Thoughts by Richard Bleil
A friend of mine posted a question: if we have the ability to help somebody with health problems, do we have the obligation to do so?
Through the Coronavirus crisis we are seeing the weaknesses in the American system. Insurance is part of the problem. Because so many Americans are without insurance, unless the government passes something for uninsured people to be tested, many people will be walking around with the virus but no knowledge since they can’t be tested, but even those who are insured will face co payments and out-of-pocket expenses that basically means you have no insurance until you’ve paid enough already. In addition, many people do not have paid sick leave, or sick leave at all meaning they risk losing their job if they take time off because of symptoms. The failings of allowing industry to “self-regulate” are coming into sharp contrast, and I truly hope that somebody is paying attention.
As it turns out, these problems have arisen since I thought to write on this topic. What I wanted to discuss is the difference between law and American founding principles.
Yes, the principles that makes America what it is supposed to be.
Capitalism is not a governance theory; it’s economic. Unfortunately, this economic theory is showing serious problems today. For example, insurance companies do not work for their customers. In fact, it is a law that insurance companies must make profits their highest priority. The argument is that, if an insurance company loses too much money it cannot pay the claims. However, the ramifications of this is that insurance companies are in business, first and foremost, to make money. As a result, most insurance companies will look for reasons to deny high risk clients (such as preexisting conditions) and to avoid paying claims (such as denial of claims if a client pays a bill by their doctor before it is processed by the insurance company). Personally, I believe universal single-payer insurance is a far better approach, but even for those who disagree, I’m hoping that they will see the flaws in the current method.
But back to the original question, is it ethical to withhold treatment? What about medicine if people cannot afford it? How about setting the price of medication to such a level that people have to choose between medicine and eating?
In 1773, the colonies were still part of the United Kingdom and under British Rule, but tensions were high. Britain was extracting wealth from the colonies through taxation, but the colonists were upset because they believed there was nothing they were getting in return. The popular drink of the day was Tea, imported by the British East India Company. Coffee was known, but not popular. Then Britain decided to tax the tea, but this came from a parliament that didn’t even have a representative from the colonists on it. With the rally cry “No Taxation Without Representation”, a group of terrorists (although today they would be called “patriots” since we won) called the “Sons of Liberty” dressed as native Americans to conceal their identities, forcefully boarded the trade ship, smashed open the tea containers and threw them into the harbor. What is known today as the “Boston Tea Party” ignited the Revolutionary War.
Several copies (most people assume there was only one) of an angry letter to King George III of England delineating the reasons for the desire for independence. The Declaration of Independence opened with the sentence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created to be equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This is not law; it is the founding principles of the United States. In my humble opinion, this trumps law, it even trumps the Constitution because this lays out the foundation upon which law and the constitution was supposed to be built. Let’s look at some of the key parts of this.
“All men are created equal.” Back then, the “default” gender was male, so while some might argue about the suffrage movement, I think it was intended to cover all people, but the key here is “created equal”. It doesn’t specify that “all wealthy are more equal than the poor”; it specifically says ALL are created equal. Any law that favors one group of people, say by wealth or political office, is UNAMERICAN.
“Life.” That means that it is UNAMERICAN for the government to take actions that threaten the lives of Americans. In this Coronavirus crisis, the President is trying to take away food support for the poor, for children and women. They are doing it by imposing work requirements for eligibility, which is especially cruel in an age where work is hard to find as many businesses are shutting their doors for the virus and self-isolation of people to protect others. This also means that preventing people from receiving treatment necessary for life is UNAMERICAN as well. We need to find a system of health that works for everybody if we are to stay true to our founding principles.
“The Pursuit of Happiness.” We are, ALL OF US, supposed to be able to pursue happiness. This is nebulous, since what might make me happy could differ from what you would pursue. But the principle is sound, and I can tell you that you cannot pursue happiness if you are not healthy. This means, again, if medical technology exists to make somebody healthy, withholding it, for any reason, is UNAMERICAN. And, by the way, healthy and happy Americans are more likely to make money, which can be taxed, which would add to the wealth of the nation. To suggest that somebody should be denied these treatments because of cost or lack of insurance goes against the very principles upon which this nation has been built.
It’s time to stop the arguing. It’s time to get back to concern for each other, equity and fairness that our country was seeking in the first place. “By Our Creator” implies freedom of personal belief. It doesn’t say “By Christ” or “By the Holy Trinity”; it says “By Our Creator”. Discrimination by faith is UNAMERICAN. “All Men” doesn’t say “White Men”, or “Wealthy Men”; it says ALL men. Discrimination by skin color or socioeconomic status is UNAMERICAN. If you read the original Bill of Rights, you’ll see they are written based on these principles. It’s the laws that follow that seem to go astray.