universal health care in the U.S.
The core question about health care.
Results of lack of universal health care.
What is the core question?
There is usually a fundamental question at the heart of each controversial debate. Unless it is directly addressed, progress towards resolution of the conflict will be slow. Unfortunately, the core question(s) are sometimes not discussed at all. Much public debate involves peripheral items.
- In the case of abortion access, the question involves the status of the pre-embryo, embryo, and fetus:
No consensus has been reached; no concensus appears possible.
- Does it become a human person during the process of conception, or
- Is it a form life with human DNA that becomes a human person at some time in pregnancy: for example, when:
- it implants in the wall of the womb,
- its heart starts beating,
- it begins to look human,
- it achieves sentience -- i.e. becomes conscious,
- it is viable and can live outside of the mother's womb,
- it is born,
- it is breathing on its own, or
- at some other stage?
- In the case of equal rights for lesbians, gays and bisexuals, the core question involves the nature of sexual orientation and sexual behavior:
- Is homosexuality chosen and changeable? Is it abnormal, unnatural, and intrinsically immoral and disordered, or
- Is it a trait that is discovered and is unchangeable? Is it normal, natural and morally neutral for a minority of adults? or, perhaps,
- Is it some combination of these attributes?
In the case of health care, the main core question is ethical: who should receive health care, and who should be denied? Prior to 2010-MAR, only certain groups of Americans received comprehensive health care:
- The poor via Medicaid, a government program of what is often referred to as "socialized medicine."
- Those over 65 years of age via Medicare, a government program, also commonly called "socialized medicine."
- Those who can afford the premiums of private insurance plans.
- Workers who are lucky enough to have employers who provide insurance.
- Prison inmates -- although their level of care is generally abysmal.
- People who live in specific locations -- like San Francisco or Massachusetts -- that provide universal care to their citizens.
Other Americans are out of luck.
Consequences of lack of health care:
Some 45 million Americans have lacked insurance. Most are gainfully employed. They:
- They do not experience grinding poverty and thus cannot access Medicaid;
- They are too young to access Medicare;
- Their employer does not provide health insurance either because it is not regarded as a high priority, or because the company cannot afford it; or
- they cannot afford to buy it as individuals.
They are trapped.
More people join this group daily as a result of:
- Having lost their job,
- Decisions by their employers,
- Abuses by the insurance companies. Some companies terminate people's insurance if they get sick; some refuse to insure them because of pre-existing conditions; some deny them insurance for frivolous reasons: one company terminated the insurance of a woman with breast cancer because she did not originally declare that she had acne as a teenager. Acne is of course unrelated to breast cancer; however it was sufficient for the insurance company to justify dropping her at her time of great need.
A more direct result of the lack of universal coverage is that 45,000 Americans die yearly because they don't have insurance. This is almost double the murder rate in the country.
A study, conducted by Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Health Alliance, found that:
"... uninsured, working-age Americans have a 40% higher risk of death than their privately insured counterparts, up from a 25% excess death rate found in 1993." 1
Study co-author Steffie Woolhandler is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and a primary care physician at Cambridge Health Alliance. She noted:
"Historically, every other developed nation has achieved universal health care through some form of nonprofit national health insurance. Our failure to do so means that all Americans pay higher health care costs, and 45,000 pay with their lives."
Study co-author, David Himmelstein is an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, and a primary care physician at Cambridge Health Alliance. He said:
"The Institute of Medicine, using older studies, estimated that one American dies every 30 minutes from lack of health insurance. Even this grim figure is an underestimate — now one dies every 12 minutes."
Unfortunately, their study did not indicate the number of Americans who are suffering needlessly with disabilities that could have been prevented and/or treated with proper health care. Meanwhile, the silent killers -- breast cancer, prostate cancer, high blood pressure, high chlorestrol, and diabetes -- go undetected and untreated. These suffering Americans must number in the tens of millions.
- David Cecere, "New study finds 45,000 deaths annually linked to lack of health coverage," Harvard Science, 2009-SEP-17, at: http://www.harvardscience.harvard.edu/
Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2010-MAR-22
Latest update: 2010-MAR-26
Author: B.A. Robinson