Considerations on Universal Health Care

U.S. President, Barak Obama, has been pushing for health care reform. America’s health care system has a number of problems. First, American’s spend approximately twice as much as on health care costs than other Western countries. In fact, a leading cause of bankruptcy in America is debt caused by a catastrophic health incident.  Second, some reports contend that over 40 million residents lack health insurance and the number who are “under-insured” grows the number even more. 

Add in the fear that haunts people regarding their health-care security, and the President’s wish to reform the health care system seems a worthy goal.

The question is, “How should health-care be reformed?” I don’t have any magic solution. In fact, I don’t think there are any “easy solutions” as there is no way to make health-care affordable and universal for all without serious economic and social pain.  In light of the public rush toward adopting a European style health-care system, I just want to point out some key issues that regularly get ignored.

1. European countries have stricter immigration laws. In the U.S., a significant number of non-insured individuals are actually in the U.S. illegally. It is true that anyone, regardless of legal status, in need of treatment is given health services whether they can pay or not. In light of the fact that when people think that treatment is “free”, their utilization of health-care will increase, how will the U.S. deal with the costs incurred by illegal residents also using the system?

2. The top causes of death in the U.S. are caused by personal choices. American’s love foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt. We hate vegetables and exercise and our waistlines show it. Should responsible Americans be forced to underwrite the consequences of those who make poor choices? What about the health effects of sexual choices? Monogamy does reduce health-care costs.

3. The decline in the cohesion of families is the ultimate reason behind the health-care crisis. In previous generations, families would pool monies to care for sick members. Today with divorce and other living arrangements, the family safety net has been dismantled. Thus people have turned to the Government (as the Church as a vehicle for social security had become irrelevant years earlier).

These questions have not been adequately addressed in the contemporary discussion. Nor do I think they will be as they expose the moral worldview of the contestants, something that they don’t want to do in a secularized society. Obama says that the health-care issue is a moral one. I couldn’t agree more. But is it moral for the government to force people to spend money to pay for health-care for people who refuse to be responsible just in the name of compassion. Couldn’t it be argued that what Obama wants is nothing more than punishing people who made proper choices by forcing them to pay for the costs of choices by those who made poor ones. Is this simplistic? Yes, it is. But I am talking about the majority of issues, not the minority. I am just asking readers to consider the larger issues at stake regarding taxes, government power, morality, and personal responsibility.

Next week, I will discuss the so called “Death Panels.”

Dr. Stephen M. Vantassel is tutor at King’s Evangelical Divinity School

Copyright 2009

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12 Comments.

  1. Dear Stephen, I’m glad you brought forward this topic. I am an outsider, but I follow what happens in the US closely. I should like to make a few comments in reply to what you wrote.

    First, the points you make in your first two paragraphs have nothing to do with ‘seems’. The President’s wish to reform health care (you really mean medical care) is more than a worthy goal; it is a moral imperative. It is amazing that the richest country in the history of the world does not provide proper medical services to its citizens whilst some countries that are relatively poor do quite well.

    Second, you are right that there are no ‘easy solutions’. Medical care is expensive and likely to cost more in the first few years than its advocates realise. When it was first introduced in the UK costs were higher than anticipated. This apparently occurred because people who had rarely seen a doctor suddenly found themselves entitled to services and played ‘catch up’ until their health problems were corrected. I think it will be the same in the US if and when it starts a plan. There are no easy solutions, but there are solutions and the US can find them if it decides to do so.

    Third, there are huge economic advantages to having a state medical system. It was several years ago that I heard an American business commentator complaining that, ‘General Motors is now a heath care system that makes cars on the side’ – a gross exaggeration, but the statement contains some truth. GM is forced to compete with vehicle makers in other parts of the world which do not have to worry about providing medical insurance for their workers. The same applies to other industries.

    Your numbered deserve comment.

