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Health Care- Reframing the Conversation

July 10, 2017 
By Bill Hohlfeld

Sometimes, it helps to take a step back and look at a conversation from a new perspective. Judging from the round after round of stalemates in the House and Senate regarding healthcare in the United States, I think this is one of those times.

Let me start out by putting lots of people’s teeth on edge. I think we need to change the health care debate from “who gets it?” to “how does everyone get it?”  Why? I think there are several  reasons and we should take a moment to look at them one at a time

1) The preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America.
That’s right. That’s where the founding fathers said that the whole point was to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility… [and] promote the general welfare…” Now, I suppose you could argue that making sure everyone receives adequate healthcare insurance has nothing to do with being fair, (although I don’t see how). But, even if you could, you’d be more hard pressed to claim it had nothing to do with domestic tranquility. If you are not convinced of that, just check the anxiety level of the millions of people out there who are wondering every day whether or not they are about to lose their healthcare coverage. That brings us to the idea of general welfare.
Well, not only is it a case of my not wanting to be sick; I don’t want you sick either, because I don’t live in a bubble. That means I ride trains and planes with you. My children go to the same school as yours. You might prepare my food or serve it. When I look at it that way, I’m selfish enough to want you to have access to the treatment you need, not to mention sick leave, but that’s another column.

2) A Universal Healthcare system could save us money.
Yes, you read that correctly. As of 2012, according to the Heritage Foundation, (not exactly a font of leftist rhetoric)  the United States government was spending more money per capita on health care than 20 other industrialized nations who have figured out a way to cover all their citizens. So, you can’t use the bogus argument that “that’s because those countries are so much smaller.” The number is per capita, and therefore in each country proportional to the tax paying base. And before anyone goes into post -apocalyptic fantasies of a socialist state ruined by taxation, I would encourage them to check the Heritage Foundation’s 2015 Index of Economic Freedom. The United States ranks #12, meaning that eleven countries in the world are more capitalist than we are, and ten of them have universal coverage. Among them are Denmark and Switzerland, and there are no complaints of long waiting times in either of those places. Let’s face it, if the people famous for cheese, chocolate and holding on to Nazi gold could work this out, for us it should be a slam dunk. That brings me to my next point.

3) We are supposed to be #1.
For the record, I unabashedly believe that the United States of America was, and always will be, the grandest experiment in government. We are the people who saved the world for democracy. We are not all speaking German today. (You’re welcome.) We went into outer space and walked on the moon because we said we could. And, no matter how many countries learned how to produce goods cheaply, it was American engineering that led the way in automotive design, invented the VHS recorder and the DVD player, and gave us (whether you are a fan or not) Apple and Facebook. Of course it galls me to think that Hong Kong, Singapore and Estonia can provide services that we don’t and get a higher ranking in economic freedom by a conservative think tank. And there is one last reason, that I will admit has no economic or chauvinistic underpinnings.

4)    It’s the right thing to do.
I think it’s possible to talk intelligently about doing the right thing without either getting all high and mighty or tilting at windmills. We are the country that continues to increase suffrage. We said it was wrong to deny the right to vote to African Americans, women, and 18 year olds who were being sent to die in jungles. We said you can’t make people drink at separate water fountains, or tell them their religion doesn’t measure up, or for that matter, that they had to have one. People of the same sex have won the right to marry one another if they so choose, and a variety of battles continue to rage in our courts. Some of us may be happy with all those results and some of us may not. Some of us may think that the advances we have made have taken us far too long. So be it. But what remains true is that we keep trying to get it right. We work hard at living up to our reputation. So it’s time to shut out the voices that would have us believe that a majority of our citizens are freeloaders. Americans work hard. It’s time to tune out the rhetoric that tells us “it just can’t be done,” or “what do you want to be, some kind of socialist country?’ I’m not suggesting we suppress those voices. That would be wrong. It would be un-American not to let them drone on. But let’s ignore them because of their inaccuracies and falsehoods, and move on. Let’s move on to a place where every American has a healthcare system that works. 

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