Thursday, April 9, 2009

Universal Health Care Is Not about Economics

Universal health care coverage will eventually come to this country. The question is not if, but when. Discussions about free-market systems and costs of health care notwithstanding, societies evolve, and universal healthcare coverage is part of that evolution. In a recent op-ed column in the New York Times, titled, " The Misguided Quest for Universal Coverage," Ramesh Ponnuru stated, "AMERICA’S dysfunctional health care financing system needs to be reformed. But the goal should not be universal coverage. Reform should simply aim to make health insurance more affordable and portable."

Ponnuru goes on to crunch some numbers and provide other rationale to support his contention that the goal of reform of the health-care system should not be universal health care coverage. But the issue goes beyond bean counting and free-market system belief systems. Ultimately, society has to answer the question of whether it is more important for some people to have access to plastic surgery to boost their egos, while other people are denied access to health care that would keep significantly enrich the quality of their lives, or, more importantly, keep them alive.

Universal healthcare coverage will become one more entitlement that will make conservatives to grind their teeth. And well they should. Basically, in our current society, entitlements are apportioned based primarily on wealth or power, or both. And, as the last eight years shows, the Republican Party is predisposed to assuring that the wealthy get wealthier while middle-class incomes can remain stagnant.

Ponnuru makes one important concession when he says, "This is another way of saying that universal coverage cannot be achieved using free-market methods — a point that many liberals correctly make." The free-market system, or capitalism, is the best way to produce most services and goods. However, it is not an all-encompassing way to manage a society where different people have different needs and some will always be unable to meet the challenges of life. The word is unable, not unwilling. The woman who cuts my hairhas chronic lung problems that go untreated because she does not have medical coverage.At the same time,I watched too many faces, including Nancy Pelosi,,where the skin has pulled tight after numerous plastic surgeries and the effect is to give them a frozen smile. We've got to get our priorities right.

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