    1. The immigration argument against health care is a crock so far as I am concerned. Illegal immigration may be a problem for the US, but it is also a significant advantage. Illegal immigrants are cheap labour which can be bullied into subjection by threats of exposure and expulsion. If the US wants to keep immigration down it can do so by securing its southern border. I don’t know how many illegals there are in the US who would use a national medical system if it were available, but I doubt it would add significantly to overall costs.

    2. Personal choices often have a negative impact on personal health, but these are not incurable diseases. Physical education, health education and compulsory games in school can help change people’s habits. Punitive taxes on tobacco and other harmful products are also useful. People’s habits can be changed.

    Obama has said that he wants the wealthy to pay more tax than those who are less well to do. This is not the same as taxing the responsible to support the health care of the irresponsible.

    3. Family breakdown is always difficult. The point tho’ is not that families no longer provide, but rather that in a wealthy modern democracy that can afford 21st century care better than any other country, they should not have to do so.

    I have lived in the UK with its National Health Service and in Canada without and with a similar service which we call Medicare. I have no doubt that the vast majority of citizens are better off with a national system. Frankly, Americans are ill-informed about nation wide heath care . I will address this shortly in a different way.

    Sincerely, Peter

  2. Hello again Stephen, The following article deals with some of the arguments regarding health care in the US better than I can. It is slightly abrasive for which I apologise.

    A letter to my American cousins

    BY JANICE KENNEDY, OTTAWA CITIZENAUGUST 24, 2009COMMENTS (2)

    Dear U.S. cousins …

    It’s been a while, but I thought I should write and let you know that, despite what’s been filling your media, I’m alive and reasonably well. That is to say (and roughly like my 33 million compatriots), I haven’t been killed, maimed or otherwise sideswiped by our healthcare system.

    That may come as a shock, since by now you must be convinced that “Canadian-style health care” (as the loaded catchphrase has it) is the satanic creation of card-carrying commies bent on world domination and the ruination of lives, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and people’s health.

    But look at us! Isn’t it amazing? We’ve survived our CSH (Canadian-style health care) for more than four decades now, and we’re doing — well, more or less fine.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting we don’t have a ton of problems with our complicated public system, which is nationally mandated and provincially administered. There are dreadful inefficiencies and unacceptable delays. Too many Canadians, unable to find a family doctor, rely on walk-in clinics. Some hospital emergency rooms have stunningly long wait times (although not as long as the one mentioned in a recent episode of Nurse Jackie, that sharp new series set in a New York City hospital). CSH is very far from perfect, and our impassioned discussions about it are ongoing.

    But it mostly works, despite what you’ve been hearing. No one actually tells us what doctors we can or can’t go to. (Rather, it’s a question of supply and demand.) We’re usually seen in a reasonable length of time. Emergency situations generally get emergency attention. Across the country, you’ll find world-class doctors and health researchers. No one — no one — is ever denied care; serious diagnoses do not bankrupt people; and no, hordes of us are not massing at the border to seek treatment from your doctors and hospitals.

    Oh sure, some Canadians have. One of them, Shona Holmes, has been featured in that questionable TV ad, claiming she’d be dead if she hadn’t gone to the United States for treatment. The ad is one of several produced and broadcast by a group called Patients United Now, a “project” of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which believes in limited government and the free market.

    Perhaps you know it. The group is vehemently opposed to Barack Obama’s proposals for health-care reform, which it characterizes as health-care choices made by Washington bureaucrats. (Instead of insurance company employees?) This summer, it’s brought its “Hands Off My Health Care Bus Tour” (not to be confused with its anti- global-warming-hysteria “Hot Air Tour”) to those acrimonious town hall meetings across your country.

    It’s groups like that, with their disinformation-filled ads, that bring me to the real reason for my letter.

    I hate to say this, but you guys — or, in fairness, some of you guys — have been so down and dirty orchestrating opposition to your president’s plans for healthcare reform that you’ve pretty much slandered us Canadians. (I use the verb in its broadest sense, oozing malice and ugly defamation in words both written and spoken.)

    You’ve spread nasty rumours about your Canuck cousins and the way we do things up here. And — how can I say this without being impolite and therefore un-Canadian? — they’re lies.

