Why Not Universal Health Care?

In 2009, I posted an entry to my blog, repeating a conversation from Facebook having to do with the healthcare debate that was going on. Here is the post, complete with the original misspellings:

An Open Letter to a Facebook User

On June 19, a friend posted on Facebook saying that America has the best healthcare system in the world. I responded with this:
“Do you know how many people in this country can’t afford health insurance, yet make too much money to qualify for state aid? I know, my late wife was one of them.”

A friend of my friend answered with a short tirade on how I was too lazy to earn my way, and complaining that he has to support me. I can’t show you the post, because he deleted it and replaced it with some irrelevant drivel mostly lifted from “The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness” by Lyle H. Rossiter, Jr., M.D. (I looked up the reference – he did not provide it.)

I responded to his original post with this:
“Mr. _____, I am not bitter, but I am angry that the richest country in the world does not have the will to provide basic health care for all its citizens. Don’t tell me I did not work hard. You know nothing about me or my late wife.”

To this, he replied (unedited):
“If you understood the simplest concepts of normal rational thinking. If you could put 2 salient points together and tell me why I should have to pay for angry childish thinking. You want and you want more. You can’t get it so your angry. Sounds childish to me. You brought up dead wife. Why because your angry. You want your government to take care of you because you are either incapable of,, or not willing to do it yourself. You wants sympathy, not. You drag your dead wife into a health care debate and don’t say why..Whats your problem. I don’t have to know you because I have heard 10 thousand others who say the same crap as you. The takers of the world. Sorry your ship did not come in. You have no right take my money..be careful what you wish for when OHB, you might have a better chance when you have heart attack to survive by going to Cuba. The government will be in bussiness of picking who gets to live and who dies. At your age. You will not get that life saving cancer treatment.”

Well, this guy, let’s call him “Dick”, is not the poster boy for rational thinking. For one thing, he missed  the point that my wife and I were working and made too much to qualify for state aid. But what bothers me is Dick’s lack of respect for people, including the dead, and his lack of compassion for the millions of people in this country who are working hard, but cannot afford adequate healthcare.

No, Dick, I am not childishly angry or bitter. In fact, I am doing fine, now – I have health insurance coverage, and I still am not on the dole. What I “want and want more” is for others to have it as good as I do. I am not better than someone who is working poor, and I can afford to share some of my wealth through taxes to provide decent healthcare for those who can’t afford it.

I decided to post this to my blog, rather than directly on Facebook, in the hope that there might be a more open mind out there. I’m pretty sure Dick would simply respond with more of the same class hatred and borrowed political rhetoric. If I am wrong, well then I guess I just don’t know Dick.

Not much has changed since then. The national healthcare plan that was passed after a fierce battle in Congress is beginning to help, but we have a long way to go to achieve parity with other wealthy nations. We still spend more per capita than any other nation, for care that is far from the best. According to the World Health Report 2000, the U.S. ranked 37th in overall health quality. John Stossel criticized this ranking for “favoring socialized healthcare, noting that “a country with high-quality care overall but ‘unequal distribution’ would rank below a country with lower quality care but equal distribution.”” This is exactly the point.

I would not deny that we have one of the best healthcare systems in the world, for those who can afford it, the problem is that millions of citizens cannot. A study in the American Journal of Public Health 2005 showed a large difference between rich and poor neighborhoods in infant mortality rates in Manhattan, compared to cities in other countries. I have no problem with rich people buying the best healthcare. Some have tried to frame this as an attempt to limit healthcare, to take away choices for those who now have great coverage. The Affordable Care Act is an attempt to expand choices to those who have few or no options, not to take anything away from anyone.

Those who want to “repeal Obamacare” are not proposing a better system. They are advocating a return to what we had, and an interminable political discussion on what we should have someday. What we should do is build on what we have, as limited as it is, and move toward universal coverage, just like every other developed country has. Then perhaps we can pay less for better care, like they do. Then perhaps we can stop having the shame of being the only rich country where people needlessly suffer and die, simply because their employer doesn’t offer health insurance.


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