Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Universal healthcare: a dialogue

UPDATED FRIDAY MORNING: I want to read all the comments a couple more times as I formulate a response--you've given me much to think about. I also want to clarify I'm not advocating for or against universal health care--just trying to learn more about the issues involved. I had never really even thought about this stuff prior to seeing the documentary and wanted to facilitate a discussion on the subject. I truly appreciate everyone that has taken the time--and shown the courage--to share their opinions on such a controversial topic. I hope to post some responses tomorrow morning.

Over the weekend, my husband and I watched a documentary on health care and insurance in the United States. It was not our typical Friday night fare, but a friend urged us to see it, so we did.

There are two sides to every story, of course, and this is a topic I know little about. But watching the film definitely made me think more about the issue. I was glad that Abbey posted on this very topic yesterday. She is an American, who lived in France for several years, and recently moved from Paris to Rome. She offers her own perspective of a health care situation she faced when returning to the States for Christmas.

I am thankful my family has health insurance, unlike 45 million Americans. But the documentary concerned me not only about potential insurance issues we ourselves might face, but also for those who are not receiving care because they can't afford it, or who are going under in debt to pay for even basic medical treatment. Here is a fascinating overview of the healthcare system in the Unites States, as well as a case for universal healthcare written by the American Medical Student Association.

A quote from the case referenced above: "At its root, the lack of health care for all in America is fundamentally a moral issue. The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not have some form of universal health care (defined as a basic guarantee of health care to all of its citizens). While other countries have declared health care to be a basic right, the United States treats health care as a privilege, only available to those who can afford it. In this sense, health care in America is treated as an economic good like a TV or VCR, not as a social or public good."

I'd be really interested to hear from those of you live/have lived outside the U.S. about your thoughts on universal healthcare. I thought of the mayor's motto in the beloved Mitford books: "We take care of our own" because this seems to me to be a stewardship issue. In the conclusion of the case for UHC, the following question is posed: "Is it indeed acceptable to deny people health care based on their ability to pay?"


Anonymous said...

I think it is a stewardship issue. There are so many things that hinge on good health the most important to be is the ability to go to school/work and thus enable yourself to get ahead of where you are now.
Why on earth the United States is not a country that is able to help out a neighbor with healthcare is beyond me.
My community hosts a free dental weekend. The local dentists, hygienists, etc give up one or two days and set up a mobile dental clinic. cleanings, fillings, extractions, root canals, etc. They don't do anything with braces.

Anonymous said...

The anonymous posting was by Kristen. I'm usually just a lurker. Anyways...wanted to identify myself.

Jthemilker said...

Can I just add my two cents? 1) I think it is a sham that people who pay cash for medical expenses have to pay full-price, while those with insurance are paying a pro-rated price. You'd think that the cold-hard-cash (especially paid up-front) would be worth more than the few dollars gained after a substantial wait for insurance processing. 2) I think that eventually employers will stop paying so much towards insurance and instead give the employees options of where that money could go to - like arrangments for pre-paid care, healthcare savings accounts, or cold hard cash in the pocket. If and when this comes to pass - the US would be in a world of hurt because there are SO MANY who cannot properly budget and would spend that money on a whim. And that's the end of my two cents... as lengthy as it is - SO complex and a little off the real topic anyway.

spaghettipie said...

I'm not sure I agree that it is completely a stewardship issue. When you have people from other countries flocking to the United States for specialty care . . . or even basic care because their country's quota for certain tests or procedures for that month is full and waiting could be life-threatening . . . or because they got bumped on a waiting list for a procedure and have been moved to the end of the line . . .

When you really evaluate those other countries who have universal health care systems - none of them have produced a successful model.

Does our health care system need to be revised? Absolutely. Do I think we need to have better programs for those who truly need it? Certainly. Is universal health care the answer? Not at all. Every health care system has its problems. I think we'd be better off fixing the one we have.

LA Times article
My Two Cents - This outlines some of the issues well. I'm not necessarily advocating this blog.

Lauren@Baseballs&Bows said...

