We had an interesting talk at our Lions' lunch recently at which a local physician gave us his opinion on health care in America and where it needs to go to benefit our country. He showed a number of charts that indicate that America is definitely not the top-rated country in the world on the list of developed countries. On one chart we rated about equal with Chile and Turkey.
As he stated, he is not disparaging Chile and Turkey, but surely the United States should have a better health care system than those countries since we are the richest and the most powerful nation in the world. Other charts showed that we have some of the highest health care costs while many millions of Americans go without adequate health care.
As a response to a question regarding whether he wanted a socialistic health care system, the doctor gave an example of a city in New Jersey that did an experiment using their homeless people. First they studied the problem and estimated the cost to the community for the homeless and others with no insurance. This group of people usually do not practice preventive health care and they use the emergency rooms for care for which you and I would go to the doctor.
The cost was in the millions. Then philanthropists and others provided housing and regular health care for this demographic and they discovered that the total cost of health care in the city had a significant drop. It made economic sense.
An argument that we often hear from those who do not believe in socialized health care is that those without insurance have learned to game the system. For example, they know that they can go to an emergency room and get care without insurance. It is not the kind of plan that most of us would choose, but these indigent folks have learned to game the system.
That is a morally insufficient argument in my opinion. We should be taking care of those who cannot for some reason take good care of themselves.
As far as gaming the system is concerned, I believe that we all practice some form of gaming. For example, I have observed that it is possible to drive over the speed limit if you don't go too far over the limit. Speed limits are the law. They are not a suggestion or a choice. So, we have learned to game the system to our advantage.
While my wife ensures that we pay our fair taxes and she does all of the calculations herself to avoid paying someone else, plenty of people are willing to pay tax preparers and some of them are hoping that they can find hidden tax loopholes to reduce their tax payments. That is gaming the system. An entire industry is based on gaming the tax system for loopholes.
Page 2 of 2 - Maybe the indigent have learned to game the system for health care, but that just shows that they are pretty darn smart and have learned to survive in a country that does not care for its poor and down-trodden. Tough love is not the answer when it comes to health care if tough love means that only the well-employed can afford to practice good health care.
America needs a system by which everyone can be cared for, including preventive care, so that they stay healthy longer and do not suffer from simple problems that most of us with good insurance just pass right over. A healthy America is a stronger America. Somewhere I read that God asked that we all take care of the poor and the helpless as if they were God himself.
Our present health care system is very expensive and is not working well for a lot of us and it is barely working at all for many millions of Americans. To be a truly great country, we need to ensure that all Americans get great health care.
Matt Nowak lives in Lansing and works as a natural resources manager.