Thursday, June 28, 2012

On Health Care

On this day when the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act, I'm posting something my physician husband wrote in 2010.  I think it is well said. 

When we lived in Charleston, South Carolina, we enjoyed taking a tourist-type tour of the old town "South of Broad." One of the interesting sights would be a small iron plaque firmly mounted to the side of an historic house called a "fire mark," which indicated that the house had purchased fire insurance, and was entitled by contract to the fire company’s services. Fire marks are valued antiques today, and are an interesting and quaint anecdote in American history. If a fire occurred and the firemen arrived at the house, and there was no plaque, they would allow the fire to burn the house. It was not until after 1850 that American cities began to decide that fire protection was something that every house should have, and formed city fire departments supported by taxes. Having partial coverage for a few was simply not practical.

With passage of the Health Care Overhaul recently, our country has declared that having health care coverage only for some Americans is simply not just, nor practical. Health insurance companies have wasted time and money deciding who and what conditions are covered, and denying claims. Patients who aren’t covered can’t go to a doctor for preventive care of a minor illness, but tend to wait until the illness is much worse, then go to the emergency room where, according to law, they can’t be turned away. The treatment is more expensive, and the hospital and other patients have to bear the cost of the delayed care. With the country dedicated to universal coverage, everyone will have health care, which will reduce the cost and eliminate the “who’s covered, who’s not” question.

Other countries adopted the concept of city fire departments first, and America caught on late.

On March 11, 1733 the French government decided that the interventions of the fire brigades would be free of charge. This was decided because people always waited until the last moment to call the fire brigades to avoid paying the fee, and it was often too late to stop fires. Wikipedia

Other western societies have taken this approach to health care successfully for years, and at last America is beginning to adopt the concept.

It’s good that we have finally recognized that health care is a necessity, and should be elevated to the same status as fire protection, water, electricity, and education, supported by public funding and available to all. It’s a mark of a civilized society.

Kennard McNichols MD

(Photo by MarieMcC, shared via Flickr)