Universal health care and democracy

From the book Sick, by Jonathan Cohn:

To its critics on the political right, universal health care is an imposition on liberty that weakens individual initiative. But this is the classic bait-and-switch of modern conservatism – to make us forget that in a democracy, the government is merely an expression of our will and resources as a community. Universal health care is really about finding collective strength in our individual vulnerabilities – about helping a family member, a neighbor, or a fellow citizen because, next time, any one of us could be the person who needs help. It isn’t about them. It is about us.


  1. I appreciate your comment, but I disagree with your position. We have little government involvement with our health care system now, and look what it’s gotten us. The Swiss system appears to rely on a lot more government regulation and price controls – so I’m not sure I buy your argument that this equates to a system that isn’t “government driven.” Further, the WHO rankings that I looked at had Switzerland ranked number 20. The number one system was France, followed by Italy, San Marino, Andorra, Malta, Singapore, and Spain.

    I would agree that universal health care doesn’t have to mean a system where the government employs everyone; and even the Swiss system would be an improvement on the one we’ve got… we just have to convince the pharmaceutical lobby.

    Millions of people in the U.S. have government provided health care (government employees, medicare recipients, etc), and I’m one of them… as a government employee. Just because the government administers the system, it doesn’t mean the government employs everyone, or we all lose all of our choices. I’d submit that I’ve got more health care choices than a majority of Americans… with my government provided health care plan.

    One other place where we may agree… it’s ridiculous for employers to be the primary provider of health care.

  2. I understand the point concerning the WHO ranking and was hoping it would be pointed out. I agree with providing Universal Health Care, just totally disagree that a single-payer, government program is the way to accomplish it. As You pointed out re: the WHO rankings, the US was ranked 37th while Canada was 30th, but my position is this: Why should we emulate the country that was ranked 30th…or 20th….or even 10th? Why should we not, instead, emulate who was #1? Do you know who #1 was? It was Switzerland, who does NOT have government sponsored, single-payer health care. As a matter of fact, the Swiss government is much LESS involved in their health care system. They have a system which is CONSUMER driven vs. GOVERNMENT driven. Every individual purchases insurance on a truly open market with their own individual needs as their guide. The government does mandate a minimum amount of coverage and also provides subsidies to those who require it. It is much like auto insurance is here, only with subsidies for the poor. It also mandates transparency for the health care providers, so people know the performance of their providers while making choices of who to go see for their medical care. Their system operates on a totally private and for-profit model for both the insurance companies and the health care providers. There is true competition, thanks to mandatory performance reporting, and true and absolute individual choice. As for the money to purchase insurance, rather than an employer group plan, the tax code allows for accounts to be created by employers for this purpose. Similar to our 401K accounts. These accounts are only available to be used in purchasing insurance. This money is available pre-tax and allows employers to still offer health coverage as an employment benefit. People make the argument that employers would simply stop providing for health insurance, but this same argument was made re:retirement benefits when the 401K’s were being debated. I would much prefer this type of system to be available here. I would favor a system whereby the individual person decides on what coverage is best for themselves and their family, not the government. Right now, employers make that decision.

  3. I’m not an expert, but I think the reason is it provides more care on average. It eliminates one of the big reasons why people don’t seek preventative care (or don’t seek treatment when symptoms first appear) in the U.S.: they can’t afford it. To the person in the U.S. who goes without their diabetes medication because they lost their job (and health insurance coverage, since they couldn’t afford the COBRA premiums), the care they’d receive in a country with universal coverage would be infinitely better.

    Some Americans say the U.S. health care system is the best in the world, and (for some) it may even be true (almost)… if you’re one of the lucky few that can pay for it. When you consider the system as a whole – with ALL the folks who rely on it for their health care, many surveys rank the U.S. system pretty low. The W.H.O. did such a survey in 2000, which found France and Italy had the best, Canada’s came in at 30, and the U.S. at 37… two spots ahead of Cuba. The survey looked at patient satisfaction, equality of access, and the health of the population.

  4. It is funny, isn’t it? People always think that independence is hard. But it isn’t, really. And neither is dependence.

    The real difficulty is learning to accept interdependence, the realization that we need each other to grow and prosper. Universal health care is a part of that realization. It’s a strength, not a weakness.

    Living in a country that has universal health coverage, I can honestly tell you that it is a real source of pride for liberals, conservatives, democratic socialists, and Quebec separatists in the Great White North. For everyone. Not one word of a lie. When it was enacted in the 1960s, it was seen as a defining moment in Canadian history. We’re proud that we care of the rich and poor, and everyone in between.

    And while it’s does have problems, it’s still provides a higher level of health care than the US system.

Leave a Reply to martygrn Cancel reply