The purpose of health care reform

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.

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?

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.

9 Comments
  1. G. N. says

    The only logical argument I can gather from your post in favor of universal health care is that because we provide public education and social security we should now follow the progression to health care. It stands to reason that we should examine how successful these public programs have been before we justify additional expenditures in the name of progress.

    Education has only gotten dramatically more expensive as public programs expanded (http://www.amsa.com/policy/resources/stats.cfm) and social security is bankrupt. You really want to justify socialized medicine by pointing to the Ponzi scheme of social security? Looking at these programs, you cannot come to the conclusion that their growth trends are sustainable.

    Medicine will be more expensive and the care will be rationed. It will not be the utopia people are looking for.

    1. Edward Harrison says

      G.N. Your point is well-taken about post. That is a practical issue that must be addressed. But, I am not discussing that. Nor am I saying that government-provided Universal Health Care is the only solution. I am making an essentially philosophical argument that we must find a way to get affordable insurance to 100% of the populace. This must be a priority here and now.

      That is all I am saying.

  2. fresnodan says

    I can understand your post. But I agree with G.N. more. But it is from the aspect of wanting QUALITY healthcare – because getting healthcare to people is what is important – not getting people health INSURANCE. My family (mother, stepfather, and me) me were poor when I was young. No health insurance. Mother had gallstones removed at the county hospital. Took 20 years to pay it back, but it was not onerous payments. Had a friend from El Salvador in college- his girlfriend had ovarian cyst – again treated at the county hospital. I had Hodgkins disease as a college student, no health insurance – being a veteran I was treated at Stanford university hospital. I doubt reform will get people any better access to care – but it will make every drug, every treatment a bone of contention, because every health decision becomes a political decision and I doubt we need that

  3. Joel says

    I couldn’t agree more Ed.

    A few years ago I emigrated from Australia. My wife has duel citizenship, giving us the option of settling in Canada or the U.S. In the end, the decision came down to health care. We couldn’t justify raising kids in a country where those with the greatest need are treated so poorly. People would say, “But you have a job, you’re family would be covered”. However, the current recession shows how quickly you job, and the associated health coverage can be lost. Heaven forbid that if at a time of such need, you should also be cursed with health issues.

  4. GC says

    I think people should be free to do what they want. If they don’t want or feel the need to get healthcare should we make them?

    If the Gov wanted to spend a little $ on educating people on the risk of not having healthcare and we had commercial options that were more flexible you’d have a lot more people covered with less nanny state and less govt spend.

  5. Edward Harrison says

    I should point out to commenters here that nowhere have I mentioned who supplies the services and protections we receive. Nor have I endorsed specific services and protections other than health care.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t like the way social security is structured (pay as you go). I think we need to cut entitlement programs (huge unfunded liabilities). And I don’t like the way unemployment insurance is administered (through the employer).

    The fact that most of you who disagree with me keep pointing to the government and universal health care suggests less than an open mind. It illustrates bias. I suggest you re-read the post and you will see what I mean.

    My point as nothing to do with universal health care or government funding. Again it is that health care INSURANCE for everyone is necessary in the same way car insurance for everyone is necessary. How you fund that insurance scheme is another question that I m NOT addressing here. (It could be funded privately, nationally, or by states or communities. Re-read the post and you will see this)

    So, fresnodan, I have to disagree. It is not access to health care that concerns me here but insurance i.e. the protection against catastrophic financial loss both preventive and after the fact. Remember, the two big ticket material items most individuals own – cars and houses – are insured against catastrophic loss. Our health, our person needs similar insurance as healthcare is one of the largest expenses in anyone’s budget and a catastrophic loss is a major cause of bankruptcy.

    As to the U.S. system, I have to agree with Joel’s sentiments here. I have had the opportunity to be a part of health care systems in other countries. My daughter was born on the NHS healthcare system even though at the time I had private insurance as well. And contrary to what people will tell you, the U.S. system is not undeniably better than others.

    In fact, my experiences in the U.S. have been negative: which doctor can I see, how much will you cover, does insurance cover this medicine? These ridiculous questions are ones I never had to answer in other countries. I had been able to go to any doctor who could prescribe any procedure or medicine.

    You may not know this but Americans pay more for drugs than Europeans, such that we are generally either subsidizing their drug purchases or helping the drug companies make more money – take your pick.

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