I want to express gratitude today for something around which there is far more controversy than is deserved. Understand that I am wincing when I say that today, I am thankful for healthcare.
I know that shouldn’t cause a lot of disturbance, especially since healthcare is such a broad topic. I feel a great deal of gratitude for living in a place where there is medical training available to would-be doctors, where there are colleges and regulating bodies that are in place to ensure that doctors behave ethically, where there are hospitals available to the sick. I am glad to live in a society that promotes ongoing medical research so that the outcomes of healthcare can be improved.
But I am blanching at the prospect of opening up the can-of-worms that is healthcare because I think it is only inevitable that people will add the word “universal” to the term, and that seems to cause a great deal of consternation.
The truth is, I am thankful for universal healthcare, even though I am critical of how universal healthcare is delivered where I live. I do not feel gratitude for lengthy wait times and doctor shortages. I feel no gratitude for family physicians who feel they can be insolent because — as a result of doctor shortages — they have plenty of business whether or not they give a hoot about your health. These are all realities where I live, and really good primary healthcare providers are often hard to find.
I’ve had very good experiences with the healthcare system, but I’ve also had a good share of bad ones. Those are secondary effects of a universal healthcare system that is not regulated by the natural powers of commerce, though, and things could be done a lot better if the powers that do regulate the system did their job a little better.
I once sat in a hospital emergency room for 5 hours before leaving. It wasn’t that I wasn’t seen in those 5 hours that concerned me: I didn’t feel the need to be there and was only at the hospital at the behest of my boss after I had been in a car accident on company time. No, my concern was that, in the five hours I sat there, no one was seen (the people who were there before I arrived were all still there when I left).
But I have also been in hospital emergency rooms packed to the brim with patients, and I was still seen very quickly. I have observed that the good hospitals are always good and the bad hospitals are always bad. If all of these hospitals are funded under the same model — and they are — I can only tie the difference down to good and bad management.
I do feel a sense of comfort knowing, however, that no matter what happens to me financially, my family and I will always be able to get the care we need. I like that I’m never left thinking that I don’t trust the competence of the doctor tending to me or my loved ones, but she or he is the best I can afford. I am glad that I don’t have to worry that my health insurance might deny my claim for basic care. When dealing with the terror of having a sick loved one, or fighting severe illness myself, the idea of having to worry about how to pay for it all is unthinkable.
I would be interested to hear your thoughts on healthcare, universal or otherwise. Even (or especially) if they run contrary to my own. Please share your thoughts with me in the Comments.