Of Health Care and Human RightsDemocracy, Editorial, Family, Social Justice — By M. Morford on May 25, 2012 at 5:16 am
Words swirl around the issue of healthcare in the USA as if it were some kind of arcane medieval discussion along the lines of discerning how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.
But healthcare, like love, is no abstraction. It matters, and makes sense, only when it directly touches – or doesn’t touch – an individual in a specific situation.
If songs were written about healthcare, they would have the same themes as love songs; we either have it or don’t have it, we’ve lost it or we’ve found it – or we’re glad we have it.
And, like every cultural argument, this is not a new one. But, also like every other argument worth having, we bring our own contemporary biases, assumptions and confusions. Which is why a key premise of legal documentation is the principle of precedent; what had been the concerns and decisions in previous, similar cases.
As we look back, we just might learn something from how previous generations framed, defined and dealt with these same situations.
I grew up near a private, religiously based university. At that time there was a fierce debate over GI benefits and how to best support our returning troops as they returned to school and civilian life.
The most heated dimension of this argument was over whether tax-dollars should go to a religiously based institution. Was this, or was this not, a violation of church/state separation.
The solution to that debate was elegant in its clarity and simplicity; financial aid is for the student, not for the institution. The student was a free-agent in a competitive education/career market.
In the same way, healthcare is for individuals, not institutions.
One difference, of course, is that not everyone pursues higher education; everyone certainly does – or will – use healthcare.
Healthcare, like education, should be based on the requirements and preferences of the particular individual.
Can you imagine the chaos if it were not this way?
We currently have some Catholic organizations lobbying to be exempt from contraception as an element of healthcare programs. Will we also have Jehovah’s Witness organizations demanding that transfusions and hip, knee or other organ replacements not be covered? Or Christian Science organizations demanding that no medical interventions at all should be covered?
We have the choice, and I believe, the moral obligation, to do the right, fair and equitable thing for individuals.
The Constitution guarantees rights to individuals. To allow organizations more rights than the individuals they exist to serve is ludicrous as well as a violation of common sense – and legal precedent.
There are two primary arguments against the proposed healthcare changes.
Both fall apart upon close inspection.
First, the ever present issue of the expense. The USA already pays vastly more per person than any other developed country for health care.
I used to work with homeless people. One of the mathematical realities of the expense related to homelessness is that it is vastly cheaper to pay for housing than to pay for the entire related social, legal and health complications that arise from being homeless.
Every parent knows that regularly scheduled dental care is far cheaper, less painful and less traumatic than the neglect that leads to catastrophic intervention.
Every car owner knows that basic preventative maintenance is key to long-term care. The same is true of health care; it is far cheaper to provide routine care than to respond to catastrophic health complications.
Second, there is the hysterical fear of government intervention.
Does it really make sense to argue that the government could make us buy something we wouldn’t already buy?
To point out how ridiculous this argument is, I simply propose that those who make this statement make a pledge to hold to their beliefs; they should promise to never use health care. Denial of resuscitation and emergency medical intervention should be a small price to pay for ideological purity and consistency.