    Take the voice-over on that Shona Holmes ad. In Canada, it informs viewers solemnly, health care is appalling “because government says patients aren’t worth it.”

    (And yet we keep electing them. Stupid us, eh?)

    The voice of doom continues: “Now Washington wants to bring Canadian-style health care to the U.S. But government should never come between your family and your doctor.”

    Who could argue? Not us. We Canadians cherish the sacred and private bonds we have with the docs who treat us. So how to explain the burgeoning anti-CSH attitude across your population?

    Consider the e-mail I got last week after I wrote about your alarming Sarah Palin and her contribution to the debate. One of your countrymen (“Rick in San Diego CA THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” — capitals his) scolded me: “You Canadians who ALLOWED their government to take over healthcare have caused great suffering for your fellow countrymen and women. Your wonderful people have to come to our country for medical care.” Then he got angry, informing me that your domestic arguments were none of my business. “SO KEEP YOUR IGNORANT THOUGHTS TO YOURSELF.”

    The truth is, like most Canadians, I have no desire to engage in your great national discussion. It’s too complicated and, frankly, too foreign for us with its corporate sensibilities and assumptions of selectivity. Besides, we have enough issues of our own.

    It’s just that, as you make your way through the debate we had 40 years ago, the relentless defamation is wearing. Yes, we find it heartbreaking to see so many of our American cousins without proper access to health care. Or to hear horror stories of treatment denied because of undisclosed “pre-existing conditions.” (Teenage acne? No way we’re treating your adult melanoma.) Or to think that corporate functionaries in the insurance industry are making life-and-death treatment decisions. All that seems deeply wrong to us.

    But what rankles in a personal way is that so many of you Americans, inexplicably, are saying some truly dumb things. And a lot of them are about us. It’s offensive.

    Would it be rude to ask you to smarten up?

    Best wishes, Your Northern Cousin

    Janice Kennedy writes here on Sundays. E-mail: 4janicekennedy@gmail.com

    © Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

  3. Hello Stephen, Before I come to the point of this post, I should tell you that I have been unable to log in to this blog by the normal means for several days, and I got here now by means that I do not understand and cannot reproduce. What should concern you and the college is that I think I unwittingly breached the security of the college computer system. This happened to me before, and I have e-mailed the college about it and the problems I have with being recognized by the blog. All I want is to be able to log in and out in the approved fashion. Peter

    ****************************************************

    Now to the reason for this message. After sending the newspaper article which you have displayed above, I sent it also to my friend Walt, an American I have known for more than 50 years. We went to school and church and other activities to-gether in England where his father was working for the US government. I mention this so that the reply he sent me to the mentioned article will make better sense than it might otherwise. Here is what he wrote:

    Peter,

    I find myself in 100% agreement with her…!!! The ongoing debate (?) with all of its misinformation, inflamatory language, and outright lies does nothing to solve the problem. We (USA) are the only major industrialized country without a working health care system. Fortunately, I am on Medicare and benefit from the wonderful (OUTSTANDING) care and treatment that I receive from thee had to refinance our house VA, where I get all myprescriptions for only $8.00 each and sent to me three month’s worth at a time when re-ordered on the VA website or by mail. I have COPD or Emphysema and have to take an inhalent that needs to be refrigerated. It arrives by FedEx in an insulated container packed with frozen gel. I have had a colonoscopy, endoscopy, shoulder surgery for torn rotator cuff and tendon, bone spurs and arthritis, a prostate biopsy, annual physicals, annual urological exams, two emergency room visits, and unbelievable care and treatment as a veteran’s benefit.

    I can’t get over the treatment I get from the VA. Being self-employed, I could not afford the almost $1,000 a month cost of health insurance, and when Madeline had to have emergency gall bladder surgery several years ago, it cost us $65,000 out of pocket. She was unable to have micro surgery after three failed attempts and underwent conventional, resulting in ten days in the hospital. We had to refinance our house to pay the bill, and when the housing market c ollapsed we ended up “upside down” and were foreclosed.

