Monday, June 15, 2009

Harry And Louise, Present Day

I don't pretend to be an expert on health care reform but it seems to me that having a system that is ruled strictly by the Invisible Hand costs an awful lot of money and screws over an awful lot of Americans:

If any readers living outside of the United States have any stories, good or bad, about your personal experiences with other systems of health care I'd love to hear them in the comment section.



magpie said...

I lost my eldest child to cancer a little over 2 years ago.

I or my wife were living in a hospital, basically, for months, to be with him.
Eating, showering, sleeping there. He was at one of the best children's hospitals in the southern hemisphere. He had chemotherapy, radiation therapy... everything that could be done, but he had a rare form of extremely aggressive sarcoma, and he didn't make it. Brought him home and he died in his bed two weeks later.

Had we been in the situation that the couple in the video were in, we would have lost him... and then everything else as well.
We never saw a bill.
The only thing we ever paid for, out of pocket, was the car parking ticket at the Children's Hospital.

We have private health care, but the government heavily subsidizes that. In our case it just meant that the hospital was appreciative that our health care insurance company would be squaring some of the hospitals accounts, because we elected to invoke it. We could have gone in public and there would have been no difference in treatment. Private health enables things like dental, optical, a bit more choice, some electives, but no-one ordinarily loses their house over footing medical costs here. I've never heard of that happening.

I'm not claiming that we have a perfect system. It has problems like any other system. My wife is in it professionally, so I hear about them warts and all. It is incredibly expensive. But as I've pointed out elsewhere, we spend less of GDP as a % on health care than you do.
Why is that? I have a feeling there is an ethically unpleasant answer. The Invisible Hand belongs to someone...

We assume it is unfair that someone could be financially ruined by medical misfortune.
No one owes anyone else a living.
Of course not. However... everyone is owed a level of social justice.

If I can expand on this idea a bit:

It is my observation, from a distance, that health care reform frightens the Right-wing in America to the core (worse than racist lunatics running around shooting people...), because it could indeed "change" America. It is a cultural thing, not just a policy thing.
When we hear that medical services are not adequate in a part of the country we do not live in, for people we will never meet, we literally feel short-changed, and politicians scramble to fix the situation. Because that other person in that other place is somehow me, my family, my friends and we're ALL paying for those services in the first place - so they better damn work. Suddenly you have shared social responsibility. Suddenly politicians have to both balance accounts and deliver. They can't hand the job back to Joe Average and say "your problem pal, you go sort it out, be a man, I'm late for golf and fuck you if you die or lose everything".

That said, when the basis for our system was set up in 1975 it was extremely contentious. It was a big step. Australia profoundly changed in the 1970s. It was a watershed decade. It went from being a parochial leftover of the British Empire and became a cosmopolitan forward-looking nation, and I think social policy initiatives like this had a lot to do with it.

How shitty would you feel if Obama, eight years from now (I'm optimistic about 2012) said "my greatest regret is that I was not able to get the unity to provide the health care reforms that...". That would be... awful.

JBW said...

Thank you for sharing that story quietmagpie, and my sincere condolences for your family's loss.

I think that the scenario in this video is something that many Americans fear but our culture (exemplified by the views of those on the right) includes such an "every man for himself, sink or swim" mentality that the prevailing attitude is that if you find yourself in this scenario it is somehow all your fault for not being able to handle your life, rather than just an unfortunate confluence of circumstance outside of any one person's control.

Having never spent any time Down Under I can't say for sure what it is about Australian culture that makes you guys so friendly but what you've said makes a lot of sense. I've been lucky enough to have had several Aussie friends over my lifetime and they've always been nice laid back people.

We as Americans are so laden with so much stress and anger, especially towards each other, I think that we would do well for ourselves to emulate some of your countrymen's better qualities. Now this is the part where a rabid right-winger would accuse me of wanting to turn America into a lazy, empathetic, Socialist dystopia...

one L bill said...

Great post, magpie. Thank you for sharing.