Friday, October 10, 2008

"Health Care" vs. medical intervention

An important question was asked at the Obama-McCain second debate (aka mediated talking points discussion) that was not adequately addressed by either candidate.

A woman in the audience asked Senator Obama "Is health care a commodity," implying, to my mind, that health care cannot be made equally available to all in a capitalist economy in which health care is marketed according to supply and demand (albeit, highly manipulated supply and demand).

Neither candidate directly answered the questions, nor did they even acknowledge the "commodity/capitalism" basis of the question. Each candidate touted his own variety of a health insurance/medical technology industry support proposal.

The problem is two-fold. Health care is what each individual does for him or herself or for his or her family. Health care consists of good nutritious food, plenty of sleep and moderate exercise. Once could also include positive interpersonal relationships, satisfying work and freedom from stress as elements of one's health care. What the medical industry provides is medical intervention in the event of accidents resulting in injuries requiring medical intervention, communicable disease and catastrophic illness.

Furthermore, medical intervention in a capitalist, for profit society, when marketed as a commodity, is available to medical intervention consumers only as a function of ability to pay for it. The best medical intervention is available to those with ability to buy it.

The situation is further exacerbated by the medical insurance industry which mediates one's ability to access medical intervention by one's ability to pay regular medical insurance premiums in perpetuity until such care may, or may not be required.

The cry is always raised that "socialized medicine" would necessitate unbearable taxation. To this objection there are two responses: 1) other countries support high quality medical care without undue tax burdens; and 2) the amount of money Americans now pay (personally or through their employers) for "health insurance" (plus co-payments and costs not covered by insurance) far exceeds the extra taxes required to fund a national universal health care coverage.

A system that piles profits on top of the cost of the system of medical care for two separate industries, health insurance and medical technology, will, of course, cost far more than a system that provides medical care with no middleman profits. This is not rocket psychiatry!

Just as we expect our government to provide quality education for all of our children as a right of citizenship, so too can we expect our government to facilitate access to medical care equally for all, when needed, in conjunction with responsible personal health care. Government can't do it all for us; we must see to our own health. But when we truly need life-saving medical intervention, it is immoral and criminal to parcel out preferential access such care to the highest bidder.