Let’s Define Terms if there is Going to be a Debate

Let’s face it, the health care debate is unattractive and boring. As such, my intent with this post is to come to some common definitions we can all agree on to frame this boredom moving forward.

From what I can gather we’ve got two key concepts that need clarification:

1) Medical Care

2) Health Care

Medical care is just that, medical care. You get sick, a Dr. attends to you, and from there the problem gets worse or better.

Health care is what you do for yourself (diet, life style choices, exercise, etc.).

The crux of the debate today centers around universal health care and the merits of its application and delivery. As with anything, all systems have an up and downside. Nothing is 100% coverage, 100% satisfaction for everyone.

Universal Care – Britain, Sweden, and Canada among others have it. Key arguments for it center on the “universality” of coverage. All equal, all covered. Medical professionals would be able to concentrate on healing rather than on insurance procedures. Free medical services would also give patients the incentive to practice preventive medicine and hopefully address medical concerns in their nascent stages. Plus, people with pre-existing conditions would still be able to receive health coverage.

Arguments against universal care focus on months of waiting for surgeries, the availability of only a fraction of MRIs or other high-tech services, the government deciding which medicine is available to consumers, and even the blocking of the private consumption of medicine should the customer opt to pay out of pocket. On the whole, universal care doesn’t come without a price-tag. Taxes would be levied or spending cut from other areas … education, defense, etc.

Now, countries with universal health care do not necessarily have better medical care. This is especially true when comparing the quality of care to the U.S. A common argument in favor of universal health care is those supporting it cite longer life expectancies than those in the U.S. This is exactly where the difference between heath care and medical care comes in. Medical care is what Dr’s can do for you. Health care again is what you do for yourself.

Fact – the U.S. has higher obesity, cholesterol, high-risk activity rates than most of the developed world. A Dr. could counsel you til he’s blue in the face but what you do determines the outcome. Americans live more risky and that wouldn’t change with universal health care because that has nothing to do with health care. I have had health care all my life. During my 20’s I think I went to the Dr. 4 times. Had I had universal health care would that have changed?

It is fine to debate the merits of either system and the economics behind them, but comparing one country with universal health care to the U.S. and assuming this model could be replicated does not take into account that the Swede and the American live inherently different lifestyles.



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