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Life or Death | The Nation

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Life or Death

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This essay was one of five finalists in The Nation's Third Annual Student Writing Contest.

About the Author

Daniel Zhou
Daniel Zhou is a junior attending Shaker Heights High School in Ohio.

The Constitution protects the basic inalienable rights given to the people of the United States. What is lacking from the basic rights is healthcare. Healthcare is a necessity for every human being. It is the only thing that will decide whether a person will live or die. The United States is supposed to help every person in need, but insurance companies limit the care that a person can receive from facilities like hospitals.

As the United States is moving from a manufacturing economy toward a service economy, healthcare insurance is becoming less stable. Due to rising premiums, companies often are unable to afford healthcare programs. Therefore, they either drop coverage completely or force their employees to pay an excessive extra share for their healthcare plan. As a result, many people are unable to keep their plans.

There are nearly 50 million people uninsured in the United States, and experts calculate that 18,000 Americans will die simply because they are uninsured. Though the United States spends more on healthcare than any other wealthy, industrialized country in the world, it is the only one that does not ensure that all its citizens have insurance. The new president must take immediate action toward fixing the corrupt healthcare system.

My father was diagnosed with a brain tumor. In September 2007, he had his first surgery at a nationally renowned hospital. The doctor who treated my father is also nationally renowned. With the tumor at a very dangerous position, the surgery was considered to be major. Without any prehospitalized care, my dad was forced to arrive at the hospital very early in the morning the day of the surgery. The surgery took an unusually long ten hours, with only one surgeon. After being put in the intensive care unit, my father was released from the hospital two days later. There was a minimum amount of care for my father after his surgery, and the hospital practically forced him to leave two days later. A few days after arriving home, with my father still in need of care and rest, we received multiple phone calls from the hospital billing center, which demanded money right away. The total cost of the surgery, including help from the insurance company, was about $200,000. Unfortunately, the surgery was unsuccessful. The only words that the doctor gave my dad before leaving the hospital were "Rest, or call 911."

With no help at all from the healthcare system, my father was forced to look for a second chance for surgery elsewhere. With extreme limitations on his coverage, he decided to try his home country. After arriving in China, the doctors spent a whole week just running tests and having discussions. Before the surgery, the hospital asked for an $8,000 deposit. Unlike in the states, a team of surgeons worked together during his second surgery. After a difficult nine hours, the tumor was 100 percent removed, and my dad was asked to stay for at least ten days under hospital supervision. After leaving the hospital, the nurses called him every day for a week, just to make sure he was taking the correct amount of medicine and that there were no complications, and to remind him when to return to the hospital for checkups and tests. The total cost of this surgery was $6,500, of which the hospital returned $1,500 of the original deposit.

Today in the United States, healthcare has become so unreliable and expensive that lots of people cannot afford it, which is what the next president needs to fix immediately. Healthcare coverage is usually guaranteed through employers, but as changes in insurance company policies occur, people have become less dependent on them. Free healthcare has been utilized in all the developed countries besides the United States. Although the United States should not be compared with developing countries such as China, China still has proven to have a better and more affordable healthcare system than that of the United States. My story depicts only one case, but it represents the voices of those who agree with me. We see our great country deteriorating day by day, and we hope our next president will step in and take some actions to justify our healthcare system. This is the basic, moral human need.

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