Other Voices: We all have an equal right to adequate health care

by Lesley Politi on February 5, 2009

Jennifer Cull’s well-written “Other Voices” piece of Jan. 14 was right on target in pointing out the advantages of a single-payer, government-run health plan for all Californians. I would like to go a step further and present some reasons why such a plan makes considerable sense, and why it should not be seen as a revolutionary step.

Consider an accidental fire which may burn down your house. You call the fire department, and they arrive and put out the fire. Your house is saved, but you do not receive a bill for their services.

Or, you are walking on the sidewalk and a mugger attempts to grab your purse (or computer, iPhone, etc.). You yell for a policeman, who happens to drive by and appre- hends the culprit. No bill from the police here, either.

Or again, you are backpacking in the Sierra and become the victim of an unseasonable snowstorm which forces you to bivouac in a dangerous place. You call 911 on your trusty iPhone and Search and Rescue will snowmobile in and rescue you. Probably no bill here, either.

In each case, you encountered a serious personal setback that was not your fault, was unexpected, and which could cost you time, money and perhaps even your health or life if no government assistance were available. A reasonable person would have no hesitation in calling for public assistance under these circumstances. Indeed, we all take the rescue services mentioned for granted in this country. No one seriously considers requiring citizens to buy fire department insurance, or police response insurance, and no one would suggest that you have to be over 65 to enjoy these benefits.

So, why do we assume that health insurance is a requirement? Sickness is involuntary, usually unexpected, often serious, and always very expensive.

Just as fire departments were established hundreds of years ago to protect lives and property in the most economical way, almost all developed nations except the United States have organized some sort of government-based health care system that ensures that everyone — and I mean everyone — receives health care without any out-of-pocket payment.

Of course, such a system is not free. Nor are police departments or fire stations, which are paid for by our taxes. But they cost far, far less than the same level of protection would cost if it were offered by a private security company, and no one will have to pony up health insurance premiums. And most significantly, no one would have to prove that they have a fire-resistant house, or that they avoid walking at night to avoid muggers.

Yes, we do have to buy fire insurance for our homes, but homes are unlike our personal health: We can choose to be renters rather than owners, we have control of how fire-prone our homes are, what the contents are, and if our house burns down, we can still go on living.

So, what’s the big objection to treating personal illness in the same manner as a physical threat to your person or your house? It is simply this: Health insurance companies have big money to lose if we wise up and put them out of business. And big money always speaks — loudly.

The time has come to recognize that health insurance is an obsolete idea.

Americans need to agree that just as every person has a right to police and fire protection, they have an equal right to health care.

Harry B. Wyeth lives in Grass Valley.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mafrid April 10, 2009 at 11:50 pm

IT’s correct, I also supports this as we all have right to have it.

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