To me, the debate about healthcare is simple. Call it what you like – “the ethic of reciprocity”, “the Golden Rule”, “do unto to others as you want done to you”, “there but for the grace of God go I”, etc. – ultimately, I see this as a humanitarian concern. 200 years ago, health care was a privilege because it was the equivalent to being cryogenically frozen today – an expensive oddity for the rich that is ultimately fruitless. But denying somebody medical treatment today would be inhumane. And I think everyone agrees with that.
The next logical step, then, is that preventative care should be as accessible as emergency care. After all, emergency care is more expensive than preventative care, so why not do the patients a favor and keep them healthy and do the citizenry a favor and make a wise fiscal choice. Win-win, right?
Anyone who thinks that everybody who is uninsured chooses to be uninsured both doesn’t know somebody who has lost insurance through no fault of their own and lacks the ability to comprehend how it could happen. Now you could take the stand that you like your medical care, but I suspect you don’t like how much you are paying in insurance (or if you think what you are paying is good then you don’t realize that your salary would be higher if your employer didn’t have to pay as much). But even if you like your medical care and your insurance is actually somehow not expensive to you or your employer, to take the position that you don’t want any change because you are happy is just plain selfish. If every decision in this country’s history was made for purely selfish reasons, we’d still have slavery.
If you are still with me up to here, then we’ve agreed that there are people who are uninsured through no fault of their own who need coverage that they cannot afford and that it is both financially wise and humane to make sure they get coverage. And this means that you agree that the people calling Obama a socialist and yelling at town hall meetings about how nothing should change are wrongheaded. All that remains to disagree on is the details.
Yes, the details are important and differences in opinion can be cavernously wide. For example, how will it be paid for? How would any change not upset the balance of what does work today? What about those who will try to game the system for their benefit? I don’t have the answers but as naive as this may seem, I think there are smart policy makers who can sort those issues out. People who insist that the status quo must remain because any changes will lead to certain failure underestimate their elected officials. And people who fear that those pushing for reform have a hidden agenda are as paranoid as those that created and supported McCarthyism.
Anyone concerned about becoming the next England – or worse, France! – needs to stop listening to fearmongers and pay attention to facts. First of all, the argument about not wanting a politician between patient and doctor? On matters of health, I’d take a politician over a capitalist any day. Right now, decisions about my care (and that of my children) are being made through the filter of capitalism – the drugs are only covered if the insurance company thinks that the risk of not covering would cause more people to leave them rather than whether or not the drug is actually effective. The myth about countries that offer socialized medicine having lines and lists and other nonsense is grossly exaggerated and focuses on the countries that are not doing it right rather than those that are succeeding. And the concern about the quality of US healthcare taking a dive as a result of reform ignores many factors, not least of which is that the US will do what is good for the US.
Finally, anyone who comes up with entirely fabricated concepts (i.e. “Death Panels”) in an effort to derail the reform is either reflexively fighting for the status quo, intentionally trying to make reform fail to take down those who support it, or directly in the pocket of insurance companies who like the status quo very much, thank you. I have no use for any of them and neither should you!