I will say that I think our healthcare system needs to be changed. However, I am concerned with the general trend that we are seeing that the government should take care of EVERYTHING. In our area, they are pushing for universal preschool. Where my parents live (southern CA) many people don't buy earthquake insurance because it is expensive and they know the government will bail them out. People all across this country are in over their heads with mortgages they can't afford, and they expect the government to bail them out.

Again, I don't mean to sound harsh, because I do believe that we are to care for the poor. Unfortunately, I think our country is moving towards expecting the government to take care of everything. That is an attitude that I believe puts our nation at risk.

Again, I do think we need changes, and I am NOT against helping those who really need it!

Amy said...

I have not lived in another country, but I have people in my family who are under mounting pressures from their medical bills and it just breaks my heart. To have to take out a small loan to cover care in the ICU just seems horrible.

We have done self-employment and poor insurance, we have paid for COBRA when my husband lost his job, we have went without because the cost was too high.

Our system greatly disappoints me an I am thankful that we are in a position now where we can afford insurance and that it is an option.

Great discussion, Carrie!

Ewokgirl said...

I've lived in a country with socialized medicine. It was about 20 years behind in medical know-how, and it was difficult to get any major work done. For example, we'd heard that the wait list for an EKG was 6 months long. That's ridiculous!

I went in one time with strep. The doctor took a look at my throat and expressed shock that I didn't have my tonsils. All I could think was, "What? Don't you people do tonsillectomies???" Then his diagnosis: Your throat is red and infected. No, really? That's why I'm here! They were so behind the times that their strep test was a blood test, not a throat culture!

Those who want universal healthcare in the U.S. don't seem to understand that the countries that have it tax their citizens heavily for it. It sounds like a nice concept, but I think there'd be a huge uproar if citizens here were taxed for it. We like nice things, but we don't like to pay for them. Just look at the credit crisis in this country for proof of that!

In addition to the heavy taxation, it would reduce incentives for doctors to improve. Let's face it; capitalism promotes creativity. People do what they can to get ahead. Without financial incentive, people wouldn't be as likely to work to be better. Ideally, a doctor would always be working to be the best he or she can be, but reality often doesn't match idealism.

It is a shame that people in our country don't have health insurance because they can't afford it. There are things about the health-care insurance industry that really make me angry. Number one on that list would be the fact that a company can deny care for a pre-existing condition if there is a lapse in insurance. Since my husband has kidney disease, if we were ever to find ourselves without insurance, we'd likely find ourselves in financial straits if he had to go through dialysis or transplant in the future. But I guess health-care reforms within the insurance industry is a different subject...

Tracy said...

First, I agree with makes me crazy to think of the government taking over something like healthcare. It isn't their responsibility to take of us in that way.

When it comes to us personally, we are in a unique situation. My husband MUST get treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. It is not an exaggeration to say if he didn't go there he would die. He most certainly would do to the rarity of his condition and the misdiagnosis of even specialists here in our state. Universal healthcare would make it so we would be at the mercy of the government when it came to selecting where we get our care. My children have a 50/50 chance of needing the same care so this will be an ongoing issue for us.

I have a dear friend in Canada who is a nurse and a patient. She says universal healthcare costs everyone and limits your options. The wealthy will STILL continue to get better treatment while the poor will struggle even more due to the higher taxes.

I'm anxious to see what will happen- especially when it appears the healthcare system is already broken.

Brie said...

I agree with the majority of those who have is not the responsibility of government to provide healthcare for everybody. The thing that needs to be fixed with our healthcare system is the way health insurance companies operate, not who provides the healthcare coverage. I think the idea of occassional free clinics is a great idea for those who truly can't afford it, but my opinion is that universal healthcare would cause more problems than it would solve in the long run. It will end up like social security and welfare, and we all know where those programs are headed.

Susan said...

I live in Germany and used to work for Blu.eCro.ssBl.ueShield. I know a thing or two about insurance. German and French doctors make 1/3rd as much as American doctors and less educated than the US. Americans are paying $4,500.00 per capita for insurance and the Germans $2,500.00 per capita for insurance. The Americans are paying more for less. Why? big doctor paychecks and fraud insurance. We need to kick our Tort Law system in the butt (in short, stop frivolous lawsuits!!).

