United we stand instead of divide and conquer?

Politicians  and pundits are skillful at playing one group’s fears against another.  Differences are highlighted and stressed, instead of what Americans have in common.

Can universal health care unite Americans?  Below is T.R. Reid’s answer.  The two paragraphs, quoted below, can be found on page 238 of The Healing of America:  A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper and Fairer Health Care.

Covering everybody in a unified system creates a powerful political dynamic for managing the cost of health care.  Since the costs of medical care are rising around the world, every health care system has to find ways to limit expenses – – either by limiting the procedures and medications it will pay for, or by cutting the price it pays for the procedures that are covered.  If everybody is covered, then everybody has an interest in seeing costs controlled; after all, if the system pays too much for my neighbor’s Botox treatment, it may not have enough money to treat my broken shoulder.  In a democracy, universal coverage helps create the political will to accept limitations and cost-control measures within the system.  In any country, any decision to ration medical care is going to be unpopular with somebody. But if everyone is included in the health care system, people are more likely to accept a necessary but unpopular decision, because it leaves more money to treat everybody else.

Universal coverage also enhances health care results by improving the overall health of a nation.  If everyone has access to a doctor, then people can get the diagnostic and preventive treatment that will keep them healthy.  One of the major reasons the United States ranks low, compared to other rich nations, in standard measures of health care quality is that millions of Americans don’t get any care until they are acutely ill.  Universal access to diagnostic and preventive care also reduces costs, because it is much cheaper to treat a problem early than to take heroic medical measures when the illness becomes life-threatening.

Sounds great, but impossible to achieve in this highly capitalistic society.  Survival of the fittest mindset means Americans are not egalitarian.  We tend to look out only for ourselves.  Americans don’t think in terms of we but in terms of me.   If another American doesn’t have access to health care, well he/she is not working hard enough, needs to pull himself/herself up by his/her own bootstraps.


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