large number of uninsured Americans creates direct and hidden costs shared by all, and that extending coverage to all would lower costs and improve quality.

Both sides of the political spectrum have also looked to more philosophical arguments, debating whether people have a fundamental right to have health care provided to them by their government.