Today, the United States faces a social and moral challenge. The system for managing the expenses and complexities of health care has turned against us, or at least the less well-off among us. With prices soaring on health care costs and insurance, the supposed “greatest nation in the world” has a health care system that is considered mediocre when juxtaposed with others.
For those who can afford insurance, one can get some of the best health care in the world in this country. If you are uninsured or under-insured, however, it is a completely different story.
I would like to examine the issue by framing it within the concept of basic, natural human compassion. First, consider that health care in all its forms is necessary for human well-being. Is it not true that inadequate medical treatment is just as detrimental to the human life as hunger, natural disaster or homelessness? In the 21st century, health care is essential to ensuring the unalienable rights laid out by our founding fathers. Denying or limiting medical treatment for those with restricted financial resources diminishes their quality of life and increases their suffering. As an American citizen, I find the idea of accepting this deranged Darwinian survival-of-the-richest health care system embarrassing.
The adoption of an all-encompassing universal health care system would solve this problem.
Legislation to do this is pending in Congress. But staunch opposition grounded in partisan politics has stalled the process. Under the plan proposed by President Obama at the health care summit on Feb. 25, almost all Americans will be required to have health insurance. The core of the plan is an organized exchange created for individuals and small businesses with different competitive coverage options. For those who cannot afford the options, government subsidies would cover the costs.
At the summit, Republicans like Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) expressed their continuing opposition to Obama’s plan for health care reform. Alexander stated that Democrats and Republicans in Congress should come together in order to gradually make reforms and changes, which he claims would make the process of reform easier and more effective.
Although I am a strong proponent of bipartisanship – I believe that blind and petty partisanship undermines American political institutions – in this case I believe the needs of the American people are far more important, and the moral argument for universal health care is too compelling not to act as quickly as possible to comprehensively change our health care system.
Moreover, I find it disingenuous that Republicans demand bipartisanship even though their opposition to health care reform is grounded in partisan politics. What was constructive disagreement for refining policy has disintegrated into disagreement for its own sake. Furthermore, the opponents of reform are the people who already have great coverage, the wealthy who are being asked to help pay for the changes and the participants in the health care system who might be financially affected.
Many observers have rightly pointed out the hypocrisy of the Republicans railing against government interference by asking whether any of them are willing to give up their government-provided health care coverage. Obama is only trying to provide the American people health care comparable to that enjoyed by members of Congress.
The concept of granting extensive medical care to a portion of the population based on their wealth and position, while limiting care to the less well-to-do, is morally unjust. Smoking-related deaths, diabetes, obesity-related diseases, heart disease and drug addictions take a far greater toll on the lower economic classes. Yet our health care system abandons those same people because they cannot afford coverage. Proponents of universal health care should not fight for it out of partisanship, but out of basic humanity and compassion for others. Is it morally acceptable for an advanced society in the 21st century to allow its less well-off citizens to suffer for the sake of partisan politics and monetary gains of a few?
Sam Schneider is a freshman in the College.
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