    I remember benefitting from the National Health program in England when we lived there. I had two bouts with pneumonia while at School House and was hospitalized both times. No problem.

    I’m afraid some of our more rabid right wing firebrands are causing all of the discussion, but offer no reasonable alternatives. I was always under the impression that your Canadian system worked fine. I’m afraid our country seems to be out of step with the rest of the world. What next, privatizing the military?

  4. Thanks for your thoughtful comments Peter. I appreciate the tone in which you gave them.

    Just a few things. 1. illegal immigration is not a crock as you suggest. Yes, illegals provide cheap labor (usually for the wealthy) but cheap at what cost? Without getting into the nitty gritty, let me say this. If illegal immigration is such a blessing, then why don’t we save money by eliminating border control and move to a market-nation as suggested by Bobbitt in the Shield of Achilles? Let’s save some real money and get rid of citizenship altogether?

    Second, if health care is a moral obligation of a country, then what about college? Hey, what about a Ph.d? What about a house? Why not a job? You forget that freedom isn’t free. When the government becomes a nanny then the children have less freedom from taxes. American unemployment is less than foreign nations because we encourage entrepreneurial activity.

    Third, I agree that there are some advantages with a national health system. I don’t consider it evil as I do our abortion and state funded embryonic stemcell programs. I just point out that the cost to our economy will be enormous and that the state will ultimate limit freedom in an attempt to control costs.

    Fourth, private decisions do have public consequences. Japan is now punishing companies whose workers don’t meet certain weight requirements. Is this what government should be doing?

    Fifth, why will congress have a “different” health program than the rest of the country?

    As for Canada, every culture has its own primary values. America started with a different value system than Canada. Also, Canada is extremely rich in resources. Sometimes, a country’s resources allows the negative elements of its culture to be mitigated. As a Canadian (yes I am a citizen), I think Canada would be far better off economically, if it adopted a tax structure that was less punitive.

    Bottom line, I have serious reservations regarding government take over of health care because I support the dignity of the individual who along with his family can and should make decisions for themselves and that private property should be protected from excessive intrusion from government intervention.

  5. Hello Stephen, I had hoped to find time to answer your message above, but events have conspired to make it impossible. However, in the meantime the events and thoughts outlined in a post from the personal blog of one near and dear to me are printed below. They are relevant to our discussion here. If you are interested in the resulting discussion which involves thoughts from both sides of the border, try saunderslog.com .

    ***************************************

    The truth about Canadian Health Care

    This morning I’ve been reflecting on the debate about health care that’s happening south of the border. Like many Canadians I’ve been in disbelief watching the rhetoric escalate. The outright lies, and Orwellian double-speak by special interest groups in the US have me wondering how my American friends will ever achieve a resolution.

    What caused this reflection? It has been a week since my last posting, and that has partly been due to an experience with our health care system in Canada.

    Last weekend I dropped my son off at McMaster University in Hamilton. It’s his freshman year, so he is living in residence, and he was very much looking forward to frosh week and getting to know the other young people he would be living with. By Monday evening however, he had developed a stomach problem. He visited the on-Campus clinic. The doctors there thought it might be a flu, and advised him to stay in bed, which he did all day Tuesday.

    By Tuesday evening he knew it was more than a simple flu bug, as his stomach problem had escalated to extreme abdominal pain, accompanied by fever. He called McMaster Emergency Services and was taken to the emergency department at the university hospital. We got a call from him at about 7:00 telling us he was there.

    I grabbed the 9:00 PM flight to Toronto, cabbed it from Toronto to Hamilton, and was there by 11:30, by which time he had had blood work, and an ultra-sound, and the diagnosis was confirmed as appendicitis. At 1:00 AM he was prepped for surgery, and by 4:00 AM his appendix had been removed and the infection cleaned up. The surgeon, a Dr. Kellsie, informed us that the appendix had been leaking but not yet ruptured, which made the job easier.

    He spent another 36 hours in the hospital, and came home with me last night. Today he’s walking slowly, but obviously on the mend.

