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Healthcare: Framing the Right Question

Is healthcare a right or a privilege?

I don’t know.  It doesn’t really matter to me.  I think that’s the wrong question, but it is the question that has been debated vociferously by opposing political parties for years.   It has been discussed more frequently during the last several years as President Obama passed his signature healthcare legislation, parts of which the Supreme Court may overturn this summer.

I think what is more important is how we as a country want to spend our money.  Would you rather spend it on costly emergency room care to fix major disease impacts or would you rather spend it on lower-cost preventative care to avoid costly consequences and keep people healthy?  Unless you’re willing to turn away uninsured sick people at the ER, I think this is the question that needs to be asked.

Patient Arrival at Hospital
Would you turn her away?

There are folks out there that would turn away the uninsured when they arrive sick and dying at the hospital.  To those people I’d say, “Think of someone important to you in your life that doesn’t have health insurance.  Are you willing to let them suffer and perish when they’re most in need of treatment?”

Patient Arrival at Hospital
Would you turn them away?

If  you are willing to let your closest friends and family suffer, I’d like to have a conversation with you.  That’s a viewpoint that I struggle to understand, but I’m willing to learn.  I might not like it, but I think it’s important to first seek to understand, then be understood.

Patient Arrival at Hospital
Would you turn him away?

To those that would not want their uninsured family and friends to suffer, I’d use a different approach.  We’re spending money on the uninsured whether we realize it or not.  Hospitals must increase the costs to the insured to subsidize the care they deliver to the uninsured.  It’s baked into our existing co-pays, insurance premiums, and out-of-pocket costs.  I don’t mind paying extra for the uninsured, but I’d like to get the most for my money.  Give them access to healthcare just like everyone else, so they can prevent the issues that would later cause them to visit an ER where the price of admission skyrockets.  I’d rather spend my money on enabling a country full of healthy people than keeping alive people already on a downward spiral.

There’s more that needs to be done. This alone won’t solve the healthcare crisis.  I believe in personal responsibility.  I think everyone should take pride in their health.  I also recognize that not everyone has had the same positive environmental circumstances that I’ve had in life from good parenting, an excellent education, and strong role models living healthy lives.

Staying healthy isn’t easy in a world built to drive you to your grave through mass marketing of toxic, processed foods and endless amounts of mindless entertainment requiring no effort.  Developing good habits for eating and exercise are essential to improving our health.  How we’ll change our culture to get there is a topic for another time.


It was extraordinary. … I left my apartment building before dawn, and a man on the street stopped me and he had tears in his eyes. And he said, ‘My father died when he was 63 and he had no health insurance, and I’m so ashamed. We were actually relieved because we couldn’t help much and we were going bankrupt.’ And he said, ‘No one should be in that position. My father’s hero was Franklin Roosevelt.’ He said, ‘My hero is Barack Obama. Please tell the president thank you,’ and tears streaming down his face.

– David Axelrod (and many others)