Interesting discussion I had tonight. It got very heated until we started understanding we were not debating the same issue – I was arguing for universal healthcare and the other person was stating that the US healthcare system makes it too expensive for providers to give the same care to everyone. We eventually concluded that we agree! I’m a strong advocate of universal healthcare, but having been born and raised in Europe my definition of it doesn’t always resonate at first with folks who only know the US healthcare system. Universal healthcare is based on equity in access, it does NOT mean everybody gets all care they dream of, or want.
For one, obvious elective healthcare, such as liposuction to get a slimmer line, is not covered. Every country that I know of and that has successfully implemented universal healthcare (which includes EVERY first world country except the United States) has gone through a prioritizing exercise where medical procedures are ranked in efficiency and general benefit to the population at large – i.e. vaccination is both very effective (preventative medicine is vastly more cost effective than corrective action – if you don’t believe it, ask your dentist); while heart replacement surgery benefits very few individuals at astronomical cost. My own state of Oregon led the way in the US years ago.
We all (maybe) would love to be able to ensure ultimate medical treatment to everyone – heart replacement surgery, liver transplant, etc. But we also know that our resources as a nation and in the world are limited. Do we only offer these exotic treatments to those we can pay? – That’s already the case; if they can pay, I’m sure there’s a doctor somewhere who can provide the care. Do we offer them only to our fellow countrymen? And live with the moral choice that our countrymen are worth more than foreigners. Even within our country, we’re unlikely to be able to provide such treatment to everyone, so do we limit it to folks of a specific skin color, a specific gender, a specific income level? None of this sounds acceptable in this 21st century, so how do we do it?
We need to simply accept that universal healthcare does NOT mean all procedures available to everyone, but instead follows the model used by all other advanced countries: everyone gets basic healthcare and people can buy supplemental healthcare to address less common issues. Every child in this country, and I would argue in the world, deserves free vaccination for well understood diseases (notwithstanding the concerns of the few folks at the fringe of society who don’t believe in it). Every woman deserves prenatal care (see “Consequences from lack of prenatal care” in Wikipedia’s Prenatal care in the United States.
Children shouldn’t be penalized for the poor life style choices of their parents – and if you don’t believe this, I would like you to take a hard look at you moral compass. While I’m not myself a Christian, I was raise as one and am quite familiar with the faith and its precepts, and I have a very hard time understanding how the vast majority of Americans can claim to be Christians and at the same time deny compassion to all children regardless of their parents’ choices.
 Sidebar – I know and understand that there are a very small percentage of cases where vaccination can have serious negative effects, and I do respect these people’s concerns and feelings. Yet, ultimately we must decide whether healthcare is a communal or personal issue. I take the stance that basic healthcare is a communal responsibility. Which also means that I accept the fact that, if I get a rare disease that would cost enormous amount to cure, if I get liver disease from over drinking, or lung disease from smoking, I will not get free care.