Posted by Charity on November 28th, 2006

Health care is always a popular topic here on She’s Right, for whatever reason, so I thought I would share with you an epiphany I had this weekend while away for the Thanksgiving holiday.

My mother-in-law and I were talking about politics and she revealed that the two most important issues for her – nationally – are ensuring that all Americans have health insurance coverage and reducing the amount of money we give to foreign countries.

She said that it isn’t right that there are people who do not have health insurance in this country. I was a little taken aback at her bleeding-heart liberalism, but then she followed it up by saying that it drives up the costs for everyone else when people without coverage use the emergency room for their health needs.

So we started discussing the different solutions. I am firmly opposed to a government-administered insurance plan. We discussed some of the problems with that system, mainly cost containment and waiting lists, and agreed that in America, we would not want to eliminate the private insurance option.

I brought up the fact that there are three groups of people without insurance: those who cannot afford it, but qualify for government help already; those who cannot afford it, but do not qualify for government help; and those who can afford it, but choose not to. The middle group is really the only one that needs a new solution and to me that is not a “crisis” of the magnitude that the rhetoric suggests.

However, all three groups, or at least the first two, contribute to the problem she spoke of, misuse of the emergency room resulting in increased costs for the rest of us.

If that is the problem – that we all pay for the uninsured anyway, but not in the most economical way – then what is the solution to that?

I brought up the Massachusetts plan, in which everyone is required to have health insurance. Back in April, I blogged about it here. It is worthwhile to take a look at that post if you need a refresher on that plan.

In it, I said,

“I do not agree that the government has the right to force free citizens to buy health insurance coverage for the sole purpose of obtaining a statistic that they arbitrarily deemed desirable.”

I still agree with that statement. Unfortunately, in the real world there is always a but.

I do not agree that the government has the right to force free citizens to buy health insurance, but if it is decided that the government is going to make sure everyone has health insurance, that is the best way of doing it that I have heard to date.

It is the only plan that maintains the private system and minimizes government intervention, while ensuring that there is no one left uninsured.

I wasn’t about to tell my mother-in-law that I disagreed with her that we need to make sure everyone has insurance, so I was left having to actually decide which way I would like the government to go about accomplishing that goal. It was an interesting thought experiment with a surprising outcome, considering that only seven months ago, I was against the Massachusetts plan.

In reality, we are at or near the point where the majority of Americans will support the idea that the government needs to make sure we all have health insurance coverage. It is going to happen, regardless of how I feel about it. The question now becomes: How do we do it?

It’s worthwhile for everyone to at least consider that question. I would hate to see anyone left out of the process of finding a solution – least of all, those who oppose the single-payer option.

8 Responses to “How Do We Provide Heathcare for All?”

  1. I’m still an advocate for consumer-driven health care (CDHC) like the system they have in Switzerland.

  2. I’m just on lunch and don’t have the time to compose a proper response to this, (I will at some point), but my question is WHY? Why do you oppose a single-payer system?

  3. I don’t have time to answer this fully right now, but this does a good job of it.

  4. NYPaleo – I have no problem with CDHC, but there still is the affordability issue. How do we make sure everyone is covered? (I do not think that is the government’s responsibility, but for the purpose of this discussion, I am conceding that the government must do something in order to figure out what that something should be.) How does CDHC cover the uninsured?

  5. Well, I still don’t have a lot of time here, but the Globe Op-ed is pretty weak stuff… After all, it compares statistics of nations that provide sometimes inadequate health-care to everyone to a nation that provides usually adequate health care to some people… Talk about apples and oranges…

    Additionally, talking about health care by quoting a few statistics in an op-ed piece is journalistically neglegant… (I understand that Op-eds, by their nature, are held to a different standard than other parts of a newspaper, but a newspaper bears SOME responsibility for the quality of the information it publishes, op-ed or not): Health care is a HUGE field that generates statistics like crazy… There’s solid statistical evidence to prove nearly any point you want to make in these arguments. It sure feels good to cite some fact that backs up your position, but I can find just as many statistics that back up mine… We can fight with statistics like they’re snowballs, lobbing them back and forth all day and ending up back where we started… But that’s no way to solve the problem…

    Instead of attacking every little problem in our current system with statistical arguments, we ought to look at it as if it were a blank slate… If there was no health care at all and we were putting it in from scratch, what would we want it to look like? What kind of care would we want to garauntee to everyone? What kind of care should not be a right? Then we can work backwords… What kind of infrastructure do we need to provide such care? How do we pay for such care? etc…

    That’s all for now… I can’t keep the baby away from the woodstove and write intellegently at the same time…

  6. Not to pick on the Globe Op-ed you cited too much more, but the best part of it is when it quotes The Spectator to “sum up the issue”… I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at The Spectator, but that’s pretty much the same as quoting a supermarket tabloid… Seriously… Next time you’re in one of those big box book stores that carries a selection of foriegn papers, look for a Spectator… Pretty hilarious stuff…

  7. Wikipedia has a good overview of CDHC.

  8. The talk about health insurance is almost like putting a bandaid on a chainsaw injury. In the scientific community it is well accepted that emotions play a role in 80% of our health issues. Yet western medicine is not able to address this aspect of being human. I learned this only too well, I was a research scientist working at U.C. Berkeley when I got ill after my father died. I had health insurance, and I still almost went broke when I got sick. The invention of the fMRI is helping us to see the role that emotions and social aspects of being human play in our health. In the past 10 years, new fields of psychoneuroimmunology, physiophilosophy, neuroscience, etc. have developed in response to what we now know.

    For instance did you know that personality plays a role in pharmaceutical drug uptake? Dr. Susan Folkman at UCSF did a study to look at why some AIDS patients did not respond to a very expensive anti-viral prescription. It turned out patients that are shy have different brain chemistry, and responded to the drug differently.

    What helped me was social, emotional, rest, good food, love, and an awareness that as a human being, I could not just work myself to death with stress. I learned this the hard way, and by discovering the wisdom of medical systems outside the U.S. Poor people would not have this option.

    Our health is not about just taking pills. In short, what I’m saying is that no matter how much money we spend on healthcare, we are tossing money at the titanic, and it is going down. Because western medicine needs to change from the foundation, to incorporate what humans need to be healthy, and STAY healthy. In other cultures, self care is a part of daily life, and here in the U.S. we treat ourselves like rental cars… drive yourself into the ground, don’t change the oil, don’t worry about a thing, until it breaks, and then we expect every miracle in the sun to be done for us.

    But the medical system we have is broken.

    I learned from this experience many things I can do to help take care of myself. I work in computer science, but I also studied to be a self-help instructor. So I created a website, to give people information, and help. The self-help is in 5 languages. And its free. Because
    I was suffering, and had nowhere to turn, but these things helped me get well.

    My point is, even if you have insurance its not enough
    because a) western medicine does not address the human mind and heart and b) the system itself is broken. Even if you have insurance, it may not help.

    We need something else.