Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fred: We Must Do Better.

Hello, all. And thanks, Christa, for your illuminating observations. Having seen the health-care systems of several European countries myself, and spoken to people there about them, I'd say most of them do provide a level of security in matters of health care that we manifestly do not enjoy in the US. No one there has to worry whether they will be financially ruined by illness or injury, or hesitates to visit a clinic to check on a "minor" complaint, to make sure it isn't the beginning of something more serious and, if necessary, begin appropriate treatment in a timely fashion. It provides them with a tremendous amount of peace of mind.

As for Mr. Burke's comments on "coercion", let me add this to Christa's completely justified objection: My wife's younger daughter has diabetes. She also has a job as a social worker--good, steady job, important work, modest pay. If she leaves her job in order to have a child, she loses her health insurance. She also wouldn't be able to get new health insurance because of her "pre-existing condition," and she wouldn't be able to afford the medications that keep her alive. She is forced, in short, to choose between the dream of having a child and her own financial and physical health. THIS, it seems to me, is real coercion, imposed by our profit-driven health care "system."

America's founding documents begin by emphasizing the importance of "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" as the highest goals of government. We repudiated the British crown because it wasn't providing these things. We hear a lot about the importance of Liberty. But, note that the first item is LIFE. It seems to me that our present health care "system," which rations health care according to ability to pay (and according to the whims of insurance company bureaucrats), is a repudiation of those founding principles. It endangers the very lives of millions of fellow citizens, arbitrarily and through no fault of their own, because they have less money or higher health care needs. Thousands (maybe even millions) of Americans die, or are first bankrupted by medical bills and then die, because they can't afford the health care they really need. (Or they don't die, but become homeless: one of the biggest factors contributing to homelessness is medical costs.) These may be admirable people in every way, otherwise young and vibrant and hard-working, but they have a low-paying job and get seriously ill and simply can't afford treatment. "Your money or your life." If this isn't an immoral "system,"I don't know what is! We must do better.

The current health care reform does not, as I understand it, coerce anyone. If you like your present health insurance plan, you can keep it. No one is being coerced to join anything; all that is being done is to create an alternative plan that is available for people who are left out by our profit-based health insurers. It's high time we provided something like this, so we no longer have 50 million citizens without health insurance--a national disgrace.

Best, -Fred

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