Tuesday, May 22, 2007

With Liberty, and Justice, and Health Care Coverage for All

If there was one area in which I wish the emerging field of bioethics could have a significant impact, one thing that we, as bioethicists, could do to make this world a better place, it would be to encourage the enactment of universal health care coverage -- yes, I know that other problems would be created, and yes, I know that we have to pay for it in ways that might make people unhappy, and yes, I know that universal coverage is only part of the answer, that we also need to give more to public health programs focusing on prevention, but it is a situation that calls for a short-term sacrifice to achieve a long-term benefit. (The whole concept of delaying gratification). Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times writes about the health care mess:

"Aaaaargh! When a newly minted doctor investigating Americans’ access to medical care has no insurance — then you know that our health care system is truly bankrupt.

Let’s hope that the presidential campaign helps lead us toward a new health care system. John Edwards has set the standard by proposing a serious and detailed plan for national health care reform, and other candidates should follow.

The medical and insurance lobbies have been busy blocking national health care programs since they were first seriously proposed back in the 1920’s — and the result has been millions of premature deaths in this country because of people falling through the cracks. Doctors fighting universal coverage have been saving lives in their day jobs while costing lives with their lobbying.

Over all, a person without insurance is less likely to have diseases diagnosed early, less likely to get routine preventive care — and faces a 25 percent greater chance of dying early.

Americans with good jobs and complex needs receive superb medical care. But a child in Costa Rica born today is expected to live longer than an American child born today."

Kristof goes on to write that our infant mortality rates are a disgrace (something we've blogged about before). The rest of Kristof's excellent editorial is available to Times Select members.

The bottom line: Let's push for the Presidential candidates to seriously address this issue, and lead us toward a new health care system.

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