If we took on a Universal System we would have to convince the doctors to take a lower paycheck or pay a higher percentage of tax than the Europeans. With 10,000 people a day retiring and 2,000,000 illegal aliens crossing our border a year, who is going to float this bill?

Working in insurance, it will be soon that our Health System will collapse if something is not done. I am surprised it has not happened already. We do need some kind of government program, I am unsure the Universal Coverage is the way. US ranks number 54 in fairness of heathcare out of 101 countries. I think this is outrageous. There has got to be an in between.

spaghettipie said...

One more thought - if the stewardship issue really bothers you, there are such things as Christian healthcare co-ops. I've looked into one before and I'll go dig up the name and send it to you if you're interested. It didn't meet our needs, but it's definitely an interesting concept of the Body taking care of itself . . . even down to healthcare costs.

Jill@Who Could Ask for Anything More said...

When youthink about it, the government already pays for health care for many, many people who "cannot afford" it. It's called Medicaid. And, I say "cannot afford" it because they "cannot work" see where that is leading. I'm all for helping those in need, but not for helping those who don't help themselves, which is exactly what Hillary's universal health care is all about. It's about keeping down those who need to be given a hand up. Even illegal aliens get free health care courtesy of all of us who live here legally, work and taxes. I used to work with someone who was Canadian and his dad died at home after having a heart attack. He was going to have free heart surgery, but his wait was 7-8 months. The horror stories my Canadian friend told me about their "free health care" were horrible. That's what Michael Moore neglected to show in his recent movie. It's free if you can live long enough to get it. So, I'm sure you can tell I'm not for government mandated health care. You think it's bad now...wait until Hillary gets her paws on it.

Jan said...

I have not picked my candidate (our state primaries aren't until next month), just pointing this out as I don't want to come across as a Clinton supporter. I'm not supporting anyone as yet. However, I have read Hillary's health plan at and she does not advocate universal health care. There was an attempt at it during her husband's administration, maybe Jill was thinking of that? To quote the site: "If you have a plan you like, you keep it. If you want to change plans or aren't currently covered, you can choose from dozens of the same plans available to members of Congress, or you can opt into a public plan option like Medicare." You DO NOT HAVE to join the government-sponsored plan. Just wanted to point this out to stop any misinformation from spreading. And joining a plan does not mean it will be free. My daughters have insurance through a state plan. I pay for it....not hundreds of dollars, that's true, but it's not free.

I do wish there was an affordable insurance plan anyone could use. Not everyone is physically or mentally capable of doing work beyond the discount store/fast food level. When my husband lost his job in 2003 we were offered COBRA at over $800/month. How is an unemployed person supposed to come up with that much? It was quite a bit more than the mortgage payment. We went without for a while. In fact my son and I don't have insurance at this time. I don't know what the answer is but hope we find a way.

A, B & C said...

I will be posting the second part of my Health Care post on Friday and I think many people would be surprised to hear what I have to say. I admit that the French frustrate me in many ways, but there healthcare system was incredible. Sorry, Susan, I have to disagree with you on this. I wasn't in the system personally since I didn't pay French taxes, but many of my French friends were and they were very happy. And no, I'm not talking about wealthy families with enough to pay private doctors. I'm speaking about everyday people, living in small apartments with one car, only able to visit public doctors because they didn't want to pay extra for private. It worked well and they were very happy with it.

Anonymous said...

This is a complicated issue that affects all of us. Whether we continue with private health care as we currently have or end up with health care provided by the government, it will continue to be expensive. Wishing everyone good health! Love you, Mom

Anonymous said...

Please check out this link while pondering universal healthcare. This is the best summation of all the myths about socialized medicine that I have found. One excellent model of a biblically based health care provider would be local crisis pregnancy centers and clinics. This state-of-the-art care and counsel is provided freely from donors that have a heart for life. There is usually no government funding at all because this would eliminate sharing the Gospel. These clnics have stood the test of time and continue to flourish and offer more quality services every year. I think we need to look at the Biblical model for caring for friends, family and those in need instead of thinking it is the governments job to take more of our money to do so. The Proverbs 31 woman is a great place to start. Thank you for opening up this issue for discussion.
Friendly lurker,