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Opinion: Deep down we know: Health care is a right

At this moment, two events crowd my consciousness, requiring some comment. First, Donald Trump Jr.’s dalliance with a Russian lawyer in hopes of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. Second, the Trumpcare bill pending in the Senate.

An email chain unabashedly reveals the Russian government’s plan to support the Trump candidacy, a fact that does not seem to have surprised Trump Jr. How could material support from a historically hostile government be good, or even be rationalized? The email, from Russia-linked publicist Rob Goldstone, states:

“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

The email chain directly contradicts what the White House has been saying publicly for months. Junior, along with then campaign manager Paul Manafort and super-son-in-law Jared Kushner, hustled off to meet a Russian lawyer, and have concealed the existence of the meeting or details of it ever since.

There’s more to say about this, but there will be time, and I’ve elected to spend this space on something more urgent: the Trumpcare bill. However important collusion with Russians may be, it doesn’t as immediately threaten the lives, health and happiness of so many millions of us in the way that the bill pending in the Senate does.

Obamacare really boils down to whether medical care is a necessity or a luxury. At a minimum, we all need air, water, food, clothing and shelter. These are necessities; we cannot live without them. You can think of it in terms of feeding a child. If your child is starving and will die without food, can you morally refuse to break the window of a bakery to get the needed bread? For that, in Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables,” Jean Valjean spent 20 years in prison. Yet, Valjean is no villain, but one of the great heroes of literature. The point is that natural law sometimes supersedes human law, and necessity can create rights. The child had a natural right to the bread and Valjean violated no moral law in taking it — indeed, would have violated his moral duty had he not done so.

An Op-Ed piece by a New York City emergency room doctor makes the point. He’s treated many unconscious patients brought to him by ambulance. He never asks their permission to render treatment. Indeed, the good Samaritans who found them and got them there did not question whether medical treatment was affordable and should be given. Some were victims of emergency medical conditions, some had been assaulted and nearly killed. But in the end, a few, who lacked insurance or the resources to pay for the care they had already received, upon gaining consciousness complained about the decision to save their lives, saying they would rather have died allowing family members to collect life insurance, than face financial ruin.

Like a loaf of bread for a starving child, emergency care, maternity care and care for debilitating health conditions such as cancer and birth defects is not a choice; it is a necessity. In the July 10 New York Times, Dr. Farzon A. Nahvi wrote:

“So why does this happen with health care? The answer is that we don’t truly believe in free-market medicine. We know that in an empathetic and caring society, life is valued above all else, especially when the life in question is in the most helpless condition possible. Deep down inside, we all intuitively know that health care is not a free market, or else society would not allow me to routinely care for people when they are in no position to make decisions for themselves.

“Republicans need to be honest with themselves and the public: If they want medicine to be truly free-market, then they have to be willing to let the next man or woman they find lying unconscious in the street remain there and die.”

In the Kansas City Star on July 11 Michael Gerson wrote about a woman, Medina, who is struggling to feed a starving family in famine-wracked Kenya. So, why should I care? Gerson answers in writing about the international response to this crisis. “Whatever happens, Medina says, will be ‘God’s will.’ But a failure of compassion would be entirely our own.”

We care because we’re wired that way. We have to care or we stop being human. Let’s just face it; health care is a right.

— William Skepnek is a longtime resident of Lawrence.

Comments

Bob Summers

Poor Bill. You have no "rights". You like every other life form on Earth are here because of chance.

You get sick, you do what you have to get cured.

Bill, like all Liberals, live in a fantasy. They want what other people have because it is a "right".

4 months, 1 week ago

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Dorothy Hoyt-Reed

You do what you have to? Good we'll all send the bills to you.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Bob Summers

You daring little minx. What cure do you need?

4 months, 1 week ago

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Greg Cooper

"You get sick, you do what you have to get cured."

That is an asinine comment, even for you, Bob. Why not say what you mean: you get sick, you do what you can within the monetary means you have available to you, including bankruptcy for medical bills you incur to stay alive or get healthy, or you die.

You know, I really don't care that you have no empathy for your fellow humans, but I do care that you spew this kind of hatred in a public setting. I only hope that you and yours do not ever encounter the economic situation that causes you or them to become the butt of some stupid comment like yours. Even though you might be one of few people on earth who actually deserves that fate.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Bob Summers

There you have it. This is why healthcare is so expensive. The Liberal wants to use your "empathy" money to pay for the freeloaders.

The Liberal will say and do anything to get your empathy money.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Greg Cooper

Hey, sweetheart, why not address my point. Here, I'll repeat it for you:

"Why not say what you mean: you get sick, you do what you can within the monetary means you have available to you, including bankruptcy for medical bills you incur to stay alive or get healthy, or you die."

But, of course, it's been obvious all along that you have not the courage to say what you mean, but only to make things up so you aren't exposed as the lightweight you are.

4 months, 1 week ago

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MerriAnnie Smith

You blame the victims of capitalism gone wild. But not a word from you for the people who have the power to raise insurance rates and raise costs of healthcare.

What a funny little guy you are.

4 months, 1 week ago

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P Allen Macfarlane

I have read your often strange way of expressing yourself for several years now. Please define who the "freeloaders" are. My hope is that your definition includes everybody who gets a handout (subsidy) from the government. If it doesn't, then you are not being honest.

4 months ago

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Armen Kurdian

Let's say for the sake of argument, that the author is right, HC is a human right, above food, clothing, and shelter and start at that point. Philosophically, what does that actually mean?

