America’s fundamental problem with health care isn’t economic. It’s moral. So believes T. R. Reid, a longtime Washington Post correspondent who recently completed a yearlong study of health-care systems in wealthy nations around the globe.
Health-care reform may be Priority No. 1 in Congress and at the White House, but for the 1,825 religious conservatives who gathered in Washington for the annual Values Voter Summit in September, the subject was barely on their radar screen.
Sociologist Robert Bellah calls individualism “the default mode” of American culture. It provides the rhetoric and political convictions to which people instinctively turn—whether or not it makes sense in the situation.
When pastors Constanzo and Marisela Aguirre decided to copastor a congregation in Aurora, Illinois, they had to give up health insurance because the small congregation could not afford it. Soon the Aguirres and other Mennonite pastors may have a solution. An insurance plan created by the Mennonite Church USA would give every pastor essentially the same coverage—with larger and wealthier congregations subsidizing smaller congregations.
The intense debates over health-care reform have brought to mind some poignant memories. When my father was in his early 40s he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Our entire family was shaken, but perhaps no one more than Granddad and Grandma Clapp. Moving into their elderly years, they had to watch a son die.
The Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps is a charitable organization that brings free health care to regions of the globe where medical care is scarce or unaffordable—such as parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia and Utah.
President Obama’s plan to give all Americans the option of a government-run health insurance plan got a frigid reception in June from the American Medical Association, the nation’s leading lobbying group for physicians. Offering a public plan would “restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers,” the AMA warned in a statement before Obama appeared before the group.
On May 13, I lingered in Upper Senate Park, just north of the U.S. Capitol, hearing New Orleans jazz coming from down Constitution Avenue. Then I saw the brass band leading a lively procession of hundreds of nurses, other medical professionals and patient advocates.
Longtime advocates of single-payer insurance like me are thrilled, anxious and deflated simultaneously by the state of the debate on health-care reform. The debate that we wanted has finally come, and it is coming with a legislative rush, but the plan that we wanted is being excluded from consideration. Should we hold out for the real thing, or get behind the best politically possible thing?
I am for doing both: Standing up for single-payer without holding out for it exclusively; supporting a public option without denying its limitations; and hoping that a good public plan will lead eventually to real national health insurance.