Ok, so I’ve been busy with other projects in my life but I felt I had to pop in to address something serious. I know, I know, some of you are thinking “not another article about the health care reform” but hear me out here. For those of you who haven’t had enough opinions about the health care reform, you’re in the right place.
First off, a little background as to why I feel I need to address this issue. The main reason is this: As a health professional working in the public health sector, as a concerned American, and as a human being, I firmly believe in health as a human right, like freedom and equality. In fact, without your health it’s damn hard to feel free or equal in any society. Beyond that, however, I feel I need to address this issue because I am both an American citizen, who has lived first hand the degraded version of health care in America, and a Swiss citizen, who has spent considerable time in this foreign country seeing a quite stark opposition to the American health care system and one that is arguably less socialized than that in the States. Moreover, I have spent close to the last year living in Norway, and for some of that time working in the government public health sector, and am beginning to see the insides of one the world’s most “socialized” countries version of health care.
That being said, here are a few of my thoughts on the health care reform and the recent Supreme Court hearing:
1. You can have universal health care without “socializing” the nation. Look at Switzerland, for example, who has privatized all of it’s health insurance providers (but regulated by government), creating an “artificial” marketplace where businesses can compete and make profits, while still offering universal coverage at a relatively low cost with a high quality of care and very little waiting periods. (In fact, although this “socializing” argument is one of the mainstays of Republican banter, the likely Republican nominee, who will run against Obama for the presidency, created and implemented a health care system much like the Swiss system in his home state.)
2. You can’t have real (functional) universal health care without the mandate. It has been said over and over again but it must be stressed: without the individual mandate, health insurance companies will not have enough of a consumer base to support the cost of covering their clients who actually need high rates of care. In essence, the finances coming in will not be high enough to support the finances going out and these companies will invariably go bankrupt, with the whole health care system collapsing with them. Unless of course the government pays the bills. In reality then, the only way to keep universal health care from going fully socialized, with the government footing the health care bill, is to implement an individual mandate.
3. The “health” of the country, in every way, relies on this reform. The country is at a paradigm crossroads. In one direction, the country can move closer to supporting the social system and all of it’s people – to supporting the “you’s” and “me’s”. In the other direction, the country can move away from this focus, increasingly supporting big business and the financial elite – and their special interests – at the expense of the “you’s” and “me’s”. This decision by the Supreme Court on whether or not to strike down a bill supporting universal health care will set a precedent that has rarely been seen in this country. It will determine, quite honestly, whether this nation is moving in a direction that is more selfish – more interested in immediate personal gains – or selfless – more interested in national solidarity.
4. We are at a human rights crossroad. I believe that America is in the midst of a second civil rights movement – albeit different from the first. From health care to gay marriage, modern government has become increasingly responsible for deciding key human rights issues. The only problem is that the very people responsible for deciding whether or not these constitute human rights issues are also in a position to lose power, as ownership over these civil liberties are passed down from government and big business to the people. In many ways American people are less free without universal health care, bound by the constraints of an unequal distribution of coverage and services in a system that is more interested in the bottom line than the health and well-being of the people, than if all were “forced” to have health care coverage. (I write forced in quotations because the only people that will see a difference with the mandate are the people that wanted health care before but couldn’t afford it – everyone who has already bought health insurance because they could afford it, wanted it anyway.)
The reality is that this health care reform issue is far bigger than the individual mandate and it is even far bigger than the health care system. This reform touches on elemental issues of the American cultural system. It will help determine the environment in which our children are raised and in which we get old. It is sad and unacceptable to deny millions of hard-working Americans the right to health care but it is absolutely preposterous to deny our children and the children of millions of others, regardless of whether we can afford to buy coverage for our own children, of this fundamental right. Politicians are right that this is a freedom issue, but the freedom is not being stripped from us by requiring that everyone have health care coverage, it is being granted to us so that every member of the American family has an equal opportunity to a fundamental human right.