Thursday, April 2, 2015

"If I were President" - Part 2 - Health Care

“If I were president, I might want to tweak our infant "affordable health care" act. I admit this is a complex subject, but I'll try to stick to principles....

Affordable health care for our citizens is worthwhile goal for this nation. Yet I am puzzled by those among my liberal friends who act as if universal and free access to health care is an inalienable right. It is not. Our lives are a Spring salad mix of various duties and needs. Not all of them, however ideal and compelling their demands, can be met to our satisfaction in a world that is, itself, less than perfect. To say that everyone should have quality health care is like saying "Everyone should be a millionaire!" A pleasing, if impractical and economically unsound, sentiment. 

It is true that there a handful of western countries who have created national health care, accessible to all, but it doesn't change their reality that those with more resources seek and find higher quality care. The history of humanity provides no examples of long-term, successful and universally accessible quality health care.

But whether or not it functions decently in one country doesn't mean the culture of another will be able to imitate it; nor will that country’s budget afford it; nor will its citizens necessarily want it. America is, in my view, one such country. Our national character emphasizes self-determination and freedom of choice. It resists, rightly or wrongly, whether based on ideals or selfish greed, a “one size fits all” health care system.

I am not one of those traumatized by “ ism’s” (like socialism) but both our founding principles and what I perceive (based on the teachings of Yogananda and Kriyananda) to be the leading edge of and evolving consciousness for the next few thousand years places an emphasis and value upon self-determination.

A society that is inclined to make universal coverage and equality a priority (in wages, health benefits, housing, food) is placing material concerns for the masses above individual needs, differences, and the importance of self-effort and accountability. I sincerely believe that such a society will not last very long because it is the individual who is the basis of society, not an amorphous “every man.” We see that massive and national benefit systems are notoriously clumsy, inefficient, corruptible, and certainly far from equitable given the natural differences among individuals.

The ideal of equality has to do with each person’s personal potential and the space given to strive to achieve that potential. It is quite obviously not one of fact. We may be equals before God but before man, some are obviously more talented, intelligent, compassionate and energetic! 

It is noble and right to want to help others in need. The golden rule should always guide the human heart even while wisdom must temper its actions. Mercy and justice are like mom and dad.

What is absolutely essential in respect to human health is the role of will power and intelligence. Health is NOT the result of a generously funded and high tech health care system! Health is the result of a personal commitment to being healthy! Education, awareness and finally and most importantly, will power, intention, and self-discipline: these are the prerequisites for health. (Not all people are born equally healthy. Nonetheless, no drug can ever supplant an individual’s drive to overcome and transcend life’s challenges.)

A health care system that doesn't take into account the need to educate and motivate individuals towards better self-care is doomed to fail in the face of human habits and ignorance; and, in the face of industries which profit from encouraging human weaknesses and self-indulgence (alcohol, tobacco, sugar, fast food, processed foods etc.). 

A health care system that doesn't reward healthier lifestyle choices and penalize poor ones is likewise doomed. Again, I aver that success in a health care system runs to the cumulative effect of individual, human choices.

Returning now to the American health care system, I think we can, nonetheless, do better and fairer. “Obamacare” is a valiant beginning but it is a “horse made by a committee” and it more resembles a camel than a horse. I understand that the horse-trading required to pass this legislation was a mind-numbing dilution of its very goals.

Perhaps if Congress were to outline broad policies and principles for providing health care, then states, companies, and other organizations could implement them according to local conditions and circumstances. An example of an exemplary and broad reaching policy is the elimination of pre-conditions; another is free and universal access to preventative care, pre-natal care and so on.

Some states, thus empowered, might enact a one-payer system; others a competitive system. 

(An aside: I’ve never understood why health care or health insurance is ever a "for-profit" activity? Whether one is a doctor (or nurse) or an insurance company, doesn't the motivation to provide health care spring from a desire to help and serve? To think in terms of and to measure one's success by the yardstick of profit seems positively revolting to me. Who wants health professionals who are in it mostly for the money? Obviously, they should be properly compensated; I’m not suggesting minimum wage. The profession of healing is an art, not just a science, and the intensity of training and the scope of responsibility needed to do it well suggests a passion born of high ideals.)

Anyone who wants insurance should be able to obtain it and anyone who declines to obtain it when available and affordable should later be penalized if they seek to buy insurance when suddenly the need for it arises. (Remember the story of the three little pigs?) Actions have consequences: this is the most basic reality of human life that we all struggle at times to learn. This sometimes harsh fact of life can perhaps be mitigated by charitable individuals or organizations created to render appropriate assistance. But any person, whether poor or stricken, who can make a sincere effort to do what he can to improve his health and to contribute towards its cost, should receive help.

Why should a person with a healthy lifestyle subsidize those who make poor choices? Why can’t groups of people committed to healthy habits pool resources and “self-insure?” Such pools could afford to be taxed to help others less fortunate, to be sure, but they should at least have the right to organize. Age, lifestyle, and ability to contribute are all reasonable factors to take into account in determining how much one pays toward health insurance.

Next installment : Welfare and more
Joy to you,