The purpose of health care reform

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As Americans ponder the health care reform initiatives now coming from Congress and the Obama Administration, I want to say a few words about what the subject means to me.

America is often touted as the richest country in the world.  It is certainly a rich nation with an advanced economy.  As such, certain basic services and protections should be taken for granted. What is the point of being a rich nation if basic needs are not met?

From the beginning, national defense was a clear service and protection offered to all residents. Eventually, these protections and services expanded to include education and the right to vote for all adult citizens. After the calamity that was the Great Depression, we also realized that a less porous social safety net was necessary. Unemployment insurance came into being.

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Now, in the 21st century, more than 230 years after our first Independence Day, isn’t it time that access to insured basic preventive and emergency health care get added to this list?

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I am not saying that all American residents must have comprehensive coverage.  What I am saying is this: it is utterly deplorable that the richest nation in the world could allow millions of its own citizens and residents not to have insurance against basic health care needs. You must question the value system of a nation which allows many of its residents to be bankrupted in order to get healthy.

Let’s be honest, when costly services like education and health care are provided for through a common pot and everyone pays the same amount, some people are going to get a better deal than others.  But, so what?  That is the reality.

So, when you are thinking about health care reform and how to get it,  you should be asking yourself why we need reform at all.  To me, it has little to do with cost, little to do with who administers it, and little to do with who profits from it. Those are technical issues – vitally important to cracking this nut but not the core issue of health care insurance.

The core of this debate has to do with basic values: Which rights and protections do Americans believe should be available to all residents of an advanced economy in the 21st century?  In my view, health care insurance is one of them.

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