    For my American friends who worry about Canadian style health care, and who are enduring the rhetoric around “death boards”, and “protecting our seniors”, I offer the following observations:

    This was a true emergency, and it was dealt with promptly. It was just 8 hours from admission to diagnosis to the completion of surgery.
    The quality of the care was world class. He was attended by a team of five physicians and residents following the surgery, and housed in a semi-private room on a ward with just 12 rooms.
    The cost to my family was $0. Not only that, it didn’t drive up insurance premiums, or have any of the other negative effects associated with privately insured health care.
    The cost of the drugs he is taking during his recovery – two antibiotics, and pain medication, was just over $50, and I can probably get my drug plan to cover it.
    I’m sure that the Canadian system isn’t perfect. While I lived in the US I had gold-standard quality health care as a Microsoft employee, and there is nothing that I am aware of in this country that matches the best of the best in the United States. However, for those confused or made fearful by the rhetoric being used on Capitol Hill, you need not fear “Canadian style” health care. It’s head and shoulders above what the tens of millions of un-insured in the United States receive, and the quality is as good or better than what the average insured American receives today. I can only say that because I’ve lived in both countries and experienced both health care systems.

    More to the point, however, I would ask the following of my American friends. As you listen to your leaders debate this issue, ask yourselves what three days of emergency hospitalization would cost in your country. My recollection is that it’s probably well in excess of $30,000. Next ask yourselves whether it’s fair that families be ruined over routine, but unforeseen, medical needs.

    These are questions only you can answer.

    As for me, I am profoundly grateful for the incredible care that the team at McMaster hospital delivered, and the speed with which it was delivered.

  6. Hello Stephen,

    I think making illegal immigration an argument against universal healthcare (not that you’re going to get it) is a crock for two reasons. 1.) The amount of money which is likely to be spent on care for illegal immigrants is so small in the overal scheme of things that it will make very little difference to the financial health of the USA. 2.) The country with more Nobel laureates than all other countries combined can find a way to seal its southern border. The richest country in the history of the word can afford to control its southern border. The country with the most powerful and technologically advanced armed forces in the history of the world has the might to seal its southern border.

    The US should control its border because it does pay a huge price for not doing so. This price is not in money, but in the mistreatment of those who enter the country illegally and continue to live and work there. They are villified and have become objects of racism. This diminishes you all.

    Peter

  7. Hello Stephen, This is a continuation of my answer to your message of September 10th.

    So far as College/PhD., housing, and employment are concerned, we do to some extent pay for these out of the public purse. There are differnces of degree, but the US supports them also. Many universities and colleges, and courses up to PhD. and beyond are subsidised. This is partly because society (and business) recognises that we all benefit from having an educated populace. We subsidise the shelter of many who are unable to provide for themselves and responsible governments try to organise economies so that all who want to be employed can find work. We seem to recognise these as proper functions of government.

    Most well to do countries recognise that medical care is as important as the other services you mentioned. Without reasonably good health, people can’t fend for themslves and when serious medical problems occur treatment and medication is so expensive that even successful, prudent people can be wiped out. To try and prevent this happening to individuals is an obligation of us all.

    Canada has resources that make it easier than it otherwise would be to provide the level of government programmes we enjoy. But it is more an attitude to-wards our fellow creatures that decides what policies nations will employ. Denmark, for example, has little by way of resources but has one of the best health care programmes in the world. It will even provide necessary medical care to visitors. My wife fell and hurt herself in Denmark and got good care in a hospital at no charge even tho’ we had insurance. When I broke my leg in the US, I could not even get seen without cash up front.

    As for Canadian taxes being punitive, they have never seemed to be so to me. Taxes are what we pay to live in a civilised society; I pay them cheerfully.

