The American government has a superb health care plan. Let’s review the details.
Fresh water available everywhere for drinking and cleaning. Large numbers of people use to die from water borne illness, and small skin infections.
Fluoride for the teeth. Before fluoride and other universal dental hygiene, people had “tooth-aches” so often that it was standard to have two drinks of hard liquor with lunch everyday to kill the pain (and speed death).
Plagues use to come along every generation or so and wipe out 10 to 50 percent of the population.
Famine was once a regular occurrence.
Today, the infectious diseases spread hand to mouth like colds and flu's are a mild annoyance, they no longer kill off large numbers of people every year like measles, mumps, polio, and small pox once did. We could probably eliminate colds and flu as well if we were willing to wear masks at the first signs of illness.
If you do happen to get an infection, anti-biotics are so inexpensive and readily available that they are being over used.
The government makes sure that doctors have degrees which makes it less likely that they will kill you.
So what’s left?
Genetic diseases are still around, some of them are mitigated by medicine, some not. Some can be avoided by testing before pregnancy.
That leaves degenerative diseases which sometimes coincide with death in later years. Not getting addicted to drugs, alchohol or inhaling large amounts of smoke, all reduce the likelihood of developing a degenerative disease. It is still being debated whether or not government should make controlling these behaviors part of its health plan.
Over eating is a killer which may not have been very common in the past, but it is also entirely preventable through personal discipline. Only war and communism have been successful at stopping industrial commerce from putting food in peoples mouths. But government plays an important (if imperfect) role in making sure the food we buy doesn’t kill us.
On the subject of personal discipline, getting enough sleep and exercise, and being part of social networks, all have enormous benefits in keeping illnesses at bay.
Accidents are really a different animal--some are easily avoided, some are not. Our emergency wards are half full with people hurt by drugs and alcohol. Emergency rooms also care for people who have heart attacks and strokes, and seniors who have fallen down. Accidents are only a percentage of emergency room problems but the system of caring for people who have accidents and allowing them to pay for it over time works well, even though all the drug addicts’ expenses are averaged into their bills. As a society, we have a choice, we can take away the civil rights of people caught abusing drugs or we can use our emergency rooms to play catch and release with them, either way the cost should be a number we all know so that we can debate how to pay for it.
Pregnancy should be an entirely separate system. If as a society we believe that preemies, and severely deformed or oxygen deprived children should be kept alive and nurtured, and we do believe that, then it makes sense to create an insurance pool for them, or fund this entirely by charity the way all our hospitals used to be funded.
(I’m sure many people choose not to get married or to wait until after they have children to get married, just in case they have an expensive child-birth. With an expensive child-birth the independent mother can throw herself on the mercy of the state and the father can keep his bank account.)
The commercial drive of our society has been bringing the costs of health care down very, very fast. But constant new innovation and experimentation in medicine is enormously expensive.
I don’t really have an opinion on medical insurance except to say that it has always seemed too expensive for me by a factor of 10. I’d be willing to pay what I pay for car insurance to pre-empt the cost of an accident or a surprise degenerative or genetic disease, but not ten times that amount. I’d probably be willing to pay more if I thought it was protecting me from losing my house, if I owned a house.
The debate is very complex, and there is no reason to believe it will be resolved in my lifetime. That shouldn’t stop us from acknowledging how fantastically successful our government run health care system already is.
It may seem like I’m drifting into the realm of politics here, but I’m not. The main reason I’m writing this blog is to point out that it is really hard to understand what religion used to be. The ways of life and death that nurtured the world’s religions are often in direct competition with modernity and air conditioning. Today, the realm of what we are calling religion or faith or ritual or sacred --simply does not have to deal with the same forces it once did. It’s not that we are less religious, it’s just that the world is so different it’s challenging to even imagine what it used to be like.
Gongfu, ritual theater and possession rituals developed in a China in which people got sick and died a lot more often than we can imagine. Chinese medicine was for a thousand years the most developed form of medicine around, but it never came close to doing what we take for granted in the 21st Century.
PS. I wrote this about 3 weeks ago and didn’t publish it because I know how fast a blog can turn sour when it starts talking politics.
But, heck, now that the United States Health Bill seems near death I feel I can at least point out that as an uninsured, one-person business owner, there didn’t seem to be anything for me. In fact, since I work for several institutions part time, I was probably looking at a pay cut because these institutions were likely to be required to supply health insurance to their full time employees. And I’ve heard nothing at all about the role personal conduct plays in health care. Should we folk who take really good care of our health be paying the medical expenses of people who are sick do to laziness or self-destructive behavior?
Compassion is a natural treasure. But unlimited compassion as an ideal will slowly degenerate a society into fighting and chaos.