In addition to addiction, untreated mental illness is endemic among the American homeless population(4). For many of these people, their individual diagnoses would be manageable with the proper level treatment and support—properly managed, many could probably go on to live otherwise productive lives. The resources exist to treat many (if not most) of these people who would otherwise fall out of the system; it is only access to these resources that is limited. A universal healthcare program that extends access to mental health and addiction treatment services could render these people into productive tax-paying citizens. Therefore, spending taxpayer dollars on such programs would be far from a wasteful handout, it would be an investment made by taxpayers into producing more taxpayers—many of whom would pay, in taxes, for their own treatment within years.
The bills that did pass are still woefully inadequate and politicized. Imposing harsher regulations on insurers and providing subsidies to the poor only adds another layer of complexity to the American healthcare landscape. It is entirely likely that insurers will increase rates across the board to compensate for the additional strain placed on the system. Even after all of the reforms outlined in the bills take effect, there will still be uninsured Americans and there will still be a shortage of access to quality primary care. As much as the public conversation over healthcare reform has ceased since the passage of these bills—it would be to the detriment of the greater good to assume that the debate is over.
1. WHO. “World Health Statistics 2009.” 2009
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3. Anderson GF, Reinhardt UE, Hussey PS, and Petrosyan V. “It’s the prices, stupid: why the United States is so different from other countries.” Health Affairs (2003) 22:1:89-106.
4. Fazel S, Khosla V, Doll H, Geddes J. “The prevalence of mental disorders among the homeless in western countries: systematic review and meta-regression analysis.” PLoS Medicine (2008) 5:12:1670-1680.
5. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5735a1.htm (accessed 7/6/2010)
6. Corporation for National and Community Service. “Volunteering in America 2010 Issue Brief.” (2010)
7. http://www.conservapedia.com/Obamacare (accessed, regrettably, 7/6/2010)
8. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/lcod.htm (accessed, 7/6/2010)
9. http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/factsheets/ (accessed 7/6/2010)
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12. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_on_Drugs (accessed 7/6/2010)
13. American College of Emergency Physicians. “Release: the uninsured: access to medical care” (20110)
14. http://www.medicare.gov/longtermcare/static/home.asp (accessed 7/6/2010)
15. http://www.medicare.gov/ (accessed 7/6/2010)
16. Conyers. “HR 676.” 111th Congress 1st session (2009).