compassionate health care

Ethan Nichtern wrote a compelling, thoughtful, and all-around lovely post over on the Huffington Post about the current health care debate, Whole Foods, and (as is his m.o.) interdependence. It reminded me of some political commentator I read in the paper the other week. (Can’t recall now where or who; you’ll just have to take my word for it.) He mentioned that one of the reasons that the Democrats and Pres. Obama may be loosing the fight over health care is that they’re not telling people “what’s in it for them”; that people are worried about losing coverage they already have and can’t see what benefit they have in covering the millions of uninsured people in this country.

I don’t know the merits of this claim. That is, I don’t know if that’s really true or not, that health care reform is going to fail because of the “message” of the DNC and its spin doctors. It seems pretty obvious to me that if health care fails it will be because the Tin Foil Hat Brigade was loud enough to scare anyone in Congress who might have stood their ground into giving up on the whole thing, as if those in the Tin Foil Hat Brigade are the only ones whose votes matter. But that’s beside the point.

The real point is that Mr. Nichtern is absolutely right and that people who want to know “what’s in it for them” are, as a general rule, ignorant.

(I’ll let you sit with that sentence for a moment. As I was typing it, it felt harsh. But I’m in a mood to be forceful with my words, emboldened by my new sense of purpose!)

(Oh, and in case there’s any doubt, I’m using the word “ignorant” in its literal, correct sense, not as a synonym for either “stupid” or “asshole.”)

Apart from the obvious — that due to the inherit interconnectedness of the world, it’s surprisingly easy to figure out why it should matter that there are uninsured people in this country due to the fact that the uninsured tend to only see doctors in emergency rooms in which hospitals are legally (not to mention morally) obliged to treat even those who have no money which means that in our lousy capitalist system the hospital must defer the cost of that treatment to those of us who do have insurance through higher rates or by making the government cover the cost, i.e., through our collective tax-dollars, so I really don’t see how else to express that uninsured people are, very literally, effecting me, so to answer your question, “what’s in it for me,” well, there’s your answer — apart from the obvious, financial answer to the question of what’s in it for me, I’d like to offer a second, moral answer.

There’s this funny little word we have, that has special significance in Buddhism, called compassion. While it may be intellectually worthwhile to talk about the virtues of capitalism and the free market in the context of goods and (some) services, it seems to me that the cold, immoral world of a capitalist system is antithetical to compassionate health care. It seems to me that, driven by compassion, one would want to make sure that everyone has access to health care not because it’s affordable or because it serves some self-centered, financial desire — we should want to make sure everyone has access to health care because it’s the right thing to do.

It seems to me, then, that the only real question is how are we going to pay for it. And that really is a problem, an area for debate. Personally, I see no problem in raising taxes; but I respect the fact that other people may disagree.

And that’s the problem I’ve been having with the Tin Foil Hat Brigade (well, not the only problem). It’s fine if you want to disagree with me, with your Senators or the President. But why irrational, disrespectful disagreement? Pres. Obama does not want to feed your still-beating heart to Rep. Pelosi. He just wants to make sure that someone who doesn’t currently have access to health care has access to health care. We’re not changing America. We not even coming close to the type of socialized institutions in the Swedens and Canadas of the world. So, really. Calm down. And treat others with the respect they deserve. (Because, you know, it’s what Jesus really wants.)

As someone who thinks that the government and its people have a responsibility to care for the least among us, and that necessarily requires collective compassion and financing through taxes, on principle I don’t have a problem with the “direction” this country is headed in, and I wouldn’t have a problem with “socialized” medicine. And I respect that the hard-core Calvinist capitalists in the audience have different opinions and, since we live in a democracy, would be willing to put the matter to a vote.

Oh wait. We already did that. Does anyone remember how that turned out?

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2 thoughts on “compassionate health care

  1. One sad correction I should point out — in practice, the uninsured actually end up subsidizing the insured. It’s the sad state of the American system.

  2. “While it may be intellectually worthwhile to talk about the virtues of capitalism and the free market in the context of goods and (some) services, it seems to me that the cold, immoral world of a capitalist system is antithetical to compassionate health care. It seems to me that, driven by compassion, one would want to make sure that everyone has access to health care not because it’s affordable or because it serves some self-centered, financial desire — we should want to make sure everyone has access to health care because it’s the right thing to do.”

    I absolutely agree. I’ve been blogging about this for much of the last week, and still it tends to come down to money for many people. You get more response, sadly, to money-based arguments, than compassion-based arguments. This is the truly sad state of things.

    Bows,
    Nathan

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