Over the next few days and posts I intend to share quotes from a rather remarkable book, The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care [New York: The Penguin Press (2009)] by T. R. Reid.
The subject of the book has grown in importance to me as this past week I learned of a young man who is my friend who is facing brain surgery and has no health coverage, public or private. Unless something changes, after any treatment he receives his "pre-existing condition" will end any chance of coverage going forward.
T. R. Reid is not afraid to bring a moral argument to this discussion. I appreciate that about him.
Here's the first installment:
Government and academic studies report that more than 20,000 Americans die in the prime of life each year from medical problems that could be treated, because they can't afford to see a doctor. That doesn't happen in any other developed country. Hundreds of thousands of Americans go bankrupt every year because of medical bills. That doesn't happen in any other developed country either. Efforts to change the system tend to be derailed by arguments about “big government" or “free enterprise" or “socialism" -- and the essential moral question gets lost in the shouting (p. 2).
All the other developed countries on earth have made a different moral decision. Countries that are just as committed as we are to equal opportunity, individual liberty, and the free-market have concluded that everybody has a right to health care -- and they provide it. One result is that most rich countries have better national health statistics -- longer life expectancy, lower infant mortality, better recovery rates for major diseases -- than the United States does. Yet all the other rich countries spend far less on healthcare than the United States does.
The primary issue for any healthcare system is a moral one (p.3).
[Note: this book was the subject of our discussion at CDM's monthly Urban Engagement Book Club.]