universal healthcareramble

August 9, 2007

This was my response to a post on a small private-ish conversation website a friend of mine runs... the original poster linked to this article on the need for universal healthcare. Many of the posters there seem to be libertarian in leaning, and so that influences my tone a bit.

Canadian's healthcare seems reasonably popular among most Canadians I know personally, though there's certainly a group of loudmouth activist detractors from the area.

Public health and sanitation has done more to increase life spans and quality of life than most other individual advances in medical technology, no matter how many anecdotes you think of to the contrary.

I certainly think the freemarket isn't living up to its hype when it comes to say, researching new drugs: the incentive is for companies to tweak old formulas and spend bajillions promoting the hell of stuff (including almost bribing doctors) before it becomes generic, so relatively little money and effort is spent on original, risky, ground breaking research, in lieu of these minor patentable improvements and marketing, marketing, marketing.

(generics; an interesting area for the laissez-fairest. Should we have drug patents or let anyone make any product they can figure out how to duplicate? Who will then bother to research new products? Should the protective role of the FDA go away, replaced, hopefully, by some private concerned folks looking to make a buck? Or just rely on quackery and reputation of medicine providers?)

For myself... well, if I had a reasonable healthcare system to fall back on, I'd feel a bit less constrained as to career paths. Right now, I don't consider any job w/o a big package of medical benefits, but if there were an acceptable fallback, and I mostly had to just plot out rent and food, my life would more free.

One time my doctor (whose practice is an awesome blend of hardcore western medicine rounded out by a respect for and use of some of the best of that hippy stuff; the dude was also my yoga instuctor for 3 years) complained that people accept that they might have to pay a couple hundred for a new exhaust system, but are very uptight about the same kind of money for appointments and treatment and what not. I pointed out to him later that, that's because car costs are ultimately bounded, but health care is not. Worst case scenario, a car is totaled and you have to buy a new one. For medicine though, even if "regular maintenance" is affordable, if something goes wrong, it might go really wrong, and since you can't buy a new body, you're going to be desperate for any treatment that holds promise to fix you. This is why people cling together for health insurance, and why some people think we might get better value-for-money and economics of scale by doing so on a national level.