Friday, April 14, 2006

Universal health care? What's that?

I will always remember a conversation I had with a very drunk Republican who ones asked me, “Where does it say I have to provide health care for everyone else?” I was taken aback by this, self stated religious conservative, who added to his point with the statement, “That’s not my responsibility.”

Aside from the Christian belief that you should take care and look out for your fellow man, I was flabbergasted by someone who, by all accounts, should have been the most compassionate about other people of the group I was drinking with. He wasn’t interested, in the least bit, about paying into something that would cost him “more” but not give him any increased benefit.

I’ve always found this idea amazingly stupid. A universal health care system will, if looked at from a comparative perspective to today, benefit the poor more than the rich. See, the rich currently (and by rich I mean people who aren’t poor or the working poor, not necessarily the top 1% of the income bracket) have health care, and they pay handsomely for it. The poor, in general, do not. Therefore, with universal health care, the poor would be getting something they don’t get now, while the rich continue to get what they already have. Thus, his argument could be viewed as true since he gets nothing new and millions of the poor get health care.

I don’t see it that way. For one, it costs us so much more in health care premiums to cover the uninsured than it would if everyone is covered. If everyone is covered, you don’t have to worry about someone coming into the hospital for care that can’t pay for it, which would save the insurance sector billions in lost charges, not to mention public hospitals as well. Second, by allowing the poor access to preventative health care it will help decrease the costs of reactionary health care with someone really does go wrong. If you can allow someone access to a doctor when an infection first happens, you won’t have to pay for an extended stay when the infection incapacitates them and causes their whole family to lose their savings trying to care for them. Being proactive about health care is the surest way to save money on it long term.

Besides, I have this thing called a conscious, and for whatever reason this thing makes me give a hoot about how other people are doing. Sure, I won’t stop to give a homeless person a ride, and I probably won’t give them change, but if I could take measures to help prevent them from ever having to be homeless in the first place, I’d do it. Most people don’t realize, or just ignore, the fact that the majority of personal bankruptcies in this country were due to medical bills? Sure, the media and congressman will cite the person who lives beyond their means and then uses bankruptcy to get away from their responsibilities, but what they don’t show is the maintenance worker who gets lung cancer and can’t work, is taken care of in the hospital for a year before they die, and then leave their spouse will hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. It seems Massachusetts might be taking a stand. It looks like “Gov. Mitt Romney signed legislation designed to guarantee coverage for virtually all residents by July 2007, including an estimated 550,000 people who are now uninsured.” I know, believe it or not, most people in America would support national legislation like this because….most people really can’t afford insurance.

This is a difficult debate, but one I think is worth considerable more time and money than welfare reform or tax reform. This is stuff that deals with real people’s lives, real situations that at one point or another will actually affect you. Most people won’t ever be on welfare, most people really won’t see that much of a difference in their lives if their taxes are different, but all people get sick, and more people than should get really sick. I would like it if my kids can grow up in a world where everyone they go to school with can see the doctor, and their friends don’t have to stay home from school because they can’t afford the antibiotics that would really help them get over the step throat infection they’ve been fighting for two weeks. That’s the reality of the situation, and I think it’s a very noble cause.

For more on what I feel will be a large debate that will be lost as soon as the next scandal starts, you can read the CNN.Com article here:



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