As the old saying goes, “When you have your health, you have everything. When you do not have your health, nothing else matters at all.” In my mind, there are still some virtues in life—such as honor, nobility, and courage—more significant than a healthy heart or vital lungs, but good health is pretty darn important on everyone’s grand scale.
I thus find it hard to believe that in the United States of America—the greatest civilized nation on the face of the earth—a debate still rages about whether or not its citizens deserve basic healthcare. If we believe in supporting public education, roads and infrastructure—then why not something as important as our own health? At its core, the question is this: Is receiving medical treatment a fundamental American right, or is it still only a privilege for those lucky enough to have insurance to pay for it?
When I was in dental school back in the early eighties, just the mention of universal health care sparked outrage among my colleagues. We questioned the wisdom of government regulation in something so specialized. Selfishly, we didn’t appreciate Uncle Sam capping our earning potential, but we also knew how inherently difficult it would be to implement the dreaded single payer system. We used the same arguments that you’re hearing today—quality of care will plummet, wait times will become interminable, individual choices will all but disappear, doctors will become disgruntled, costs will skyrocket, and our economy will collapse!
Fast forward four decades and the dispute rages on. Understandably, my thoughts on the matter are bit different now than before. Through personal circumstances and shared experiences, I’ve witnessed the devastating effects of preexisting conditions on one’s ability to obtain affordable coverage. I’ve felt first-hand the frustration of having to pay exorbitant out-of-pocket costs due to the routine exclusion of vital mental health benefits. Year after year—as a small business owner—I’ve footed the bill for employee health plans while watching helplessly as benefits decline and premiums soar.
Meanwhile, out-of-touch politicians personally protect themselves and their families with their fancy, gold-plated health plans while slashing the coverage of those who need it the most. Where’s the compassion, care, and concern? Where’s the kind-heartedness and gentleness? Where’s the HUMANITY? How can anybody in their right mind campaign against basic human decency and dignity? When those on Capitol Hill vote to dismantle their own individual health plans, then I’ll listen to what they say. Until then, I want exactly what they’re having.
I’m thoroughly convinced now that basic healthcare should be a right of every single American. The Affordable Care Act in its current form has many flaws, but we must adhere to the premise that all Americans, regardless of health and preexisting conditions are entitled to a basic, life-enhancing level of medical care in this country. Settling for anything less flies in the face of our Judeo-Christian roots.
In order to keep any healthcare system financially sustainable, compromises are required, and expectations will need to be tempered. If we want the system to work, we may need to wait a bit longer for non-urgent services. So what if we have to occasionally swallow a generic pill. Those who desire upgrades can pay for them accordingly. In the meantime, fraud and abuse will need to be curbed, tort reform enacted, and individual accountability ramped up. More educational programs will need to be instituted. We simply can’t let the neglect of a vital issue like basic healthcare lead to the deception, division, and destruction of our great nation. After all, every other developed country on this planet has found a way to provide for their own. If the United States of America can put a man on the moon, surely we’ll be able to find a way to take care of people closer to home.
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus says “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me.” As a democracy tasked with putting the right people in office, we’d be wise to take heed. Our nation’s health is hanging in the balance.
John Huang is a retired orthodontist. He currently serves as a sports columnist for Nolan Media Group. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at www.huangswhinings.com or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.