Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness Through Health Freedom

Hey … here’s a good one. Fifty million American citizens lack adequate, if any, health care.

The conservatives’ solution: sabotage any effort for Universal Health Care Coverage and propose slashing Medicaid and Medicare.

Back in the early 1990’s, this same contingent of “free-marketeers” sabotaged Clinton’s efforts to modernize the dilapidated American system of health care insurance and provision. My feelings then are just as relevant today.

I believe I summed up my feelings well when I included this commentary in my 1994 Christmas card mail out:

It appears to be most gratifying to many that we can finally put an end to the ridiculous effort to ensure health protection for the ‘bottom-feeders’ of America. I’m curious how it will feel for so many citizens to be abandoned. It’s interesting to contemplate how a family will struggle to pay for health care expenses to keep their children alive. I guess they’ll try to have faith in those brilliant, shining “Thousand Points of Light” Mr. Bush and his Republican brethren said would always be there to help. Family Values and all-remember!

If nothing else, it should prove interesting when Medicaid (which the GOP promises to drastically slash) begins to plunge citizens into the crucible of scalding medical costs. Perhaps you should consider your own values during this holiday time.

Truthfully, the American Health care Crisis symbolizes much of what is inherently Machiavellian within our society—as well as spotlighting our potential greatness. For example, health care personifies the backward manner with which we allocate national resources and a skewed distribution of wealth (the U.S. is the most unequal of all the industrial societies). Quality is not the problem. Access and escalating costs are the dual triggers on the revolver aimed at our own temple. Often, those who truly need health care are denied treatment or given sub-par aid. This type of denial is nothing new for Americans, as it permeates all aspects of our commoditized lives.

Many persons are denied jobs because corporations place short-term profits and stock prices ahead of long-term development and community/societal commitment. While the U.S. corporate executive makes several times what his average employee earns (absurd by all other developed world standards) and receives bonuses when firms are liquidated, millions of people are denied housing, food, and health care because they cannot get their feet back on the ground after a life-changing incident (i.e., job loss, industry restructuring, “right-sizing,” health catastrophe…).

Denial of the often-perverse notion of how our societal resources are allocated is perhaps nowhere more detrimental to all of us than as it exists in our current health care system. Our present system of arbitrary continuations and inherent discrimination is done in the name of cost-control and justified by the logic of profit-maximization. It is time to realize that everything cannot be justified by a cost/benefit analysis, that citizens have a right to resources that provide Health Freedom. The right to exclude others based upon one’s economic ability and a corporation’s effort at maximizing profit is a shallow existence for a society with our enormous resources and benevolent capabilities (unfulfilled though they may be).

The argument for our current system is that unfettered competition will produce the best allocation of resources, and provide incentives for people to enter the market through self-interest motives: the invisible hand at work. This competition theory is indoctrinated in most Americans as the only system for all markets, resources, and needs. No doubt Capitalism has produced enormous wealth for some Americans and raised the standard of living for most others. It is the “American Way.”

As it is, however, the U.S. has maintained its standard of living only because the majority of households contain two wage earners, plus leveraged their homes and retirement accounts. Without either those second incomes or leveraged assets, the American standard would be the lowest among the major industrial nations! We are told that the U.S. has the highest standard of living; nonetheless, the reality is that it is merely average (Statistical Abstract of the United States). Moreover, one critical aspect of a capitalistic entity (which is usually overlooked) is that the full cost of production must be borne by the producer and reflected in the price of the product in order to achieve optimal resource allocation. Yet, full cost is seldom considered; therefore, misallocation of resources and sub-optimal performance result.

We’ve seen this problem for years with companies discounting the earth and its natural resources by not claiming responsibility and including the cost of environmental degradation (i.e., acid rain, ozone depletion, deforestation, global warming, nuclear waste, toxic waste, ionic emissions, water contamination…) in the cost of their goods or services. The same is true in health care. The health care industry has overlooked the cost (or value) of human life. It is that which cannot be calculated monetarily and has moral worth greater than any profit measure the present system has or ever will take into account. Cost/benefit analysis is not capable of including moral, ethical valuations—nor can it or any one person provide a morally validated value of life (although the “dismal science” of economics may prefer to substitute an amortized personal earnings potential to approximate the worth of human life).

The purpose of health care, it seems to me, is to help people live healthier. It is simply wrong to decide whether one lives or dies based on their monetary situation! Nonetheless, this is exactly how profit-driven insurance company and health care corporations allocate resources for care. We can do better. We can “feel for” more.

Given that a cost/benefit allocation of health care is inherently inefficient, sub-optimal, and ineffective—as well as immoral/unethical to my way of reasoning—the questions of health care become those of ethical, moral, and human prerogative. The present control and power of the insurance industry, provider organizations, corporations, and pharmaceutical companies has got to end. We must change the criteria for priority of treatment from asset-oriented to need-oriented. We must shift the focus of competition to quality-of-care and away from profit-of-care. Most salient, we must provide access to “health care based on need” to all. Life, Liberty, and the continued pursuit of Happiness are impossible without it!

Sensitized to the issues of those in need of help or care, I’ve witnessed that our American culture deprives too many citizens the dignity of health care, assistance of child care, promise of functional education, and hope for a meaningful future through job training. A tour with with my life-partner through Western Europe in 1994 forced open my eyes and mind to a culture that clearly exhibited sincere caring for all its citizens. There, excellent health care, childcare, education, job training, and entry into a functioning society were tax-paid human rights and entitlements of each nation’s citizens. Here, we argue over banalities and pace in frustration—when the wheel has already been invented in democracies where short-term oriented, profit-maximizing approaches do not yet dictate all public policy.

The level of care and concern in our American culture can be summed up succinctly. The head of Nebraska’s state prison system commented in the early 1990’s that by the end of the century, this nation would confront a boom in the numbers of male teenagers. Angry, violent, and dangerous, “these kids,” he maintained, “will be like teen-age wolf packs.” Senator Dan Lynch of Omaha offered a solution, “Why don’t they just give them parachutes and drop them down in a jungle in Brazil if they want to be wolf packs? Let them act like animals…instead of coddling and treating them well.”

Ah…one can feel the warmth and concern, already…breathing down the back of one’s neck!


2 responses to “Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness Through Health Freedom

  • Geoff Ault

    I have to love your “Fair Use Notice” Since you obviously do not abide by it. I suggest you ask permission to use my images in the future and at least give credit where credit is due.

    • Coronare Modestus Faust

      Geoff, I very much like your talent, and I do indeed abide by the fair use notice posted, to my understanding. Your name is imbedded in the image title as you know. I also think the image was perfect for expressing the sentiment of the post. However, I have removed the image, as the intention was not to antagonize or do anything inappropriate but to augment the post appropriately. Apologies that I made you feel otherwise.

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