Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Who deserves access to health care?

I entered into a conversation with someone on one of interactive social networking websites where a person can spend most of their day and not really get anything done. Turns out, we have different opinions about the role of government in providing healthcare. Of course, I don't expect everyone to agree with me; but this is by blog, and I get to write what I think. My seven readers should feel free to respond in the comments section below ... or not.

The conversation started because I re-posted an article encouraging members of the US Congress to give up their own government-sponsored healthcare before repealing the healthcare bill passed earlier this year. On the one hand, members of Congress are simply employees of the government, and the government happens to be an employer who provided healthcare for its employees. From this perspective, they're no different from anyone else who works for a larger entity. If you're skilled enough, educated enough, and/or lucky enough to work for an employer who provides health insurance for employees, then you get to have health insurance.

If, however, you choose to work for yourself, or for one of the many small business who don't have the resources to provide health insurance for their employees, then you're stuck paying out of your own pocket for health insurance. Further, if you're in the position of having to choose between spending your paycheck on food or health insurance, hunger is the more immediate need, and insurance will probably be left 'til later.

From a purely capitalist perspective, this is how it should be. Those who are able to provide health insurance for themselves (either by finding a job that provides insurance or by finding a job that pays enough that they can buy their own insurance) are the ones who deserve to have insurance. If you're not able to provide insurance for yourself, then you don't deserve to have insurance. The way I see it, that's basic supply and demand. Look at insurance like any other consumer good. When my children ask me if they can have an ipod (for instance), I tell them that they can certainly have one when they can buy it. Once it becomes a big enough priority, they will save their money so they can buy it. If they don't have the resources to buy one, they don't get one. Supply and Demand.

So now I have to wonder, is health insurance something that ought to be earned, or do human beings have some intrinsic value that would lead us as a society to believe that everyone ought to have access to health care at a cost that will not leave them in poverty? The way I see it, the essence of this debate is whether access healthcare is a) earned or b) something that the people of a wealthy nation ought to feel obligated to provide for people whether they have a job or not.

I believe that every single person has intrinsic worth, that the life and health of one person is not more valuable that the life and health of any other person. For this reason, I have to opt for universal health care.

The way I see it, healthcare should be free and available to all people regardless of ability to pay. Considering the costs, some people are forced to choose between not receiving healthcare and going into unimaginable debt to pay the bill. I believe that's an unnecessary choice.

Some argue that the government should not be in the business of managing healthcare. Maybe not ~ but I wonder what the other answer would be. The government is not perfect, and the government may not be the perfect choice; but neither should the health insurance system be in charge. The health insurance industry is concerned with profits, and (from a capitalist perspective) rightly so. But from a healthcare perspective, maximizing profits works against providing complete healthcare.

Maybe you can help me get beyond my simplistic perspective. If the lives of rich people are more valuable than the lives of poor people, then fine. But I don't see how, especially from a Christian perspective, we can look at healthcare as something that must be earned (by having the right job, or enough financial resources) if we value the life and health of everyone equally.


1 comment:

  1. What is a bit interesting is that, while the government "runs" healthcare, they contract so much out. So in reality, nonprofits, following government rules, run a lot of the government, healthcare or otherwise. When you look at insurance companies, the nonprofits actually really like and support the reform and reinvest a lot of income they receive into things like Medicaid, in which money is lost, but better the investment go there than to big bonuses. Better get to my Medicaid meeting - where all the nonprofits are :) I do think healthcare is a right. People haven't read about the legislation, and it wasn't marketed well, unfortunately.