07 September 2009

A Point Missing in the Healthcare Debate

The other night, my boyfriend (I’m going to have to come up with an online nickname for him), was chatting online with someone from Canada. He said he went ahead and asked “The Question” about whether or not she liked her healthcare. Her answer was, “Yes!” and they went on to discuss it for a little while.

The US has been having this debate all over. People are comparing a “public option” with the Canadian and British National Healthcare systems. In trying to find some good links to research on this topic, I came up short. Oh, I found plenty of articles. I found just as many articles on how the Canadians and Brits hate their systems as I did about how the Canadians and Brits love their system. The main problem with most of these articles was that they were either supposition or personal experience.

Supposition articles don’t work because they aren’t backed up by solid facts. Even the ones stating how the Canadian system is running out of money don’t have solid reports from the Canadian government to back them up – just “trends” based on poll data. Poll data seems to be most of the basis for being “anti” nationalized healthcare when the comparison debates crops up. Personal experience is just as poor as poll data as it relies on few individuals to represent the whole. Personal experience does not equate to statistics or whole numbers.

What finally occurred to me, as my boyfriend was relating his online conversation, was that none of the articles I’ve found online address what I think is a HUGE point in comparing nationalized healthcare to the current US system: All Canadians and Brits have health coverage. People can write hundreds of articles vilifying nationalized healthcare. Opponents can trot out hundred of Canadians or Brits who had poor experiences with the nationalized system. However, even the person who hates their nationalized healthcare the most, even the Canadian or Brit who finds nothing redeemable about having nationalized healthcare still has one thing over 42 million Americans: They actually still *have* healthcare. 42 million Americans don’t.

42 million Americans don’t have long lines to complain about because they can’t even get into the lines to begin with. 42 million Americans don’t have months-long waiting periods to moan about because they can’t even get a doctor to wait months for. They don’t have to file arguments with the government about whether or not their cancer treatment is covered because they can’t even get the cancer treatment in the first place. As bad as any nationalized healthcare system is, the people still get health coverage. 42 million Americans don’t.

Do I understand that if we as a nation want to tackle this problem we should make sure we can implement the best system possible? Yes. Do I think that any solution that helps get people health coverage is better than no solution at all? YES. What infuriates me the most is that the proffered “public option” still isn’t even a nationalized plan – it’s not an expansion of Medicare or Medicaid. The public option is just trying to get people a better price for the same health insurance that most employers provide. The “public option” isn’t guaranteed health care. It’s not even guaranteed health *coverage.* Even if we were to implement the public option, there would still be millions of Americans who couldn’t afford even the deeply-discounted plans and would still not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid and go without.

People are wasting so much breath arguing against “nationalized” healthcare when that isn’t even on the table (despite the millions of Americans who believe it should be). Instead of concentrating on trying to get more people covered for health care costs, opponents will obfuscate and misdirect. Point out the problems with nationalized healthcare! Even if that’s not what’s happening, people will be so afraid they’ll vote “no” on whatever is actually put in front of them. Make them afraid of it! Tell them that their own health care is in jeopardy (without pointing out that their current health insurance is actually pretty darn bad). They throw out words like “socialism,” “fascism,” and “Nazism,” without even regarding their meaning. Just to stoke the fires of fear.

The “Teabaggers” at the health care town halls only think they are trying to protest the –isms. Shout in anger and tremble in fear at the nasty –isms being thrown around! When in actuality, they’re protesting my friend getting prenatal care because she has high blood pressure and can’t qualify for health insurance. They’re protesting women getting breast cancer treatments. They’re protesting men getting treatment for prostate cancer. They’re protesting children getting vaccinations. They’re protesting against 42 million Americans getting health coverage.

100% of Canadians and Brits have health coverage.

42 million Americans don’t.

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