This is part one of a series of articles/essays I’ve written previously, and will be running them one by one. I understand that healthcare is a volatile topic, and want to make it clear that I know the situation will not be resolved easily. However, I ask that you remember that there are many points between the two ends of a spectrum, just as there are many options between fully privatized healthcare, and fully socialized healthcare.
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” is the question that Cain asked before he was cast out for killing his brother Abel over a petty argument. I hear an argument very much akin to this question in the debate of Healthcare Reform today when it is suggested that the government be involved in providing healthcare for American citizens. Currently, America has the most expensive healthcare system in the world, and does not offer a level of quality that would justify the expense. Among six countries studied for various aspects of their healthcare system, America was last or next to last in all categories, and was the only country that did not have access to universal healthcare. From this information, one could infer that healthcare, and the care of your fellow man, should not be a for-profit industry, instead falling under the purview of the government as a basic civil right.
If opponents of nationalized healthcare of all types are to be believed, the government does not belong in healthcare, or other areas as would inhibit the basic freedoms that an individual holds. This is a valid argument, but it has become more a question of which situation will cause more damage to the average person. With premiums for health insurance rising, and the number of things that a policy will cover decreasing, (not to mention the qualifiers put on which prescriptions are covered, what one has to do to qualify for a particular prescription, as well as the price of medicine going through the roof), I feel that it is more difficult for the average person to continue to pay some of these costs, and my personal finances along with many others that I know will evince this belief.
I truly believe that the government should be involved in how an individual lives their day to day life as little as possible, but there are also certain responsibilities the government is set forth to provide to allow citizens to live the fullest life possible. It is high time healthcare becomes one of these issues.
One of the most common arguments I hear against nationalizing healthcare is it would increase taxes, and that many feel it would be unfair to have to pay into a program that would provide medical care to others. This is very much like the situation referred to in the opening paragraph with Cain and Abel. Were this argument analyzed, it would boil down to one individual considering himself or herself to be more important than anyone else, and showing no thought to anyone but his or herself. This goes against the grain of any moral and/or ethical teaching that I have ever seen.
If one were to use the Bible as a guideline for creating their personal ethical code, then looking at the Parables of Jesus reveals multiple instances when Jesus points out that it is better to help others than to help one’s self. Throughout the Bible, there are stories that imply that the good of the masses is more important than any individual.
Under the Declaration of Independence, three inalienable rights are listed as inherent to the human condition: “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” To continue in our current condition in healthcare destroys the ability to “pursue happiness” when an individual is unable to pay for treatment. I work with a lady who has a 12-year-old with a severely debilitating disease and constantly needs to visit specialists at UVA Hospital. Over the course of this child’s life, her parents have incurred close to $1 million in debt after insurance payments, forcing them to file bankruptcy and lose their house and any other assets they may have owned. They are still incurring bills that they find difficult to pay today because of the sheer amount of money required to care for her. They are unable to receive any Federal Aid whatsoever; because their yearly income falls above whatever line has been determined as the cutoff point for Medicaid benefits.
Unable to do anything about these bills, they are subject to judgments, garnishments, and various other forms of debt collection until their daughter turns 18, at which point she will qualify for Medicaid. This medical burden requires that they work overtime, and spend all their time simply trying to find ways to stay afloat, and their circumstances are becoming more common. When an individual’s ability to pursue the happiness referenced above is compromised so dearly, then it is time to step in and take action to prevent further injustice.
Until the population as a whole acknowledges that rising costs and a lack of regulation are allowing the healthcare industry to spin out of control, it will only become more difficult for the average person to receive care.
Many want to portray this healthcare dilemma as a financial decision, based upon principles such as capitalism, but I disagree. This is entirely a moral dilemma, and until this is recognized I’m not sure anything will get better.
This situation occurs today in care facilities across the country and is saddening, but true. When the decision is made to accept one patient over another because the care facility can bill more expensive services to that patient’s insurance, something is wrong. The government was originally created to provide “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for its people. It’s time to guarantee “life.”