Perhaps you have seen the tourist ad campaign, Visit California, with celebrities telling you, tongue in cheek that there are many “misconceptions” about California such as everyone owns a skateboard or lives like a rock star. Looking at the breathtaking scenery and shiny smiling people flashing across the screen, it’s hard to imagine the fairly ugly health coverage California debate going on just below the surface in the United States.
From a perch in the cold Rockies of the Canadian North, which despite the frigid temperatures boasts a universal health care system, it’s not easy to wrap one’s head around the health care debate or need for health coverage in California and the rest of America. Canadians have long congratulated themselves on their system of health coverage. What resistance could Americans have to something Canadians consider a major indicator of their wellbeing and the heart of their social safety net? It’s obvious that even the beautiful and tanned Californians, must get sick and need doctors, so clearly the issue is not related to necessity.
In 2010 President Obama passed health care reform laws Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It becomes law to have health coverage as of January 1, 2014. Interestingly, California was among the first American states to respond to this new legislation. You don’t need a degree in public health policy to understand why health coverage in California is essential. Indeed, even the United Nations has asserted the right to health and health care to be an essential human right. However, some experts point out that a “universal” health care system feels like it contradicts the United States orthodoxy of “free enterprise”, denying both individual choice and private commercial opportunities.
So, you might, instead, need a degree in political science or, possibly economics, to understand the opposition to health coverage legislation in the US. An important part of the puzzle relates to the costs of health care. Many would argue that the exorbitant costs associated with the health coverage California system, stem from unnecessary diagnostic procedures, extraordinary measures, new unproven technology and pharmaceutical companies which drive up the cost of drugs. Whatever happened to prevention? Whatever happened to the concept of the commons and common good? Whatever happened to an acceptance of human mortality? Ultimately, don’t all people have to take care of themselves and have a responsibility for their own health? Doesn’t everyone need to share with each other and not use more than their share? And finally, all people, at some point, have to die. Even in sunny California. Perhaps there are ways to reduce health care costs, but they will require an acceptance of certain realities and responsibilities which are shared among all fellow humans.
But that’s not all. For those still among the living, even if you sort through the political and economic arguments, you might require yet another course on this particular health coverage California legislation to figure out how to apply and what you are eligible for, because like all government bureaucratic legalese, this stuff can be confusing. So as Canadians look with envy at the sunshine and glamour of those Visit California ads, perhaps those who are shivering in the Great White North, can feel a single moment of smug superiority that with health care covered, there are other things to focus on. Like hockey, eh.
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A Canadian View of American Health Coverage