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Friday, January 07, 2005

Politics: Universal Health Care 

While meandering through the IMDB yesterday, I noticed that Michael Moore's next movie, Sicko, will focus on healthcare in the U.S. Since the film won't be released until later this year, I'll refrain from turning this into a Moore-bashing post. In fact, the catalyst for for this entry has little to do with Moore.

In the IMDB's message board section (each movie or actor's entry always has a section at the bottom with recent posts), an individual poses the question: "Why do Americans have to pay to be treated by a doctor?" Now if you read these boards much, you already know that the IMDB's forums often denigrate into a cesspool of U.S.-bashing. We're stupid, evil, lazy and racist, and the foreigners that post there will gladly, and frequently, tell you as much.

This particular thread is even heavier on the vitriol than normal, even from the Americans. One of them writes, "we have to pay because ... doctors are money hungry." Hmmmm... maybe some of these people are right when they call Americans stupid. Anyway, that statement is so ludicrous that I won't bother addressing it.

No, I'm more interested in one Australian's post:

Don't YOU think that it should be everyone's human right to receive basic healthcare? We do. Thank God for Medicare. Why should you be refused treatment just because you can't afford it? We're not talking about a luxury item here. It's about the government giving a crap whether their people are healthy and have access to necessary treatment/drugs/therapy etc. when required. We really are the lucky country.
Forgetting for a moment our capitalistic economic system, the founding American principle of rugged individualism, and the fact that our Government does care (evidenced by programs such as Medicaid), this brand of thought still strikes me as absurd. Our Aussie friend has never heard of a slippery slope, it seems.

Is healthcare a "human right"? No, I don't think so, at least not in the way he or she states. And if you think it is, then where do human rights end? Is shelter a human right? It's certainly not a luxury. Should the government start purchasing my food for me? I need food to survive much more than I need medicine. And if the government starts taking it upon itself to provide me with all of this, then all of the sudden we've become the world's biggest socialist society.

Medical school is hard. Students spend thousands and thousands of dollars just to become doctors, and once they do it takes years before they start making the money to pay off their debt, much less become "rich." Pharmaceutical research is hard, too. Companies might spend millions to develop and mass-produce a drug. Then there's always the possibility of malpractice and recalls and all of the other pitfalls that the healthcare industry faces on a daily basis.

Do many of the people involved in this get rich? Yes, they do. Are all of them money-grubbing bastards, whose sole purpose is to make the big bucks? Please. It's a high-risk, high-reward gamble that pays off for some and I don't begrudge these people any of the money that they might make. But in the end, there's a reason that doctors become doctors, and I don't think it has nearly as much to do with a paycheck as these cynics make out.

As far as healthcare as a whole is concerned, I'm glad that the people in other countries feel satisfied with their system. But they're them and we're us and I'm satisfied with what we have. Do I think we have a perfect healthcare system in the U.S.? No, I don't. It's flawed. One study says that in 2006, more than 50 million Americans could be without health insurance, a figure that no doubt includes many children. But that's cause for fixing what we have, not scrapping it and substituting socialism for American ingenuity.


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