    Finally, government does not run health care in Canada. Nor is there any such plan for it to do so in the USA

    Sincerely, Peter

  8. Hello Stephen, Here is an article about health care and the debate about it in the USA. It is by Bishop Spong.

    Sincerely,Peter

    September 10, 2009

    Seeking to Understand the Rhetoric of the Health Reform Debate
    I went to my local post office in New Jersey last week only to be confronted by a group of demonstrators who had set up a table filled with pamphlets and information about the communist plot to take over health care in America. Several slogans were quite visible on their posters. One said “Stop Socialist Medicine,” another portrayed President Obama with the signature moustache of Adolf Hitler. Some of the available literature hinted that the proposed health care reforms were actually part of a plot to cut medical costs by euthanizing senior citizens. Making a cameo appearance in this new setting was the old abortion issue, with the suggestion that Obama’s health care reform proposal was a not-so-subtle attempt to finance abortion with public funds and thus to violate the consciences of the pro-life minority. People walking in and out of the post office were given the various fear lines and were urged to pick up materials that would validate their wildest charges. What we had witnessed on television at Town Meetings across the country had now appeared in our local community. As an advocate of free speech guaranteed to us by the Constitution of the United States I do not oppose anyone seeking, by whatever lawful means they choose, to win public support for whatever issue they espouse. I do find it interesting to note, however, that while the content of the issues that draw out this kind of paranoid response changes from time to time, the emotions of at least a small segment of the American population that always seems to be threatened to the point of hysteria by changing law, changing practice and even changing consciousness, remain the same. It is not the content of the heath care reform debate, but the reality of these extreme emotions that show up in every period of social transition that I seek to understand today.

    In order to set this discussion into a context of history, recall that the primary theme in America’s 2008 presidential campaign was “change.” Mr. Obama not only ran on that theme, but he also embodied it. He was an African-American candidate. Never before in the history of the world has a nation chosen as its highest leader a member of a racial minority that had once been enslaved and then segregated by the majority. This was an amazing accomplishment. One obvious sign of that election was that racism, so deep in our national character, was now in a steep decline. If that change was not significant enough, this 47-year-old Illinois Senator represented a new, post-baby-boomer generation. The torch of leadership that had moved from the World War II generation to the Vietnam generation with the election of Bill Clinton in 1992 and in 1996 had now passed rather swiftly beyond Vietnam to a generation skeptical of all wars of aggression and especially the failed wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Obama further epitomized change in his outspoken defense of equality for women in all areas of life and in his clear opposition to any law or practice that calls into question the full rights of America’s gay and lesbian population. His actions and subsequent appointments made these convictions clear and operative. In this election our nation had voted by large majorities to surge forward to embrace a new world. Such a surge, however, inevitably carries many people whose ability to adapt to change is limited into the backwaters of debilitating fear and gives birth to the rhetoric of paranoia that we are now seeing.

    Prior to this election much of this latent and irrational anger in our body politic had been focused on homophobia, the popular wedge issue during the years of George W. Bush’s administration. That prejudice had, however, run its course and had been largely relegated to the uninformed and increasingly irrelevant religious voices that typically represent the past. There was Pope Benedict XVI, well into his 80s, articulating a long since abandoned theory that homosexuality was an abnormality, a sickness or at least a deviation from the norm that should be changed if possible and repressed if not. There was evangelist Pat Robertson, also an octogenarian, who loses credibility on issue after issue by quoting a literal Bible and by suggesting that God will send hurricanes to punish gay-friendly communities. Finally, there was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, younger but still dated, trying to preserve the last vestige of the British Empire, known as the Anglican Communion, by sacrificing women, gay people and modern knowledge on the altar of Christian unity. These voices of yesterday have no real credibility except among those who inhabit America’s religious ghettoes and among the populations of the third world that have not yet achieved access to the modern world. Few people today buy yesterday’s rhetoric that “the institution of marriage is being undermined by gay lobbyists” or that “acceptance of homosexuality will lead to generalized moral degeneracy.” The day of playing the “homosexual card” to create a winning political strategy has clearly passed. All of the movement is now in the other direction. Vermont has changed civil unions to equal marriage for gay and lesbian couples. Iowa has enacted laws making gay marriage legal. The national assemblies of both the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America have passed resolutions by large majorities opening the process of ordination of deacons, priests and bishops to qualified candidates irrespective of their sexual orientation and asserting that those who live in faithful, monogamous homosexual partnerships are completely acceptable for election and confirmation in any position the church has to offer. These two church bodies are also preparing liturgies suitable for gay marriages to be ready soon.

