Friday, March 5, 2010

After the Health Care Summit – Universal Basic Health Care

The other day I heard a radio commentator on National Public Radio categorize the Democrat position on health care as viewing health care as a right and the Republicans position as viewing health care as a responsibility. I wonder, must it be either or?

The Declaration of Independence establishes that as a nation “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” While we might have an unalienable right to life, we know that we will not and cannot live forever. Each and every one of us will someday die. Until the day of our death arrives, however, our life ought to be one that is generally free and potentially happy. A life without universal access to basic health care will most likely not be a happy life and illness can place numerous limits upon our individual liberty and freedom.

The Preamble of the constitution states “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Does not universal access to basic health care help insure domestic Tranquilty and one way we as a nation can provide for the common defence and general welfare of ourselves and Posterity?

When only the highly compensated and the wealthy can afford basic health care while the underemployed and those working at near minimum wage cannot afford access to basic health care, our nation is ripe for revolution. Thus universal access to basic health care helps to insure our domestic Tranquility.

There are enemies of the United States other than foreign armies. A pandemic could easily kill more Americans than a military invader. Cancer, heart disease and other illness have, in the past few decades, killed more Americans than any terrorist or foreign conflict. Should we not be investing, as a nation, in defending against enemies such as germs, viruses, and preventable diseases?

When a large segment of our population often has to live and work in pain and discomfort because they do not have access to affordable basic health care, we as a nation have not failed to provide for the general welfare but have burdened and crippled our economy. When productivity is affected by workers unable to work because of preventable or treatable illness and diseases we as a nation suffer. If you currently have access to basic health care you may not be too concerned about whether or not others have such access until you need a plumber, electrician, auto mechanic, or other service provider who is unavailable because an easily treatable illness when untreated due to their lack of access to basic health care.

Universal basic health care—that is immunizations, treatment for common accidents and illness, checkups, preventative dental care, corrective lenses—ought to be the right of every American. It makes economic sense. It is part of the social contract that is reflected in the foundational documents of our nation. On the other hand, there is a limit. Not all health care is “basic”.


Sylvia said...

I have thought and talked a lot about your post these past few days. I admire your blog and your sensibility about so many things so I was intrigued as to why this post in particular spurred so much agitation. I have finally decided it was your choice of word "revolution" that evoked such discomfort with me. I have my own issues with the medical world and especially health insurance as it takes up a monumental amount of my time to negotiate those waters with 2 teenage boys with normal stuff and me with some chronic disorders and a healthy husband. None of my issues is even remotely being discussed by either party in Congress. To say that I want health care reform is an understatement but no one has even addressed the issue of insurers who won't/delay pay, the vagaries of costs depending on what diagnosis, the inability to estimate how much money we will spend as a family on health care, etc. And we are considered 'affluent'! So, it pains me to think that we could actually evoke a 'revolution' based on lack/scarcity of health care. No one, it seems, is at all happy with the way health care is handled in this country and no one, it seems, has an even faintly suggestive idea of how to make it better for anyone. Or everyone, if the 'revolution' is really about to happen.
Thank you for your pondering on this subject. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and your thought-provoking ideas.

John Edward Harris said...

Sylvia, I thank you for the kind words. While I do not like to entertain the prospect of a revolution, and certainly do not advocate one, I fear we could be ripe for one. While I did not state it, I reflected on the health care crisis in the context of the growing disparity between the rich and the poor in the United States and the slow erosion of the middle class. The disparity between rich and poor has never been greater except just prior to the great depression. Sooner or later our economic house of cards will REALLY collapse or else the general populace may no longer stand for the economic status quo and so may rise up. If, or when, they do, I hope it is a peaceful rather than a violent revolution.