Email L. Henry Platt, Jr.
The words "Health Care" arouse great emotions but little understanding. To better consider "Health Care" we should examine its parts: Purpose, History, Progress, Technology, Economics, Responsibility, Participation, Limitations, and Governmental Control. Obviously, a three minute sound bite or a four paragraph plea seeking more funding will hardly provide insight, understanding or answers.
Contrary to commonly accepted tradition, the world's oldest profession actually was dentist/physician. In the Old Stone Age limited knowledge of some forms of pain relief and primitive care of the ill were generally known by most of the adults of the community. Because this knowledge was so limited, everyone usually learned it. In the New Stone Age one individual emerged in each clan or tribe who was most successful in pulling teeth and treating pain, injury, and illness. This was the dawn of the medical profession. In most New Stone Age groups some forms of tooth brushing and routine hygiene habits were observed.
[Continued consideration of the history of medicine and medical care becomes more difficult to define by dates as the world has not progressed uniformly but at differing speeds in different cultures, different peoples, and different nations. For ease of understanding, examples of achievement may be cited in a time frame defined by political history; but this hardly coincides with the social levels throughout the world. Successful surgery was commonplace in the days of the best known Macedonian, Alexander the Great; but thousands of people in the world still live in the Old Stone Age today in the twenty-first century of the Common Era.]
The dawn of medical/dental care was precipitated by the need to assuage the pain, suffering , and death of family and friends. The practitioner might have been paid in barter of a small bird or animal or other vegetable food. Sometimes payment was not asked or paid for service. In parts of the United States this practice continued as late as when Franklin D. Roosevelt was President of the United States. In the earliest times there were no Government Programs or lawyers, so much of medical/dental care was pro bono.
Today in the United States health care is not equal throughout the nation. We have fifty states with many different peoples. We have individual laws in each state. These laws are usually similar, but they are all different in certain aspects from other states, and even within different states health care may vary among counties, cities, kinds of hospitals, and individual venues of treatment. It is foolhardy to decide that a uniform system is better than any of the existing systems we now have. A comprehensive examination of what we have compared and contrasted among the myriad existing programs in the United States and several provinces of Canada is a wise first step in changing our health care delivery system.
Nationwide uniformity is not what I think Americans want or need. Besides, the Constitution (of 1787 as well as the Revised Constitution of 1972) does not include Health Care as a responsibility of the Federal Government; it is the responsibility of each state or (from 1787) the responsibility of the individual. By contrast, in China medical care is often decided by the State - whether the citizen wants it or not! In the United States we are free to make our own plans and decisions. Unfortunately, some people don't make plans or decisions. My great-great grandfathers knew that if they wanted to harvest corn in August, they had to plant corn in April.
The more governments provide for individuals - the more the individuals will want and expect from those governments. Everyone's comfort level is different. One fellow is content with food, television, and a bed to sleep in. On the other extreme, Dennis Levine admitted in his autobiography that the $3 million he earned lawfully on Wall Street was not enough, so he did some very profitable insider trading through two off shore venues. YES, he did get caught because $3 million wasn't enough.
The economic and legal systems of the United States have been so successful in part because individuals may decide for themselves how hard they want to study, to work, to earn, to create, to build, to invent, to share, to save, to spend, and to enjoy the fruits of their labors. The first fellow is reasonably happy, but Dennis Levine wasn't satisfied.
When Jimmy Carter was President, a journalist asked a cocaine hot-line advisor what he would do if he were given a forty dollar weekly pay increase. The answer was, "I'd buy more coke!"
Medical care is currently available to almost all Americans. I read about my needs. I buy medical books. I discuss medical treatments with others. I seldom have need of professional care. (But I do visit my dentist at least twice each year.) Smart education could definitely improve the health and reduce the cost across the board everywhere.
If you disagree with the previous paragraph, you could most probably find it true if you were to study, read, ask medical practitioners, learn about successful treatments, read the labels on the bottles at the pharmacy in the over-the-counter aisle, and do these things again. Your life is in YOUR hands!
© L. Henry Platt, Jr.