Thursday, March 20, 2008

Why Ralph Nader MIGHT Be Right...

Back about 59 and one-half years ago the United Nations proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 25 of that document reads:

"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services..."

The US of A, whether we like it or not, has some responsibility for this statement. It seems to me the fundamental issue in any discussion about universal health care is what we believe as a society. Do all Americans believe this? Certainly not. Do most? Maybe. Do policy makers? It might seem clear by their words but by their actions or lack thereof--I don't believe so.

Lots of discussions become fruitless because human beings have a tendency to focus on the wrong questions. In this debate on health care policy we are seeing play out I don't think we (the voting public...or the non-voting public for that matter) have done a very good job of pushing this discussion toward the fundamental question posed above. Do people have a right to medical care?

Nearly 60 years ago the better part of the world's nations said they believed that people do in fact have a right not just to basic care but health care that supports and furthers their standard of living and well-being. Yet today our national discourse focuses on the various strategies available to solve a health care crisis that I would argue many Americans don't even believe exists.

As many lively discussions as Rob and I have had on international recognition of rights, he probably can figure out where I come down on this issue. I tend to agree with Article 25; I think people in a global society that values human life have to in turn value health care. We have to value it to the point that we're willing to give up some of our resources (taxes, or money through other means) in order to ensure the right we value is protected.

Whether or not we are even in a global society is an issue perhaps Robert and I will tackle another time. You'll find we have differing views on that one as well. :-)

Tomorrow I'll get into more about how a modified single-payer insurance system should be explored in this country. For right now let me list out some of the reasons why I think Ralph Nader MIGHT just be right with his plan to expand Medicare coverage for all Americans, but a few caveats of my own thrown in in the interest of reasoned fairness:

  • A Single Payer system doesn't necessarily have to cut down on medical choices, and can allow for the patient to make the ultimate decision on health care.
  • A Single Payer system can, using Medicare as an example, provide efficient coverage and cap administrative costs to ensure layers upon layers of bureaucracy are not created.
  • A Single Payer system can continue to encourage competition to control health care costs, but also bring the added benefit of economies of scale to help keep costs down on common medical services and prescription drugs.
  • A Single Payer system does NOT equate to "socialized medicine."
  • A Single Payer system MAY (emphasis on may) be the easiest 'radical overhaul' of our health care system because infrastructure is already in place.
  • A Single Payer system does NOT equate to "government-run health care" and can in fact foster partnership that is beneficial for health care providers and insurers.
  • A Single Payer system MUST be coupled with other reforms in health care services to ensure lower costs and increased access to care for those who need it. No other country's model is perfect, and no other country's model will fit nicely into the U.S. we need a unique system that can borrow successful components from other systems.

More to come...stay tuned.


le35 said...

Hey Todd, this seem like a good plan. Maybe you should petition to be on the comittee for planning the health care system.

Robert said...

I'm interested to see what else is coming on this subject before making too many comments. I don't know that my point of view is so terribly different from yours, Todd, but I have to read up on some of what you said to be clear on what you're saying.

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Melissa said...

I've read this post a couple of times. I too am awaiting more before I comment, but so far I do tend to agree with you there, Todd.