An Adverse Culture

Healthcare is a Human Right

Today I went to a presentation on Single Payer Healthcare (aka the Public Option or Universal Healthcare for All) and it was phenomenal!  The doctor speaking touched upon a plethora of reasons why single payer can not only provide equal, accessible care to all, but also help eliminate many of our current problems such as:

  • EHR discontinuity (Epic, Cerner, McKesson)
  • Pharmaceutical companys pushing big drugs*
  • Death/decreased health outcomes
  • Navigating specialists and referrals
  • Bankruptcy – which is mostly due to healthcare costs in the States
  • Underinsured patients

How do we know this can work?

The government already pays a lot for healthcare anyways and has proven mechanisms of funding and distribution (Eg. VA, Medicare, Medicaid).

One of the largest challenges to Single Payer is that you are challenging American’s cultural beliefs in addition to the economical and political systems that have dominated the healthcare industry (seriously, how is healthcare an INDUSTRY? It’s a Human Right!), leading to a dramatic lack of access to care.

The cultural belief I’m referring to is the way the States is dominated by a “First, take care of yourself” attitude.  We value personal space and individualized goals.  We claim it is your own responsibility to find the means and drive necessary to become “successful” in the world.  This isn’t the case for many other countries.  In fact, it is typically dramatically different in all of the places I’ve visited thusfar.  Community is prevelant and thriving.  Heck, even in Denmark, where people like to keep to themselves and the same friend group that they’ve had since middle school, they still talk about how they would never go to the doctor “just because it’s there.”  When you have universal access to something for free all the time, it doesn’t become a good that you need to hoard.

For Single Payer to work, Americans need a national sense of community and responsibility to your fellow man.  No, not some bombastic pride in being “American” but a cohesive feeling that we are all going to look after each other and live considerately – to others and our own bodies.

This consists of not taking advantage of any system put in place to help all equally by taking only what you need when you need it.  When I mentioned to my Danish host family that I wanted to “take advantage of the free doctors visit” before I returned home, they were confused.  Why would I want to abuse the system?  They only went when it was completely necessary.

Roberta Crawford
Roberta Crawford, 89, wears a sticker in support of single payer health care during the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans fifth annual town hall meeting on health care reform in Delray Beach, Thursday Aug. 20, 2009. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The other caveat of this is the actual measure of health within out country.  Our healthcare costs can never decrease if we are perpetually getting sicker.  And a large part of this is the obesity rate in the States.  For us to make Single Payer successful and the least burden on income taxes, we, as a country, need to commit to being healthier.  We can’t expect everyone to pay for the diseases that a large majority of people would have due to poor health because the system would quickly be drained of money.  However, if we can make lifestyle changes to improve our general health, Single Payer is not only admirable and equal for all, it can also be designed to help maintain and perpetuant these healthy lifestyles and conditions.  In Denmark, most people WANT to live health lifestyles, not binge on deep fried chicken wrapped in bacon and garnished with 20 oreos.  Healthy lifestyles can even correlate to environmental sustainability.  For example, if we give someone a tax break because he/she bikes to work ¾ of the year, then not only are they staying healthy and helping the environment, they are putting less stress on society and therefore fiscal means to provide for them.

*Really though, how is pharmaceutical advertising still a thing?

John Oliver does a great job explaining why it sucks.


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