Staff column: The kind of national care is important
The national health care debate ranges far and wide, with point and counterpoints being thrown out by various people from various sides of the issue.
Personally I have thought for years we needed some kind of national health care plan to help those that have no insurance. But I also have some reservations concerning how such a plan would work based on what I have been hearing lately.
About 15 years ago, during my years in a consulting business I operated, I was invited to Toronto, Canada to speak at a conference that was being held there. The night before the conference began a group of dignitaries who were running the conference invited all the presenters and their spouses on a boat trip on Lake Ontario to have dinner and enjoy the scenery. It was early March and while everyone huddled inside the cabin from the cold Canadian wind, my wife and I stood on the bow of the boat taking in the scenery. Finally the cold got to us too and we went inside. One of the Canadian's told us when we got inside that we should be careful about getting sick, since American's had such a poor health care system. Everyone laughed, largely because we were the only people from south of the border on the boat. That prompted a discussion about a nationalized health care system. My wife and I were basically cornered and asked how such a rich and powerful country could let so much of it's population muck around in a system that provides poor care to those who can't afford it.
Of course Canada has had a socialized system for many years and they all felt that was the best way to go. I agreed that we needed to cover those that couldn't afford it or their employers didn't provide it, but then the question came up as to what level of care they should get. The Canadian's insisted that everyone should get the same care, with the latest advances being used to treat the poor as well as the wealthy.
The debate was not mean spirited; they just couldn't understand why their cousins down south seemed so dead set against some kind of socialized medicine. No one there complained about the system they had; in fact they all raved about it.
But that was 15 years ago and things have changed. I am not sure how those same people would feel today, since reportedly Canada's federal system has been near bankruptcy, largely because of socialized medicine, for some time now.
As our country now seriously moves into a debate about how we can fix the problems with our health care system, I often think back about that evening, and examine the good and the bad points that I heard from those folks on that boat. One thing we didn't discuss that night, because I never even thought of it at the time, was health care rationing, something we have heard more and more about as our politicians banter about plans in Congress.
Rationing, from what I have heard, would give some type of some overseer the say about that some people shouldn't get certain kinds of treatment because what they need done would cost too much for the return society would get from it. In some ways we have rationing today because insurance companies often make decisions kind of like this about what doctors want to do. But this would actually take that kind of thinking much farther.
If the kind of rationing they are talking about takes place, I would totally oppose any kind of national plan. Example? Let's say you are a 75 year old person whose kidneys fail. Dialysis could keep you alive, but under possible rationing such a treatment might be denied, because of the return that the system would get for doing it. In plain words, a 75 year old person would not be considered worth as much as a 25 year old person. For many people that are 22 that may not sound so wrong, since they would be the ones picking up the bill through either premiums or taxes. But for those of us approaching retirement, this is a scary thought.
The argument that proponents of such a plan say that older people could buy supplemental insurance to cover such complete breakdowns in health, and with older people having more money that should be affordable. Yet the older generation have paid their taxes their whole life and contributed to social security every year since they began working. So now proponents are saying this group of people will be expected to foot even more of a bill than they already have?
When bureaucrats (in government or private business) start making the entire decision about life and death when it comes to health care, where will it end? Do we then not keep people alive when they have an accident and can't move; how about sick babies whose life expectancy is in doubt, and to keep them alive will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars? What about mentally challenged people or those with birth defects that affect their mobility or ability to work? Do we just let them all die or suffer? Just extend the idea of health care rationing to the farthest extent, and see where it leads. It leads to the idea of a superman society, where the sick, the old, the mentally ill and those that are different from "the norm" are left to die. When a few people can control what health care you can and can't have, unless of course you can pay for it, then we will have digressed to a point where we make the Nazi's look like humanitarians.
I am still for some kind of national health care plan, but not when it sacrifices the very people it needs to be there to help.