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US Healthcare Debate

August 11th, 2009

I don’t claim to know very much about this and all my ‘knowledge’ has come from reading news stories and blogs, which of course may be biased or ‘spun’, but I am slightly troubled. I am (politically) a liberal fence sitter, which obviously affects my perspective. There you are, I’ve declared my leanings.

As I understand it, President Obama wants to make it possible for everyone to receive medical care regardless of their means. A noble ideal, but someone still has to pay for it. In other words, taxes. This has caused a bit of a ruckus in the US, with the loud voices at either end of the political spectrum grabbing the headlines: down with taxes/don’t kill my baby; you know the sort of thing. Naturally there are also the (somewhat more subtle) corporates, lobbyists, pressure groups and so on, feeding money and (mis)information to those doing the shouting.

Daring Fireball has a couple of amusing (kind of) anecdotes:

From an Investor’s Business Daily editorial 1 arguing against the current U.S. health care reform proposals:

“The U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) basically figures out who deserves treatment by using a cost-utility analysis based on the “quality adjusted life year.” One year in perfect health gets you one point. Deductions are taken for blindness, for being in a wheelchair and so on. The more points you have, the more your life is considered worth saving, and the likelier you are to get care.”

“People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.”

Stephen Hawking was born and has lived his entire life in the U.K.


Anti-health-care-reform activist, reportedly injured in a fight at a town hall meeting last week, is collecting donations to pay his medical bills because he was recently laid off and lost his health insurance. [more]

I read both of these with a sense of wonder and despair. The inaccuracy and hypocrisy shown is astonishing and made me wonder if many US citizens are taken in by this stuff. I suppose there must be quite a few, or it wouldn’t be worth publishing. And yes, I have seen Fox News.

Society, community, nation: surely these terms imply some kind of structure of care, of support for those who (hopefully temporarily) cannot support themselves? It would be easy to believe that those who have the resources are simply unwilling to share and that the flip side of ‘land of opportunity’ is ‘tough luck if you don’t succeed’. Systems such as those in Britain and Ireland may be far from perfect but they at least attempt to be humane.

I started to think about The American Ideal (or my understanding of it); how it has been corrupted and where, ultimately, it will take the USA. Immediately my mind conjured up images of anarchy; a sort of ‘Mad Max’ post-apocalyptic scenario where it’s every person for themselves and the only law comes from the barrel of a gun.

I can only hope I am very wrong, and as I said I am only seeing this through the eyes of the media.

1. since edited, removing refernces to Stephen Hawking

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