I gather from the Interwebs that August is going to be a heavy month for health politics. The fight back against any change to the way that America deals with health care and health insurance is starting now, and it’s going to be intense.
They’re going to say it can’t be done, that health insurance and health care are inevitably expensive. They’re going to shriek about rationing, and ignore the fact that the US already rations health care on the basis of ability to pay—one of the most barbaric and obscene metrics conceivable.
And they’re going to say that health care in the rest of the world isn’t really that good. That the American system, for all its flaws, is the best there can be.
I am 39 years old. I lived in the UK for a decade and a half, and have been in the Netherlands for just over two years. The two countries differ enormously in the ways that they ensure that their populations get medical care, but in both places, ordinary grumbles aside:
This is not extraordinary. This is the way the rest of the developed world lives.
Now, the British National Health Service gets a lot of bad press, but I am deeply fond of it. Even in the fairly scabby districts of Edinburgh where I lived, the medical care was good and humane. I had two children on the NHS, and got excellent ante-, peri- and post-natal care. But the NHS is the duckbilled platypus of the healthcare world; we won’t evolve its like again.
Meanwhile, here in the Netherlands, we have a heavily regulated‡ medical insurance market. Everyone is required by law to participate. I pay just over €200 per month to insure a family of four, including dental care (Yes, there are copays; no, they’re not much†).
I’ve discussed the health care/health insurance issue with my colleagues. The question they (along with the rest of the world) are asking is not “how can America afford to provide basic health care for its population?” It’s “How does America manage to pay so much for what it’s getting?” The amount of money that passes through the medical system in the US is not ordinary, not inevitable, and not necessary.
Don’t be bamboozled. Don’t be fooled. Don’t be lied to, discouraged, or shouted down. It is entirely possible for the vast majority of Americans to have decent and affordable medical care. For goodness’ sakes, the Belgians provide a decent standard of health care for their populace, and they took six months to form a government after their most recent election. And you’re supposed to believe that clunker meme?
Don’t give up. Fight for this like we fought for the election.
* I am ordinarily healthy. During those seventeen years, I have had one miscarriage, antaenatal care for two pregnancies, one Caesarian section, one ordinary birth, a blood transfusion, a cancer worry (turned out to be a lipoma), and physiotherapy for a torn shoulder ligament. My medical care has ranged from ordinarily vexing to highly satisfactory.
** Except for the decision not to return to the US while things remain the way they are.
‡ Regulation covers (among other things) the rates they are allowed to charge, the level of care they may offer, and the fact that they’re not allowed to capriciously deny cover after the fact.
† I had a root canal earlier this year, with an extra filling thrown in. It cost me a total of €465, about 75% of which the insurance company repaid.