I wonder if anybody really understands what’s going on with America’s health care system.
Of course, everybody has an opinion, but understanding the system as a whole is a bit like the old story of the blind men and the elephant. One felt the leg and said an elephant was like a tree trunk. Another touched the tail and said it was like a rope. The next ran his hand over the ear and said it was like a fan, and so on. Each in his own way was right, but no one had a full picture of the elephant itself.
U.S. politics has made understanding our health care nigh impossible. Every aspect of it has been distorted by one vested interest or another.
Even the name of the program has been bastardized: "Obamacare" is an example of language manipulation. Developed by Republicans in the late 1990s, language manipulation is now practiced by both parties.
It’s called damnation by association. Find or create a villain — godless communists, religious terrorists, liberals, conservatives, atheists — just make sure you find someone or something that generates negative feelings in a number of people, and then use that label to shortcut their thinking process about everything else. People fall for it every time.
The correct name for the present U.S. health care program is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or as amended, the Health Care and Educational Reconciliation Act. Certain aspects of new law have already find favor with the public. Americans like the ruling that protects people with pre-existing conditions, as well as the part that allows parents to keep dependent children on their insurance up to age 26.
Of course neither of these rulings are going to make health care any cheaper. To do that, you need economy of scale. In other words, you need to get everyone into a single program.
The Supreme Court’s decision, due to be released in June, may change the political battle somewhat, but it won’t change the facts. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world without universal health coverage. If other nations can do it, why can’t we?
Until we figure this out, health costs will continue to rise. People will become increasingly frustrated and angry, and politics will continue to pull us apart instead of bring us together.
Who profits from the U.S. health system? More important, should profit even play a roll in something as essential as health care? Eventually we’ll all need some form of medical attention. Making a profit is not essentially bad, but should profit be made from human suffering?
And what about the general welfare? Isn’t the health of the nation a national security issue?
I have no problem with adequately rewarding people in the medical profession, but in the U.S., a lot of money drains away into a system that puts profit ahead of human well-being. It goes into excessive paperwork, exorbitant salaries and an overcomplicated bureaucracy.
Americans have to decide if a decent level of health care is a right or a privilege. If we decide medical care is a human right, there are lots of universal health care programs to emulate. Canada operates an effective single-payer system with a 1 percent overhead. Canadians choose their own doctor, and the doctors make the medical decisions, not the insurance companies.
If we decide that health care is a privilege, we give up any claim to the moral high ground. We cannot claim to be a Christian nation. Christ calls for us to care for the sick. We can’t claim to be a humanitarian nation.
We can’t even claim to be very smart because we have allowed political bickering to enrich a few at the expense of thousands who live from paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford to see a doctor until they are so sick they wind up in the emergency room.
Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.