5 Persuasive Writing Essay Prompts About Health Care Reform
Healthcare is a hot button issue in politics today. Since Obama's first term as President, the country has been debating how best to provide medical coverage for the population of the United States and how best to keep the costs of this coverage down.
If you want to teach your kids how to write - especially how to write persuasively - then you need engaging, interesting topics for them to write about. Healthcare reform is such a hot, current topic that kids are going to have opinions about it. It's a great basis for a persuasive essay writing task.
If you read these tips on persuasive writing prompts, you'll know that it's important for students to have some facts on which to base their arguments. Divisive political issues, like healthcare reform, can spur arguments based more on passion and opinion than facts, so it helps to assign some reading before your students write.
Time Magazine published an excellent article in February by Steven Brill - "Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us." In the article, Brill does some good old fashioned journalism to attack one of the root problems in healthcare - why are the bills so high? The article is a bit long, and you may not want to assign the entire thing to your students. It would, however, be an excellent idea to excerpt a couple of pages to accompany each of the prompts that you give to your students.
Five Topics for Students to Write Persuasive Essays About
Each of the topics and tasks below were inspired by the Steven Brill article above. I highly suggest that you, the teacher, read the article so that you've got a firm grasp on the issues and some of the facts. Then, you can decide what (if anything) you want your students to read to inform their own opinions.
Should there be limits on the prices drugmakers and hospitals charge for certain drugs?
New, sophisticated drugs are necessary to treat diseases like cancer. These drugs often cost several thousand dollars per treatment straight from the manufacturer, and hospitals will often mark the price of these drugs up even further when they bill patients. The patient usually has little to no choice in the matter, and there's no competition to help drive down prices as would happen in a normal market.
Drug makers, on the other hand, argue that high prices are necessary to fund research and development. Brill has some interesting numbers to challenge that assertion, and you'll want to read his findings before you make up your mind. However, there's a fundamental question about free market economics, liberty, and fairness involved in this question.
Should there be limits on the salaries of hospital administrators?
One of Brill's findings is that hospital CEOs and other administrators are paid outsized salaries - often in the high six figures or even seven figures. In the case of hospitals attached to research universities, the hospital administrator is often paid more than the university president. This is similar in some ways to the salary arms race going on in college sports, where head football coaches are paid exorbitant salaries.
In the scheme of things, reducing administrative salaries probably won't bring costs down much. But it just seems like a good idea. It's also interesting to note that many of these hospitals are not-for-profit organizations.
Should hospital fees be tied directly to the cost of providing a particular service?
A constant theme of Brill's article is the "chargemaster" list. It's a list of prices for particular services and items administered at a hospital, and it's the basis for all prices charged to individuals and to insurance companies. These lists have no logical connection to the actual cost of services, and they often produce extremely high mark-ups (1000% to 2000%) over the actual cost.
There's an alternative method, which Medicare uses. When the government reimburses hospitals for treating medicare patients, it draws on a calculated list of what it actually costs to provide a service. These prices are drastically lower than the ones on the chargemaster. An interesting reform might be to tie the prices of all fees to this Medicare reimbursement list, and then allow a certain mark-up for the hospitals to make a profit.
Should uninsured individuals pay more for the same services?
A peculiar problem of the American healthcare system is that uninsured (or underinsured) people face steep charges if they go to the hospital. These fees are based on the previously mentioned, outrageously over-priced chargemaster. Insurance companies negotiate lower prices, and the government insists on a particular schedule of fees when it pays for Medicare and Medicaid patients.
Yet individuals who have no insurance are at the mercy of the hospital, and they must pay whatever the hospital charges them. To make matters worse, people often don't know how much they're going to be charged until after they've been treated. This begs the question of whether it's fair for some people to pay far more for healthcare than those who are covered by insurance.
Should there be limits on malpractice lawsuits (i.e. tort reform)?
On the conservative side, one argument about healthcare is that prices are so high because hospitals and doctors have to be concerned with malpractice lawsuits. One wrong step and they're on the line for millions of dollars of liability. If they don't exhaust every option, then they might even be on the hook for that. Brill suggests that this leads to massive over-testing, and doctors are ordering all kinds of tests (like CT Scans) that aren't really necessary.
By tightening the rules for proving malpractice - i.e. requiring true negligence on the part of the doctor - you free hospitals from the need to run excessive tests to simply cover their butts. This could help bring down spending significantly, although the counter argument is that this could lead to inferior care.
Read. Organize. Write.
Once you've picked a topic or topics for your students to write about, you'll need to find some excerpts from the article (or another article) worth reading. This will help your students find some facts and evidence to back up their claims.
Next, you'll want to help your students organize their writing using some kind of graphic organizer. This interactive essay map is a nice, simple tool, and I've had great feedback on it from my students.
Finally, have them write! That is, after all, the whole point of this activity.