Reposted from Blogger
A Discussion About Healthcare – April 14, 2010
It’s been quite a while since I posted anything here. I’d like to start doing it again. I posted this originally on facebook a couple weeks ago, but would like to make it sort of “official” by posting it here. Inspired by the recent passage of President Obama’s healthcare bill, I decided to throw my opinion out there. Enjoy!
This little rant is about the recent healthcare bill passed by Congress. People are free to disagree with me, but disrespectful or disruptive comments will be deleted. I do not intend to start a fight with my more conservative friends. This is my opinion, and I’m not planning on changing it without just cause.
I have a message to those who are screaming about “government run healthcare” and “socialized medicine” and all sorts of other right-wing boogeymen. Shut it. Simply put, we tried it your way for decades… and your way is fundamentally broken. It is simply a travesty that so many people in this nation are unable to pay for what should be considered a basic human right. What is that you say? It’s not a right because it’s not in the Constitution? Really?
Let’s be realistic. The whole concept of human rights is a man-made and arbitrary one. We come up with the concept of rights in order to ensure a basic level of happiness and freedom and to create a more just society. However, as we evolve and grow as a people, the concept of rights also evolves. What is enumerated in the U.S. Constitution more than two centuries ago should not be considered the final word in human rights. Fact is, while the Founders certainly were advanced for their era, they lived in a vastly different world.
In 1816, Thomas Jefferson himself had something to say about rigid adherence to ancient documents: “Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the ark of the Covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment… laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind… as that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, institutions must advance also, to keep pace with the times…. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain forever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself. However, there’s more to it than that, so here goes. We live in a world of increasingly advanced technology. Medical science and better living conditions have combined for a much higher standard of living and much longer lifespans. Someone dies at age 70 and these days we think they went too soon. 200 years ago, they would have been considered ancient. However, access to this technology has not always been equal. Those who can afford to pay have been able to access quality care. Sometimes those who can’t pay do so as well. That access comes at great cost. Someone who has suffered a sudden illness or severe injury is often in debt to the point of complete destitution. So many people have their financial lives ruined because they cannot pay. Someone is shot for no reason and severely injured? Sure, we’ll heal them. And they will pay for the rest of their lives. There are literally millions of examples of individuals forced to choose between their health and their budgets. Examples of insurance companies rejecting legitimate medical procedures due to cost, but using lame technicalities as excuses. Human beings treated as expenses rather than as, well, human beings. The list of offenses is endless.
Yet, a large number of people who are fighting against providing health care for the uninsured are doing for so-called “principled” reasons. In their opinion, the government has no business doing anything. Hate to break it them, but life isn’t that simple. There are more than 300 million people living in this country. Every single one is granted certain rights by the Constitution, just by virtue of being citizens. These rights all pertain to providing a general level of freedom and safety for the people. The government is there to help support these rights.
Having said that, things are indeed more complicated now. The fact is, there are certain areas where collective action simply works better. We have (at least in theory) a democratic government in order to complete those tasks that individuals and businesses simply can’t. We agree, as a people, to spend money in order to accomplish goals. The list of successful programs and projects that have been completed using governments is vast, and quite frankly, too long to list right here. The current mishmash of public and private healthcare that this country currently possesses is, in truth, a mess. Very few commentators argue with the fact that changes need to be made. Yet, as soon as government is brought up as an option, the ideologues come out. The Constitution is of course, dusted off and analyzed, as well as usual bumper sticker arguments about socialism and “government takeovers”. This all ignores the fact that millions of people are suffering because they cannot afford to be treated. People suffer accidents, or are victims of crimes, and they cannot be helped without being hurt financially.
There are questions that should be asked. Is this just? Is this right? How is it that the most powerful and influential nation in the history of the planet doesn’t take care of it’s own people? Nations with a tiny fraction of the budget of this great and powerful society have vastly better access to healthcare for their citizens. Comparisons to other nations (Canada, France, Japan, etc…) have been made for years. Yes, weaknesses can be found in other systems as well. Obviously no system is perfect. Yet, these countries acknowledge that a healthy society is a happy and successful one. They are willing to reach beyond reflexive ideology and take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. And, they manage to spend less money doing it. They manage to have a general consensus that their systems work, at least, for the most part.
The bill that passed this past Sunday was by no means a complete overhaul of the American healthcare system. There is an incremental increase in the overall healthcare budget in the first couple years of the program (around 1%) And yet, all reasonable projections show that the cost will actually decrease to less than the current system as soon as 2019, and continue dropping. People who protest the initial cost are remarkably shortsighted. What is it about conservatives that makes them unwilling to take a short term loss in favor of a long term gain? The entire Bush administration was about spending and acting right now instead of thinking about long-term consequences. That way didn’t work. Now we have to try something new.
Those who already have health insurance will not be affected by this bill. They will not be forced to make changes or leave their plans. All that is happening, is that the private health insurance companies have additional competition, which I always thought conservatives liked. Oh, wait, that bad old bully government is in the competition, so it must not be fair anymore. Because government never does anything right. Part of the whole point of recent conservative governance was to denigrate the abilities of government, and then purposely cripple it to ensure being right. Those days should now be gone. 34 million people are going to have access to healthcare now, that they didn’t before. If they want to try something different, they still can switch. That is, if they can afford to.
So, we have decreasing costs, improved quality of life for a huge segment of the population, competition (for the free-marketers), and social justice. This is called progress. This is called cultural evolution. Thomas Jefferson would recognize that a nation 20 times larger and more complicated than the one he knew might need added layers of complexity in its governance.
There is no justice in allowing innocent people to suffer out of ideological rigidity or out of economic shortsightedness. And justice is what we as a people should seek.