Politics. As much as I’ve tried to avoid the subject, it inevitably continues to reappear throughout my medical education. I do my best to stay somewhat informed about current events, especially considering it’s 2012 and thus time to elect (or re-elect) a president. Medical school has taken a lot of the time I would normally spend looking in to such things; I was much better informed in 2008. Despite this, the different aspects of how our nation delivers health care is a blazing issue that continues to show itself throughout my training, sparking debate between physicians, medical students, lawyers, politicians, and in actuality… almost everyone!
Now obviously, I can’t create a long dissertation on how I feel about the subject with this short blog. There are way too many angles, opinions, and facts to consider (not to mention time!) before I could present a coherent discussion. That said, there has been one question floating around in my head that I would like to “throw out there” so to speak.
Is health care a right or a privilege?
From my experience, most believe it to be the former. Someone who supports a government with his or her allegiance, taxes, etc. should be entitled to protection. This includes protection from physical harm and disease. But then comes the obvious problem of who pays for this protection? This is the big question that continues to elude us: how to provide quality, affordable health care to the masses. A large portion of Americans can’t afford to buy into a decent health insurance plan, and thus rely on free clinics or a physician’s mandate to treat emergency situations, despite an individual’s ability to pay. Again, I don’t want to dive deep into the problems of health insurance or who gets compensated for what and when, but I agree with the idea that anyone living in a developed nation should have access to quality, affordable health care… to a point.
Is health care a right or a privilege?
I believe it to be the latter. Obviously there are conditions that can’t be helped: trauma, genetic abnormalities, a plethora of infections, and many more. But take a look at the major killers in the US. Heart disease is at the top of this list, with cancer, lung disease, and diabetes mellitus type II following closely behind. Why are these such a problem? Well, to put in frankly, we’ve put ourselves into that position. According to a class we are taking in preventative medicine, when translated to the “actual” causes of disease, the top three major killers are tobacco abuse, poor diet/lack of physical activity, and alcohol consumption. When I see the majority of us putting ourselves into this position, I can’t help but feel that we don’t deserve to be treated as much as we have been. We eat, drink, or “sugar” our way into oblivion, and then when things go wrong, we have the audacity to cry to the government to fix us.
Now, please don’t hear me the wrong way; I’m NOT trying to stand here with a “holier than thou” attitude. I try to make good health decisions but I have certainly made some bad ones. I am part of the problem too. But until we can band together as a nation and combat the exponential growth rates of health problems in our society, I feel as if the government shouldn’t be obliged to provide as much health assistance as they do anyway.
Obviously the question then arises, “what ailments shouldn’t be considered ‘self-caused’ and worthy of health care” and vice versa, but in my mind, that is far less of a problem. Don’t you think we could cut a lot of health care costs if we budgeted in more preventative measures and education techniques to stop disease in the first place? Could fixing ourselves help lower health care costs for everyone?
Though not my usual style of blog posting, it’s something I’ve been thinking about in light of the upcoming presidential elections. I wish I had the additional time & energy to go further into this topic because I really feel as though it’s important to us all. There’s still a lot I don’t know, and I hope that as I grow in my education, I’ll gain a better understanding. I’d be interested to hear what anyone else thinks, so please leave your comments below!
On that note, here’s a completely unrelated picture I recently took while “study-walking”:
Looking Down into Loma Linda from the Surrounding Hills
70 days until USMLE Step I