    If one looks at the history of fear and paranoia in the body politic of this nation, it is clear that homosexual people simply replaced black people as “legitimate” targets for those ever-present wells of hostility that had nowhere to go when racism began to die. Now it has become equally inappropriate to treat gay and lesbians as outcasts, so the anger, fear and paranoia of those who cannot adjust to a new world had to find another target. The health care debate offered that in spades. Those afraid of change fastened onto this subject with stunning swiftness.

    The depth of people’s anxiety over change, augmented by the insecurity brought on by the economic turndown and fueled by the powerful industries making fortunes on health care now coalesced to create an epidemic of fear in the debate over the reform of our health care system. So sudden, so hostile and irrational was the depth of the public response that even the Obama administration appeared to be caught off guard. When they recovered their political moorings they revealed a lack of understanding by attacking the absurdities rather than addressing the substance of people’s fears. Now, recognizing that mistake, they have attempted to recapture the initiative by having the president address a joint session of the Congress and to use that opportunity to refocus the debate. The work of reform will now have a chance to move on. To do so at least four principles will need to be faced and addressed.

    There is at present enormous waste in American health care. We spend 17% of our gross national product on health care, which is 40% to 50% higher than in any other developed nation, almost all of which have nationalized health care programs. Despite this cost, a significant portion of our population is without heath insurance and even more stand to lose it if they become unemployed. There is no evidence to suggest that this greater cost makes better health care possible and indeed much evidence that it does not. In fragmented “private” systems, tests are regularly duplicated by doctors who do not have access to previous test results.
    People need to recognize that they are already paying an enormous premium to cover those who have no insurance. If health care were universal, then the premiums for all people would go down. Hospitals across this land are required by law to care for those who come to them in need of help. This is so regardless of whether they have insurance or whether they are citizens, legal aliens or illegal aliens. The charge that the proposed health reform bill will cover health care for illegal aliens is nothing more than a smokescreen scare tactic. The real issue is that emergency room medical care, which the uninsured are now using, is the most expensive care possible and emergency room doctors have no ability to practice wellness or preventive care. It would thus be far cheaper to offer medical care to all people than to continue the present system. Health care reform must not be held hostage to xenophobic immigration fears.
    Reality must be faced in that if no reform of our present system is forthcoming, health care as presently practiced in America will not be sustainable for anyone. Businesses will continue to cut back benefits and will look for reasons to dismiss those with pre-existing conditions that are costly. Health care will become a luxury for the rich and the stability of our entire way of life will be called into question.
    Finally the time has come for this nation and our elected leaders to face the fact that universal health care is a moral issue. This administration must claim and defend this high ground if this debate is to be successfully won. Nothing dissipates fear as quickly as successful leadership. Nothing feeds fear more than weak and ineffective waffling. Failure at this moment would be a national catastrophe, an act of surrender to the most irrational voices in the land, the voices of fear, anger and paranoia in the face of change.
    A note from history may be helpful: when Social Security was passed in the Franklin Roosevelt administration, a similar rhetoric of government takeover, socialism, and communism rang throughout the land. The media voice of that day was not Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity but a Catholic priest named Father Charles Coughlin, but the misinformation was the same. That administration took the heat, passed the program and the rest is history. I pass on to our President the words of a very wise man: “When you do an audacious thing, you do not then tremble at your own audacity.”
    – John Shelby Spong

  9. Well Peter,

    I am glad you are so joyful in paying taxes. You certainly live the right country. Clearly we have fundamental philosophical assumptions that cause us to differ. I believe that families and religious groups are to deal with social issues like health care. Excessive taxes ultimately punish producers.

