My Thoughts on Health Care & Politics

Ryan B., Second Year Medical StudentPolitics.  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

4 thoughts on “My Thoughts on Health Care & Politics

  1. Very intriguing subject! I’ve been on both sides of the “working”class. I spent years paying taxes and paying for healthcare and have also had to take “government” healthcare. Did I earn it? I feel I did. I worked productively at one time and will again. So I thank God there is government healthcare for people like me who aren’t, what I call, “lifers” of government aid. But all that aside you hit the nail on the head, I feel, when you said WE do this to our bodies and then cry out when our bodies react negatively! You could go into a whole biblical aspect with that one but here is my question…and I don’t know if you know the answer, why do I hear that other countries say Canada or Sweden do not have outrageous healthcare issues? Why is it reported that everyone gets care in these countries? I subscribe to the school of thought that says, “you can’t believe everything you hear on the new” so how then do they get around healthcare and higher education issues?

  2. Well said, Ryan. It feels good to say something is a “right”. It’s trendy. Using that word makes those on the other side look like jerks, because who violates rights? But I think most people don’t truly understand what a “right” is. There’s a philosophical depth that most people don’t try to reach, or don’t know how to. Hence, the best description I’ve heard yet (attributed to Dr. Bob Hertzka, former president of the CMA) is that medicine is not a right, but an essential social service. PrevMed is definitely and eye-opening class…

  3. Dear Ryan B.,

    The team at Premed Network has recently come across your blog.

    I’m the President of Premed Network, a nationwide network of premed students.

    The vision of Premed Network is to create a platform for the next generation of physicians.

    We are reaching out to select medical student bloggers to share their posts in our community.

    I look forward to hearing from you.


    Omar Baig
    President, Premed Network
    16180 Alum Rock Avenue
    San Jose, CA 95127
    (408) 802-5267

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