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Healthcare’s Integral Role In Functioning Democracy March 23, 2010

Posted by Lynn Christiansen Esquer in Politics.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

So much rhetoric and misinformation has come out of the healthcare debate that we are today a country deeply divided. But, though conservatives have used the passage of healthcare reform to argue that freedom in America is on the decline, I believe we have made incremental steps closer to true democracy and freedom today.

Conservatives say that the new law is a form of government socialism; but I fail to see how putting limits on insurance companies so that doctors and their patients have more control over care can be considered socialism.

The law that President Obama signed today is not a government takeover of healthcare. If this law could be considered socialized medicine, every single American would have free and equal access to healthcare, through a government agency that administered all facets of public health. This simply isn’t the case. The new law does not take responsibility of administering health away from the precious insurance companies; it simply sets limits on how irresponsibly those companies can treat consumers. Have no fear, conservatives: The United States is still the only industrialized nation in the world without universal healthcare for all. The patchwork system still lives.

People who argue against the right for healthcare also argue that those who lose their health insurance, or have never had it in the first place, are always responsible for their plight. They believe that people don’t get sick unless they bring it upon themselves… and that no one loses his or her job (and therefore, his or her employer-sponsored insurance) who doesn’t deserve to be unemployed. Coming from a state with nearly 13 percent unemployment, I believe this argument for “personal abdication of responsibility” is becoming more difficult for them to use.

Most interesting to me, however, is the assertion that the law is somehow undemocratic.

I would argue that the right to healthcare is a necessary component to functional democracy. How can individuals exercise their freedoms if they are denied access to care necessary to maintain and protect their health — the most basic and fundamental of resources?

How can individuals without access to needed care be active participants in democracy?

How are we truly a democracy when our citizens are denied equality?

How can we claim to the rest of the world that we hold life precious and are some kind of example of humanitarianism, when we scrutinize spending money on our citizens’ health so much more than we do our oversized military budget?

How did democracy come to mean that the rights of individual consumerism supercede wise collective decisions?

Lack of healthcare is the greatest of injustices. Our current system of arbitrary, profit-driven care denies the individual the full expression of self, and the ability to make use of any other granted right or privilege. What use is personal liberty if the foundation for it — life and health — is unattainable for so many?

In fact, if I may quote founding father Thomas Jefferson, author of our Declaration of Independence and a member of the body that wrote our Constitution: “If we’re going to have a successful democratic society, we have to have a well educated and healthy citizenry.”

Which dovetails nicely into my final point. As a society, there’s no doubt that we value access to quality education for all. But, like healthcare, the right to public education is glaringly absent from our Constitution. In fact, the United States’ law guaranteeing education for its citizenry wasn’t passed until two centuries after our Constitution went into effect. And, while this right is one we take for granted in 2010, it was heavily debated with as much rancor as the current healthcare debate has exhibited.

As a society, we need to place equal emphasis on nourishing our bodies as we do on nourishing our minds. And let us not forget, that as societies advance toward greater democracy, the rights of their citizens expand. Let that be our happy fate.

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.



1. Lynn, of Bloggapalooza - March 23, 2010

Good breakdown on how the new law works, from the New York Times:

2. Mark Adair - March 23, 2010

Ms. Esquer:

Thank you for answering my post-question yesterday.

You say that there will be no boards to decide on how care will be given to people.

Why then, will the government have our medical records. If there are no boards, what would they need our records for?

President Obama himself stated that he would not give a 95-year old woman a pacemaker… maybe it would be better to give her a pain pill. I understand that the government certainly can’t give expensive treatments to elderly patients… that would be inefficient.

But what happens when a woman discovers that she is carrying a baby who has only one kidney or one leg? Do we deem that the baby will be too expensive to care for? And that an abortion is necessary to save money?

Ms. Esquer… you have a very trusting view of how our government will be used for the “good” of the people when it comes to medical care. Government has never (and will never) be about the “good” of the people.

Just ask the men who were “patients” in the Tuskeegee experiment…

3. Lynn, of Bloggapalooza - March 23, 2010

Mark, can you tell me where you got the information about the government keeping medical records? I can’t find it anywhere.

And please remember, this is not government healthcare. It’s not even healthcare reform. It’s insurance reform, i.e. the existence of new regulations on insurance companies. Other than the fact that the companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to someone, it should not affect doctor-patient care. Your health will still be decided by a panel of insurers looking to make a profit.

4. Keri - March 23, 2010

“If we’re going to have a successful democratic society, we have to have a well educated and healthy citizenry”. – – Thomas Jefferson
Where did this quote come from? I’m told it isn’t in the digital archives and is not an acutal quote from TJ. But a lot of people are using this in ‘pro healthcare”. Do you have a reference for this quote?

5. German Friedman - May 29, 2010

You’ve done it once more. Great post.

6. Steve Nesich - March 17, 2011

Great post, Lynn! One more reason that I’m happy we are now in the same LinkedIn Network.

7. Lynn - March 17, 2011

Thanks so much, Steve (and belatedly, German)! Glad to be connected as well!
~ Lynn

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