I feel like there’s two types of Americans when it comes to current system of healthcare: Those who believe in it and those who have actually had to use it. I believe its failings stem from an inherent problem in its design. When most people think healthcare, they think doctors and healing. After all, isn’t that what healthcare is designed to do – to keep the population healthy.
Not in America. In the U.S.A., this is a secondary goal. The main objective of the current U.S. healthcare system is to make money. If you cannot pay, you cannot have service. It’s that simple.
And on the surface that sounds fair. After all, those working in healthcare must earn a living. They have bills to pay too. Yet healthcare cannot be treated like an average commodity because it is essential. When Wonder Woman came out on blu ray, nobody had to own it. They could buy it if they wished. Most people don’t want to have surgery. They have it only because they need it.
This makes healthcare an essential service, much like the police and fire department. These are not people you call upon on a whim. They are called to provide a crucial service that preserves your quality of life. Supply & demand breaks down and always skews in favor of the seller when everyone has to demand the product or put themselves at serious risk.
Let me put it another way: imagine we’re standing together on a hot summer day and I offer you a bottle of water for a dollar. You turn me down because – hey it’s not that hot and you’re not really thirsty. I nod and proceed to set you on fire. That bottle of water now costs $1,000 and you’re going to need more than one. Pay or die. It’s no longer capitalism, it’s cruelty.
And to give full perspective on the current American system – yes, there are other people offering to sell you water, but $1,000 is now the lowest available price being offered to you – since you have a job. If you were/are unemployed, that water bottle now costs at least $2,000. No one is offering the water bottle at a reasonable price because we know that you need to pay us in order to live.
To return to the comparison of fire departments for one second. Fun fact: they were not always a public service.
The point being is that we have a broken system that only really works for the people who manage to stay healthy (who are not unexpectedly set on fire). Once anything serious happens to you, you’re at the mercy of a system that will gladly help, but only so long as you keep handing over your hard earned money.
“Ah,” you say, “But I have insurance!”
“Cool,” I respond, “so you’ll only have to pay hundreds instead of thousands when you need an ambulance ride. That is – so long as everything is covered in your plan.”
So I believe there is a better way. More than believe it – I’ve seen it. In my lifetime, I have been fortunate to live abroad. My host country was Canada – Quebec to be more specific. In Canada, healthcare is a government service. Every citizen pays taxes so every citizen is covered.
Having had lived in both systems, I can honestly say which one I believe works better. I say this as someone who is a citizen of the United States but not of Canada. This means that, while I “enjoy” the best of American healthcare, I “suffered” the worst of the Canadian system.
And Canada still has a better approach to the problem. Not a perfect approach but a better one. One that, should we as Americans devote ourselves to it, we can improve upon.
In my opinion this is our greatest strength as Americans: our ability to examine ideas, in our states and abroad, and select the best ones to incorporate for ourselves. We did not invent democracy but we adapted it and used its principles to write arguably the greatest doctrine on protected rights that the world has ever seen.
We can do something similar regarding healthcare. Canada’s system was better but far from perfect. For one thing, many of its treatments and services seemed more reactive than preventative – which is always ultimately more costly. I also personally think we should endeavor to include dental and mental healthcare as well.
Yes, it will be harder and yes, it will be more expensive, but these are costs we already pay. Americans have a broken conversation on taxes, one that is dictated by the question “Aren’t you paying too much!?!” rather than “What would you like your government to do for you?” One of these questions provokes much more thoughtful conversation than the other.
Truthfully, I would rather pay an additional % in taxes and be done with it than have hundreds out of my paycheck every week to cover healthcare – healthcare that I can lose with the loss of a job. By tying healthcare to employment, we cripple our fellow Americans who wish to take risks. I can only wonder how many people have been trapped into employment they hate by the fear of losing their ability to pay medical bills.
I also believe that this will help small businesses grow as employers will no longer have to pay thousands just to cover the few employees they have. This is not an employer responsibility – this is a citizen’s responsibility.
We are caring people as Americans but strangely heartless. We are far too inclined to view our fellow citizens as leeches. However, most of us do not view ourselves this way, even when we need help. Regarding healthcare, we all will need help at some point.
Other countries – similar countries – are doing this and I believe we can improve upon it. We can create a system that does not destroy the privatized healthcare industry (keep your private insurance only if you want to) but removes its fangs. A comprehensive coverage system that renders dramas like Breaking Bad pure fantasy. A system that empowers the American spirit to better pursue dreams and happiness.
I support a system like the one proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders and I encourage you to do so as well. Yes, this challenge is hard – but that is why we must do it. We’re Americans, we’re not known for backing down from fights. We must win the war for healthcare so that we may devote more time to tackling the zounds of other important issues on this planet.
At least, this is what I believe. Healthcare should be about healing, not about profits. Period. We can make this work guys – if we all put in together.