Why All Americans Deserve Health Care
By David Metcalfe
October 31, 2018
A 2009 study by Harvard Medical School found that nearly 45,000 Americans die every year due to a lack of health coverage. After the results of the study came out, Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a Harvard professor and primary care physician, said, “every other developed nation has achieved universal health care through some form of non-profit national health insurance. Our failure to do so means that all Americans pay higher health care costs, and 45,000 pay with their lives.” (Cecere, 2009).
In this article, I wish to argue that being in favor of privatized health care is not only wrong, but requires an incredible amount of ignorance, stupidity, and misanthropy. America’s system is a mess, but more than that, has large groups of people who keep it that way. It’s not working, and it could work much better if people were willing to accept obvious facts and develop a better understanding of what it means to be in a society.
Christ the Capitalist
When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “Are you employed?” he asked. ‘Not currently’, replied the man. “Oh, that’s a completely different form then. Wish you would’ve told me that sooner. Alright, let’s see here…do you have a pre-existing condi- oh yeah, of course, the leprosy, duh. Ok so for one healing, and this is a pretty major one so it’s going to be a little more than I charged the blind man last week, you’re going to have to tithe about 20 shekels of silver.”
“But I can’t afford that” said the man. And Jesus said unto him, “Then get a job, loser.”
It’s pretty obvious that I had to do some serious editing to Matthew 8 to get to the point where Jesus was espousing a right-wing view on health care. The actual scriptures talk of a man who healed indiscriminately to all, regardless of whether they had jobs, wealth, status, or any other number of things modern America uses to limit health care to its citizens. I wonder how, in a nation that is supposedly made up by three quarters Christian, they could take such a radically different view than Jesus.
The Right To Life
The central theory of American government is the protection of natural rights, most famously expressed by this statement in the United States Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
American political theory is based on the idea that the government is obligated to uphold fundamental rights to its citizens, and if it fails in doing so, that the people are justified in overthrowing them. They make use of various instruments or “servants of the public good” to protect these rights. When a police officer sees someone being murdered, they are morally obliged, as both an instrument of government and servant of the people, to do what they can to stop the murderer. Firefighters, upon seeing someone in a burning building, are obliged to do whatever they can to help the person escape. Why then, when threatened with cancer, are doctors not employed as instruments of government to protect the life of the person being attacked?
The fact is, we are all dependent on one another to abide by a social contract, wherein we allow each person their right to life, liberty and property to the best of our ability, and the government is necessary to maintain a society’s obligation to act in this way. Because one’s health is directly correlated with one’s life, and this right is under attack, it is the government’s responsibility to use instruments in the protection of this right.
These instruments used to maintain individual rights cost money. Since the government is not itself an economically producing entity, it requires the collection of a certain amount of economic production produced by the society. This collective donation for the protection of individual rights is known as taxes. Just as we pay taxes for police and firefighters, we ought to do the same for doctors and nurses.
The System Sucks
America spends more on health care per capita than any other developed nation. According to the World Health Organization, the United States spent $9,403 for each person in 2014, and more on health care as a percentage of its GDP (17.1%) than any nation in the world. About 64% of health spending was paid for by the government (WHO, 2014).
And yet, despite this huge amount of spending, somewhere around 50 million Americans do not have health insurance. Medical debt contributes to about 46% of all personal bankruptcies and 39% of below-average income Americans reported forgoing to see a doctor for a medical issue due to financial limitations (DeNavas-Walt, et al., 2010).
And with all this spending and difficulty, the actual health care is no better. America has slightly better wait times for certain surgeries than Canada, but other countries, like Germany and Switzerland, are quite comparable (The Commonwealth Fund, 2010). The current system is terribly ineffective, and the government is not accomplishing its duty to protect the rights of its citizens as a result.
How We Can Fix It
There are many things we can do to bring down expenses. Direct ones include lowering administrative costs, investing in medical research focused on improving economic efficiency of procedures, maximizing staff efficiency, and using expensive procedures and medications only when absolutely necessary. But more than anything, preventative medicine is the best thing for everyone involved. Not only does it cost nothing to the health care system, but most importantly, means a dramatic improvement in the quality of life for people. Diabetes and heart disease, for example, are two of the most expensive maladies in the health care system, and they are about 90% preventable through good diet, exercise, and low stress. Education and initiatives in a holistic approach, between schools, parents, health care professionals, and others will do best to promote and sustain healthy lifestyles.
But even after these expenses are brought down, there are still millions of Americans who cannot afford health care. We need a system that understands and upholds health care as a fundamental human right; not as a privilege for the wealthy. This can be achieved easily, through doing what every other major nation has done: provide universal health care. There’s no need to go through private insurance providers. We can simply have one government operated system that operates the same for everyone. Thus far, this has proven to actually reduce costs while simultaneously granting more people the right to health care.
Never should a parent have to sell their house to cover the cost of treating a child with cancer. Never should a senior citizen have to choose between food and medicine. Never should a woman have to abort a baby because she can’t afford to have it in the hospital.
Never should any American be denied their fundamental right to life simply because they are not part of the wealthy class. This nation was founded on the governing principle that all Americans equally deserved rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without discrimination. Christians carry a unique obligation to follow their savior’s example of selflessly giving to help all who need it. But all Americans can get behind the spirit of caring for their fellow man.
Eventually, we can hope for an entire world where diseases are a thing of the past, and everyone is able to live a full, healthy life. In many ways, compared to previous civilizations, we have achieved that. But still, horrible diseases and injuries continue to plague mankind. They are awful enough without us adding unnecessary financial burden onto them.
Universal health care is the direction that all major successful nations are going, and America is lagging behind. How many more Americans have to be needlessly financially burdened, go without medical care, or even die, before we make the system better? We can do it, and for the sake of all Americans, we have to do it.
Cecere, D. (2009). New study finds 45,000 deaths annually linked to lack of health coverage. The Harvard Gazette. Retrieved from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2009/09/new-study-finds-45000-deaths-annually-linked-to-lack-of-health-coverage/
DeNavas-Walt, C., Proctor, B., Smith, J. (2010). Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States. US Census Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p60-239.pdf
The Commonwealth Fund (2010). International Health Policy Survey in Eleven Countries. Retrieved from https://www.commonwealthfund.org/sites/default/files/documents/___media_files_publications_chartbook_2010_pdf_2010_ihp_survey_chartpack_full_12022010.pdf
WHO (2014). United States of America- Statistics. World Health Organization. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/countries/usa/en/