There’s an easy way to fix health care. Now that we’ve turned it into a complicated, partisan political fight, it seems like there is no solution in sight. But there is. It will take putting some perspective on it, answering some questions, and deciding to do what’s right.
A few observations.
Let’s talk priorities. This is about each individual person, and their personal health care. It is not about profit margins or tax breaks or anything else. We have a sizeable group of people in this country who advocate for the sanctity of human life, a principle they primarily apply to the unborn. But if life is sacred, and I certainly believe that it is, then access to health care, the best that society can provide, is a basic human right. A book could be written substantiating that principle. From a Christian moral perspective, it’s a no brainer.
If that’s the case, and I believe it is, then the patient is the priority in any health care arrangement. That’s right. It’s about providing the best care available to meet the physical, health needs of people. I’ll bet most people who work in the medical profession would agree with that. So any health care plan or program that we come up with needs to put the needs of people first, because its not about politicians or profits, it’s about the sanctity of human life.
The “free market” has proven itself incapable of providing a health care program that is equitable with regard to treatment, and affordable. Human nature being what it is, greed spoils the balance between resources available for care, and what to charge. The relief of pain, or the preservation of life, are not economic commodities with value determined by their intensity or severity. In fact, profiting from pain is immoral. Since it is the government’s responsibility to protect its citizens in their pursuit of “life, liberty and happiness,” developing and regulating an equitable, accessible health care system is its responsibility. And we don’t have to re-invent the wheel on this. Most European countries, along with Japan and Canada, have successfully figured out how to own, and effectively administer and operate both health insurance, and hospitals and other institutions that provide health care. At least 17 of those countries have been able to achieve a higher standard of medical care than the United States, and they have done it for about half, or less, of the amount of money that Americans now pay for their health care.
By the way, we already have a government operated health care insurance plan in this country, into which people pay premiums and out of which they can pay for medical services. It’s called “Medicare.” The ACA, also known as Obamacare, is a more extensive effort to reform health care, make it accessible to all Americans, and attempt to keep the costs of both care and insurance, which were getting out of the reach of even middle class Americans, from limiting access to health care for even more people. It has had a cumulative effect in accomplishing several of its objectives:
- It has added more than 20 million Americans to the ranks of those who have health insurance. This has cut losses that hospitals and caregivers have had to absorb, especially through emergency rooms and trauma care that they are required to provide, whether patients have insurance or not.
- It has saved billions of dollars for employers who provide insurance as a benefit by slowing down the rate of increase of the cost of insurance premiums. Most insurance policies were going up by an average of more than 15% prior to the ACA, that rate has now been cut to about 8%.
- Millions of people have benefitted from being able to remain on their parent’s insurance until age 26, and from being able to secure insurance benefits in spite of pre-existing conditions.
And here’s some other news. The plan is not “collapsing,” or “exploding,” as its critics keep saying. There is absolutely no evidence to support that contention. There are some companies who aren’t happy because they cannot raise rates higher than the contracts allow for, and they can’t profiteer off of the market changes that have occurred as a result. But we’ve already discussed the fact that profits aren’t morally compatible with the belief that health care is a basic human right, directly resulting from the belief in the sanctity of human life. The Affordable Care Act can, according to the Congressional Budget Office, continue to function indefinitely. Costs could be reduced even further if states that have held out of the exchanges would get involved, and help spread the costs.
But let’s put first things first. We must come to a broad acceptance in this country of the principle that health care is a basic human right, not a commodity that generates economic value by pain and suffering, or a privilege for those who can afford it. If we believe in the sanctity of human life, then there is no other option but considering it as a basic human right, something which people should be able to access like clean drinking water. When we get there, then we can discuss the best way to deliver it, and the first people we should ask about that are medical professionals who understand that their patient is the object of their care.