Part Two: If Healthcare Is Such a Joke, When Do We Get to Laugh?
That poor excuse for government legislation didn’t pass. After years of Republicans bashing Obamacare, they still (apparently) have no good ideas to present for its replacement. As it turns out, healthcare is “complicated.” Right … That’s why you study other nations and begin to build something that takes the best, excludes the worst, and revamps what just wouldn’t work in the context of your culture’s governmental framework.
In 2008, Frontline Correspondent T.R. Reid interviewed global leaders and healthcare professionals in the PBS Documentary Sick Around the World. This is a preview of the segment on Taiwan’s healthcare system and this is the preview on Germany’s system.
The video opens with a series of astoundingly contrasting quotes, from a random British woman remarking that she has “never” paid a medical bill, to the president of the Swiss Confederation stating that bankruptcy due to medical bills would be “a scandal” because “It doesn’t happen.”
Here, in the land of opportunity (for some, more than others), the word scandal isn’t even applied when Russian entities blatantly involve themselves in our election or the man running for president is seen on video gleefully describing how easy it is for him to take liberties with any woman he wants.
Basically, nothing is sacred.
While that scrappy mentality may work well for some aspects of our entertainment industry, and even our economy, it does not work for healthcare or the government which so many people still demand “stay out of our healthcare.” (Do they not realize we consistently ask for more government control in our schools, social services, libraries, etc.?)
“The World Health Organization says the U.S. health care system rates 37th in the world in terms of quality and fairness. All the other rich countries do better than we do, and yet they spend a heck of a lot less. How do they do it? That’s what this film is about.”
For the rest of the film, he covers Taiwan’s bold mix-and-match approach, Germany’s medical pragmatism, Japan’s consumer-focused methods, Switzerland’s humanistic lens, and Great Britain’s highly socialized National Health Service.
At the time I watched the documentary, it was easy for me to imagine that America would succeed in taking Taiwan’s idea (take the best and scrap what doesn’t work) and probably end up with something similar to Germany (employer-based insurance that provides all-inclusive coverage and expands upon maternal care) and Great Britain (everyone’s covered, no one goes broke).
While our system would crumble if asked to replicate any existing plan, it seems plausible to put caps where they are needed and to perhaps borrow a lesson from Japan in making the Physician’s job truly be about, well, the job and the patients rather than the money and the prestige. Of course, no one in the United States would remain a doctor if we held to the standards they set, which tightly controls the costs of medical care down to literal inches of stiches in a procedure. Doctors “don’t get rich,” states one interviewee, but the Japanese utilize their healthcare services more frequently, for shorter periods of time, simply for preventative care. As evidenced by their longer life spans and better general health, the system seems to work for them.
What we need, in terms of reform, is a fearless blend of egotism and curiosity. If we relied more on the ingenuity of scientists and physicians to help us write a healthcare bill rather than politicians, lawyers, and insurance companies, we could at least build something viable. As it is, the toxicity of our current methods simply create something akin to a meth-addicted baby.
We have borne an otherwise healthy child, but we need some time to detox and then heal. We cannot simply try to take the kid in the incubator next to us, and we certainly can’t make something out of nothing! (Nice try, Ryan. We knew you didn’t have any balls when you couldn’t stand up to Trump, so why bring forth an unfertilized pile of garbage legislation? That empty egg prank was hardly hilarious.)
Forgive the crude language and terrible analogies, but if anyone is being crass it’s the politicians who are wasting our time with deceit, distractions and warped agendas rather than ideas, solutions and dialogue. This is not normal, and it is not acceptable.
Using what we see in the nations who have seen success in this arena (according to medical data, satisfaction surveys and personal testimonies), we ought to be able to produce a healthcare bill that promotes preventative care, reduces or eliminates medical costs to reasonable numbers, and ensures that insurance policies do not negate the old and the sick in favor of the young and the healthy.
Those ideals, at least, are not so complicated.
You can read Part 1 here.
Top photo: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) blocking House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
with the failed healthcare bill. “Obamacare is the law of the land.” (YouTube)
Megan Wallin is a young writer with a background in the social sciences and an interest in seeking the extraordinary in the mundane. A Seattle native, she finds complaining about the constant drizzle and overabundance of Starbucks coffee therapeutic. With varied work experiences as a residential counselor, preprimary educator, musician, writing tutor and college newspaper reporter/editor, Megan is thrilled to offer a unique perspective through writing, research and open dialogue.