    I understand that you don’t feel your taxes are punitive. I suspect that is due to your lack of significant income. I don’t think it is right for the government to take 40% or more of your profits for something you invented.

    Excessive taxes hinder work.

    You are quite right that the U.S.can secure the borders. But we won’t for a variety of reasons. by the way, not sure where your racism comment comes from. There are plenty of white europeans in the US illegally. As for whether illegal aliens constitute a sufficient cost to the health care system to merit conversation, that is a point I think should be investigated. So let me say, that I don’t support nationalized health care simply for the tax reasons, leaving the illegal alien issue to the side.
    As for the Ph.D issue, I suspect people will go for them regardless of the government. So why not take the tax burden off and let people freely choose the pursuit of happiness they wish?

  10. Hi Stephen, If what we hear from families we know in the US and what we read is true, American families can’t provide health care. They can’t provide roads which is why it is done by governments. The same is true of military forces and social security; why should it be different for medical care?

    I earned enough in my working years to support a family reasonably comfortably but not in luxury. That is significant. My three children are doing quite well and have seven university degrees plus ohtr qualifications between them. It appears that my grandchildren will prosper. Significantly for our disicussion, no-one has been ruined by medical bills and all have had such reatments as they needed.

    ‘Excessive taxes hinder work’. Excessive medical isurance bills destroy great companies – look at General Motors.

    Sincerely, Peter

  11. Well Peter,

    You need to expand your reading list. First, when you say families, we need more definition. Most uninsured in the U.S. are illegals, self-employed, and/or young people who think they will never get sick.

    A significant number of people, surely millions are underinsured. Again, though you have ignored the main moral thrust of my position. The break down of the family is a leading cause of poverty. Divorce, for example is a leading cause of poverty among women and children. National health care is a band-aid for a prior moral issue. Private choices have consequences.

    I am glad you had enough money to have three children and send them to school. but your comment that you are not wealthy is typical of people who are wealthy. You are likely not Donald Trump wealthy but I suspect you could afford healthcare if you purchased a cheaper car, house, food, etc. I don’t need cable TV for example so therefore that money could be spent on insurance.

    the difference is I don’t condemn you for your choices. As a conservative, I believe in individual liberty. You have the freedom to make your financial choices, choices that would be eliminated if government said you must pay taxes for this and that.

    No. I don’t see roads the same way I see health care. In the U.S. roads have a commercial and with the Eisenhower system, a military use. I am at a loss as to how GM proves your case. But I suspect you will try to come up with a reason. If anything, it shows how GM is a microcosm for the way the nation will go.

  12. Hello Stephen, Very little of what you posted on September 3rd makes sense to me.

    I know families in the US who have had trouble finding enough money to meet medical bills whether insurance or because of a lack of it. These are good people, good citizens. To my mind it is unconscionable that in the richest country in the history of the world this should be the case.

    You lump together illegals, self-employed and ‘immortal’ youth.

    It is unlikely that illegals will be insured, and so long as Americans choose not to secure their southern border these people will come into the country.

    Self-employed people have no insurance because they cannot afford it, or they pay whatever they can only to find their families shut out in their hour of need. The latter is a form of legalised theft.

    Young people are not necessarily delusional. Most young people I knew when I was young tried to maintain medical coverage.

    You say I have ignored the ‘main moral thrust of your position’. I see none. A system which can afford to provide for its citizens, but which fails to do so and allows them to be swindled by so-called insurers needs repair.

    Surely, divorce cannot be justification for denying women and children needed medical care?

    You said in an earlier post that I probably never made significant enough money to mind paying taxes and now you say I must be wealthy. Well, I never made anything close to the money that President Obama wants to use as his line above which people may expect to ‘pay a little more’. I earned significant (your word) money, and by that I mean my family always managed; in the end, that is the only significance that matters!

    As I see it, no case can be made against a modern system of universal medical care for which all pay and from which all benefit.

    Genuine conservatives conserve what is worth-while; they do not stand in the way of progress. As for individual liberty nothing destroys it faster that medical need which cannot be met.

    Sincerely, Peter

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