human behavior

Recommended reading: America’s disgrace

Posted in American Culture & Politics, Health & Medicine, Recommended Reading by humanb on October 6, 2009

NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof rightly referred to the existing US health insurance system as “the disgrace of the industrialized world”, but Roger Cohen’s piece, The Public Imperative begins to explain why it prevails:

Whatever may be right, something is rotten in American medicine. It should be fixed. But fixing it requires the acknowledgment that, when it comes to health, we’re all in this together. Pooling the risk between everybody is the most efficient way to forge a healthier society.

Europeans have no problem with this moral commitment. But Americans hear “pooled risk” and think, “Hey, somebody’s freeloading on my hard work”.

Cohen considers how the historical and cultural differences between the US and Europe have led to such different contemporary attitudes about mutual responsibility and social welfare on the one hand, and rugged individualism and self-reliance on the other. It is difficult for people outside of America to comprehend the resistance to universal health care in the United States – indeed it is just as difficult for many Americans to comprehend.

Ignorance plays a major role, sure. Americans have varying levels of ignorance as regards the flaws in the current system; the unethical practices of health insurance companies; the waste inherent in the system; the impact of relying on employer-provided health insurance on the competitiveness of American business; and most importantly, the pervasive financial, social, cultural, educational, and public health impacts of leaving 40+ million Americans uninsured.

Americans are also, in our characteristic insularity, fairly ignorant of the fact that most other Western nations have figured out what we haven’t, when it comes to ensuring the health and longevity of ALL of their citizens – regardless of income and employment – from birth to death. In the realm of public health (not medical advancements), we have no idea how bad we are doing.

If the common sense of the social and economic cost-effectiveness of universal healthcare cannot prevail,

If compassion for our fellow citizen – that is, true patriotism – cannot motivate us,

Let shame.

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