Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Health Care

I have very mixed feelings about the whole health care issue, which is one reason why I've avoided the whole angry debate. On the one hand, I used to be a conservative with a libertarian streak, and still am sometimes, so massively expensive government social programs aren't normally something I instinctively welcome with open arms, to put it mildly. On the other hand, when peoples' lives are actually at stake, it seems cruel NOT to assist in any way possible. To me at least, human life and health are more important than almost any other consideration.

Still, I can't help but wonder how we (the USA) are going to pay for all of this when the government is already trillions of dollars in debt. This issue doesn't seem to have gotten nearly as much attention in the whole debate as it deserves. Health care for every citizen is an absolutely massive expense that the government is committing itself to supporting permanently.

I don't think that the examples of other countries are necessarily very helpful here. Don't get me wrong - I think that it's generally a good thing that people in pretty much every other developed country have government-provided healthcare. My brother, sister-in-law, and niece live in Germany (my sister in law is a German citizen, my niece has dual nationality), and one of the more important reasons that they chose to live there over the United States is because of the national healthcare coverage. The problem is that when it comes to funding, comparing the USA to any other developed country is an apples and oranges comparison, for a couple of reasons.

1. The USA has to support huge military expenses that other developed countries do not. Some people think that this is because the USA is an evil imperialist nation(TM). I tend to think that it's simply because other developed nations have pretty much thrown all of the military responsibility onto the USA.

2. The USA has a population that simply is less healthy to begin with, due to the lifestyles that many people lead. This isn't completely the fault of individual Americans - business and government in the USA made a long series of decisions over decades that favored turning the USA into a largely car-dependent, highly-processed-low-nutrition-food-eating nation. Now we have a couple of generations who have grown up knowing no other way of life, and we lack the infrastructure for good public transportation in many regions, and it will be extremely difficult to change. Unfortunately, this means that the population of the USA is likely to remain less healthy, with higher medical expenses, than those of most other developed nations well into the future. This means higher per capita medical costs compared to virtually every other country in the world.

Am I the only one who is nervous about taking on such a massive new expense when we already have a national debt that is larger than most people can even comprehend?

No comments: