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Health Care & Social Order
By Tim Sunderman                                                                        
September 2009
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There is an underlying issue beneath the Health Care Reform argument. The unspoken question is ― where shall we place the balancing point between being entirely self-serving and being entirely communal. Neither extreme works to create a human society. We assess what best serves both of these ends and move toward it with equanimity in respect to the democratic process. But, embedded in that process is a mechanism that unintendedly polarizes opinions. Every issue becomes a tug of war that ultimately induces each side to pull to more and more extreme positions that try to counter-balance the pull of the opposite side. Regretfully, that seems to be human nature. The risk of extreme pulls of position is that one's arguments move to irrational footing and erodes credibility. That has certainly been the case with much of the Health Care Reform issue.
So, rather than responding to the irrational points of contention being manufactured, it may be more beneficial to examine the underlying philosophies that motivate the arguments.
Some people carry around signs that say "No Taxes". That is certainly the ultimate extreme of the self-serving point of view. No taxes means no police, no firefighters, no roads, no military, no public education, and innumerable other foundations of social order. Few people can afford their own private police service, roads, and so on. So, it is self-evident that we agree on certain basic levels of social order and structure.
The opposite extreme is that everything is shared ― every residence, every car, every object. This is also against certain human psychological expectations and needs for stability and self-direction. Who would work to produce anything if there were no compensation for that effort? And yet you don't see people walking around with signs that say "Share Everything".
So, if we don't embrace either extreme, we seek to find the balance that is as inclusive of these opposite ideals as possible, but also are willing to adapt our social agreement when these opposite are mutually exclusive.
We generally accept the democratic principle of the social equality of all citizens ― equal treatment under the law, equal access to public education, equality of voting. Though we have a long way to go to achieve these equalities, we do not philosophically argue against them. But beyond legal rights, there are also the benefits that modern social order extends that make the whole system better for its people. Roadways are a simple example. There are no fundamental inalienable rights to roadways, but they are figuratively the blood vessels that conduct much of the flow of modern living. And so we afford that as a common shared benefit of our society.
When it comes to healthcare, it is not so much a question of guaranteed inalienable rights to limitless medical attention, but a benefit of our social order to be able to afford access to healthcare for all our people.
We spend nearly three times more per person than any other country on healthcare, but our healthcare ranks 26th in the world, and still nearly one sixth of our population has no health coverage. We obviously have the resources to provide national medical care. We are the only industrialized nation in the world without a nationalized medical program. We are so out of step with the accepted priorities of social order that we would not be going out on a limb with some experimental program to try to insure people's health. Quite the opposite. We are far behind.
The question needs to be asked ― if we spend $5700 per person in this country for healthcare and our life expectancy is no greater than Cuba's which spends only $200 per year per person, where is the money going? That gets to the heart of the matter. When private health insurance companies go into business, they have one objective and that is to maximize profit. And so there is a bit of a moral conflict at work. The more care a health insurance company provides, the lower its profits. That is the success of nationalized healthcare systems at work in other countries; money is not diverted to profits but solely to the provision of medical care to its citizens ― or in the case of the UK ― provision of healthcare to anyone on UK soil. And the greatest fear of people opposed to the Public Health Option is that healthcare that is not profit driven, that uses all its resources for healthcare, is more efficient than for-profit healthcare.
And so we see the absurd and pathetic weeping of the anti-reform movement with their scripted sabotage of town hall meetings, equating the President to Hitler as though he is filling trains with cattle cars full of society's underproductive and racially profiled citizens and carrying them to concentration camps to be gassed and dumped into open graves. A less extreme contingent argues that our federal government is too inept to run a large organization like healthcare, but they seem to be the same contingent that accepts a government-run military. Likewise, they seem to be perfectly accepting of Medicare benefits for themselves and their older generations, never once volunteering to rescind that benefit of government-run healthcare for seniors in favor of choosing their own private healthcare.
The real issue that evades the national discussion is how much greed are we willing to sustain at the expense of our well-being. Much like the banking collapse, it is a system that is not self-sustaining, but self-consuming and it needs to be solved with reasoned dialogue and not displacement masks for greed.

Tim Sunderman is an illustrator who is also a fulltime college graphic design instructor in the San Francisco Bay Area. Never content in a single medium, he has experimented broadly with photography, video, writing, and even marble sculpture. But graphic design still pays the bills.
Read other articles by Tim Sunderman: