In his column, “Universal healthcare is not a viable option,” (10/28) Paul McLaughlin rails against Democratic voters who “have absolutely no understanding” of healthcare policy. McLaughlin’s analysis of the negative effects of universal healthcare provision suggests that he also is lacking in comprehension.

It is true that the socialized healthcare systems of Europe do sometimes lead to long waits for operations, as in the case of the British National Health Service. However, Britain has a considerably worse health system than most other nations of Western Europe. France provides ample evidence of a system in which government healthcare provisions can be effective. Small wonder then that the French enjoy a higher average life expectancy than their British counterparts, who in turn live longer than Americans under the privately financed system McLaughlin so adulates.

The U.S. has approximately 15 percent of its population without adequate health insurance coverage, a situation that should outrage any right-minded citizen of this country. The American constitution is based on the concept that all, regardless of affluence, are entitled to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. The current healthcare system impinges on many Americans’ pursuit of that right to life, and in so doing necessarily detracts from the right to happiness. Health is a necessity, not a luxury, and it is time mainstream America recognizes that fact, just as it has in the cases of education and crime prevention.

McLaughlin’s fundamental argument against providing all Americans with adequate health coverage is that it would stifle American medical developments. I live in London, about two miles from the headquarters of GlaxoSmithkline, one of the world’s largest drug companies. There are many other leading drug firms involved in cutting-edge research, across Europe. How is it that these companies can flourish in a country that has government health provision, despite McLaughlin’s assertions that the two cannot go hand in hand?

Governments worldwide are the primary consumers of medicines. Even in the United States one need only to look at the vast resources expended annually on Medicaid and more notably Medicare. It makes little difference whether the drugs are purchased with public funds or privately through the auspices of an HMO. Provided that patent laws are in place, pharmaceutical giants will continue to make a profit and thus to develop new cures.

The cost of government health systems is something that should be addressed. As a British citizen and taxpayer I deplore the waste that comes with our health service. However, that is not to say that the concept cannot still be applied to the United States. Where European health systems falter is where the government pays for the treatment of rich and poor alike. A more efficient system would be to encourage private health insurance for those who can afford it, while ensuring that no one is left behind (to adopt a Bush-ian phrase). Government assistance already exists for the poorest Americans in the form of Medicaid. What needs to happen now is for that coverage to be extended to those who are currently unaccounted for by either the private or public sector. Even if outright means-testing is not introduced, the wealthy will still buy the best coverage they can, and no doubt will continue to enjoy better treatment as a result. There will still be private health insurance, just as there is in Europe, despite the government-funded options. However, every American deserves some coverage. The Europeans care for all members of their society under systems much more far-ranging than those most Democratic candidates propose. In most cases, they do this with considerably smaller budgets per capita than in the U.S.

Ensuring that the well-being of all Americans is adequately provided for does not come without some additional costs. However, compared to the scale of the latest round of tax cuts, and the recent military build-up, to ask for such funds is not unreasonable. Moreover, if America is to continue to hold its place as the world’s preeminent nation, it must ensure that at the bare minimum its citizens are as healthy as those from less prosperous states.

John Babtie is a senior in Ezra Stiles College.