Watching last night’s presidential debate with our good friends, Jeff and Becky, sparked many interesting discussions. Although it was not the central topic of the debate, of particular interest was our conversation about universal healthcare. Is it a right or a privilege?
I believe it’s a basic right and our nation violates it every single day. The Declaration of Independence starts with:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalieanble rights, that among them are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
We have declared since the foundation of our nation that all our citizens have the right to life, and yet everyday someone goes bankrupt who can’t pay his healthcare bills or somebody dies because she couldn’t pay for her prescription medicine. Our market-based system has allowed costs to sky-rocket to the point that we are all just one illness away from catastrophe, regardless of our coverage. My husband is a physician and we have excellent health insurance but even it has limits on what it will cover for us.
We universally cover everyone in our country with police and fire protection. The fire department would never put out a fire at someone’s house and then a few days later send them a bill so astronomical they had to sell what was left of that house to pay for it. We would be shocked and outraged if that happened. But that happens all the time to people who go to the hospital in our country without health insurance. They are treated in the emergency room or even admitted for care. They go home once they are stable and then the bills start trickling in, bills that can take everything they have.
No other developed nation does this! From Taiwan (see clip above) to Canada to Switzerland to Germany and Japan, every other developed nations and even some developing, like Thailand, have figured out ways to make sure everyone has healthcare.
And it’s not all “socialized,” that is, it’s not all government delivered. Ten years Switzerland had a privatized healthcare system similar to ours. Their citizens decided they were sick (literally) of some people slipping through the cracks. They kept their private insurance companies but made sure no one could be denied by an insurance company and put a few rules in place to make sure everyone could afford it as well.
It’s also a false rumor that if you have universal healthcare, the quality slips. PBS created an excellent documentary, Frontline’s Sick Around The World (see clips above), which you can watch in full online in addition to the clips I’ve posted here. In it the witty host, T.R. Reid, visits multiple developed nations and asks them how they do healthcare. He finds that not only does nobody in any of those nations ever go bankrupt from healthcare bills, he finds that in general people are satisfied with their care and it’s still high-quality.
Healthcare outcomes tracked by organizations like the World Health Organization back up the quality of care in other developed nations. The U.S. falls embarrassingly low in health measures compared to other countries of equal or even lesser wealth, even though we spend more per capita than any other nation in the world! For infant mortality rates, we rank 32nd among the world’s nations, on par with countries like Poland and Slovakia. More than 5 of every 1000 babies born die in our country. In Japan that number is under 2 per 1000.
Our two presidential candidates both have plans of some sort. McCain’s plan will cause just as many people to lose health insurance as will gain it. His plan is a wash. Obama’s plan will leave our private system in place but adjust it so it works for us, adding a government buy-in plan for people whose employers do not offer healthcare, among many facets. His plan is not perfect by any stretch but it’s a huge leap in the right direction.
Obama has a decent plan. McCain essentially has no plan. For me, the choice is clear.
See my previous post about healthcare, including a link to a table comparing the two candidate’s plans.