The failure of the Republicans to repeal Obamacare with the Ryancare Bill and to create a viable alternative provides an opportunity for Americans to seriously reflect upon our national values. Do the free market and conservative agenda supersede the moral obligation to care for all U.S. citizens? In the American mind, is healthcare a right for all citizens or is access to adequate healthcare the privilege only of those able to pay?
The United States is the sole industrialized free-market “democracy" in which universal healthcare is not accessible to all its citizens. France, Germany, Japan, Britain and Canada provide universal coverage. In the World Health Report 2000 from the World Health Organization, which graded the healthcare systems of 191 countries in the world, the United States, richest country in the world, ranked #37. The U.S. ranks first in the cost of healthcare and 37th in quality of that healthcare. These two statistics alone reveal the U.S. healthcare dilemma and how it strikes at the core of the value of human life in the United States.
The extreme right appears to be unable to separate its ideology from the value of human kindness. Although the far right and other Republicans talk devotion to Christian values, the position of most members of Congress does not in any way reflect the values of their Way Shower and Savior, Jesus the Christ, who according to the very Bible that they profess to follow did not discriminate about who he chose to heal. Surely, true Christian values would support a system of universal healthcare that provides access to all regardless of race, ethnicity, social class, religion, sexual proclivity or immigration status. Is the true Christian ethic “loving thy brother as thy self” – or not?
As it relates to healthcare, the concept of American individualism defies logic. If a pandemic strikes the poor because they are unable to get adequate healthcare, it will sweep through the nation infecting both poor and rich alike. A purely selfish reason for Americans to embrace universal healthcare is that upper and middle classes cannot be protected from a pandemic that could spread because a large segment (24 million persons – the poor in this country) are delayed timely treatment for disease.
On Friday and Saturday nights, Americans fill restaurants from fast-food to five-star. Americans love to eat out. Do they ever consider that the people who prepare and serve the food that they ingest do not have access to adequate healthcare and often must report to work even when ill? Do they consider that children who, with this administration, no longer have access to Medicaid might infect other students in their schools? Denying a segment of the population adequate access to healthcare is a prescription for a medical disaster in the country. That it is already a moral disaster speaks for itself. Is the United States of America one nation or separate units based on one’s class and caste? Are Americans so bound to the values of “looking out for #1” and “each individual for him or herself” that we are willing to allow our fellow citizens who live in poverty? or close to, to die needlessly because of the lack of access to medical care? Research reveals that 25% of Americans die from treatable diseases. This healthcare dilemma raises fundamental questions about our values as a society. The direction that the United States takes in healthcare reform will be a sure indicator of what we stand for as a nation.
The Progressive wing of the Democratic Party, led by Bernie Sanders, advocates universal health coverage; however, this does not appear to be a view held by even all Democrats. Obamacare was a start, even as it fell far short – in order to get passed at all -- of what was needed to reform healthcare in this country. Insurance companies are dropping out of the plan and premiums have risen to astronomical levels. In many cases, it is cheaper for the individual to pay the fine rather than the monthly premium. Is this the fault of Obamacare or of insurance companies who base their lives -- and, really, ours – on their bottom line?
Can Americans replace ideology and the fear of socialized medicine with moral values and the dignity of human life? Can they see that the other industrialized free-market democracies have not fallen like dominoes into any kind of Communist camp because they fostered socialized medicine (which the U.S. Veterans Administration gets away with, and more power to them). Our foreign allies are examples of nations that understand the value of human life and believe that every citizen whatever their economic or social status has the right to a healthy life.
Will Americans come to the realization that universal health care protects not only the individual but the collective society as well? Will Americans choose to stand up for those less fortunate and demand equal access to basic health care for all? This is a decision not to be taken lightly, for it will ultimately determine the future of the nation physically, spiritually and morally.