Anyone please chime in here.

4 months ago

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Greg Cooper

Why put health care above any other need? Those things are necessities for anyone, and trying to deny that is simply inhumane. What the heck is wrong with looking at the monetary side of lack of health care: bankruptcy, substandard living conditions, welfare (I know you guys hate that), you know, the things that YOU and I end up paying for in the long run anyway. So why deny that basic to anyone? Are you so selfish that you think only of the "cost" of the program rather than the longer-term results of lack of it? Seems to me that we all will pay the cost, regardless, so why not create a universal care program that will make it less likely that anyone will become too ill and too poor to stay alive and productive?

4 months ago

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Bob Reinsch

Profit is what really matters. So, a few people have to die so stockholders can redecorate. What's the big deal? People that think like Bob Summers have the right idea. "I got mine, so up yours". You tell 'em, Bob. You tell 'em. See you in church on Sunday.

4 months ago

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Calvin Anders

William, I like your letter and I like your sentiment. I'd also like to point out, though, that health care reform that includes coverage for all makes good economic sense as well. Eliminating the huge burdens of private insurance profiteering and big pharma's unregulated fee structure and drug pushing via advertising and courting doctors, would free up billions per year in funds to help cover the poor. Combine that with a treatment approach that moves away from fee for service and looks at treating patients, and we could easily cover everyone with what we are spending now. I strongly agree that there is a moral obligation for a society as wealthy as ours to cover it's people. If we could just get politicians out of the pockets of the medical/pharma/insurance industries, the argument would be a no brainer on any level.

4 months ago

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Chris Warman

whatever

4 months ago

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Greg Cooper

Such pithy thinking. Thanks for shedding light on this subject. NOT.

4 months ago

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Armen Kurdian

Coverage for all....what does that really mean? if I want a boob job, does government have to pay for it? what about monthly acupuncture...who decides on that? Do you coverage for all advocates have any idea what that would actually cost? Or the damage it would cause to our health care industry?

4 months ago

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Greg Cooper

"Or the damage it would cause to our health care industry." And that's your bottom line, isn't it, Armen? That the industry might not make as many wealthy as it does under the present system. Does Medicare pay for your "boob job" (now that's a pretty picture!) or acupuncture or plastic cosmetic elective surgery? Why throw out silly-isms and not go to the essence of "health care"? Because you don't want to is the best answer, followed closely by you don't want to think any deeper than your knee-jerk reaction to anything.

4 months ago

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Armen Kurdian

OK Greg, you've missed the point, and you're the one knee-jerking here, but that's fine.

4 months ago

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Calvin Anders

Armen, you have chosen some pretty easy examples to categorize. Elective cosmetic surgery isn't covered by any sane private policies and I'd imagine it wouldn't be covered under any public policies. There will be trickier situations where it's harder for a bureaucracy to draw the line. But that doesn't mean the whole idea of universal coverage is horrible. That just means there would be some challenges. The healthcare industry would have to change. And some who profit mightily from the industry would have to make due with less. But, doctors, nurses, and even drug makers would still have jobs. Some jobs would go away, but others would be created. The argument that universal health insurance and drug price regulation would "damage the industry" is really primarily an argument made by those making millions on everyone else's suffering.

4 months ago

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Armen Kurdian

You'll find that a wholesale takeover of nearly $4T of the US economy would lead to a stifling of innovation, rationing, and an overall reduction in the quality of care. there is no way this bureaucracy could take that on. The ACA has already added significant administrative burden to healthcare, and a furtherance of that would be a serious squandering of our resources and national treasure.

You can't solve a problem simply by throwing money at it as the ACA has done. We're not a small country like many European nations with singular or large proportionate ethnicities with populations more concentrated, and quite honestly healthier. Remember that the much-maligned profit motive is what drives innovation and technological advancement.

If your point about elective surgeries were true, the government would not have paid for Bradley Manning's sex change operation. All it takes is a doctor's note and poof, it's paid for.

4 months ago

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Calvin Anders

Armen, you are clouding the issue. ACA was not a move to single payer. It is a deeply flawed compromise designed to appease drug companies, insurance companies and conservatives. ACA did nothing to control prices and left greedy corporations in the middle of the equation. And you are pulling out all the usual chestnuts to argue against pushing the profiteers out. "It will stifle innovation". That assumes innovation only comes from financial incentives. Drug companies spend hundreds of millions on lobbying. They spend lots of money of repackaging and subtly modifying existing drugs to maintain patent controls. And they spend huge money courting doctors and advertising drugs directly to the public. Is that the kind of "innovation" you are talking about? We will have "rationing". What do you think we have now? Britain and other countries have a public option but also a private option for those who want to pay for higher classed service. And keeping the billions that are skimmed by the industry in the system will allow more to be treated. We will see a "reduction in the quality of care". If the rest of the industrialized world is any indication, this is a ridiculous claim with much evidence to the contrary. These are tired, old arguments that are not supported by facts. It's nonsense.

4 months ago

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Armen Kurdian

You won't get much argument on drugs. There's legitimate reform needed, such as the elimination of direct marketing, and restrictions on lobbying. But at the same time, the costs incurred to get a drug to market can run in the billions. So if there's some reform for the drug companies, there needs to be internal FDA government reform as well.

You're making my same argument against the ACA but drawing the wrong conclusion. It's ironic that there was probably a large amount of 'help' from the insurance industry in writing up the ACA and now they are dropping out of the ACA exchanges faster than you can count because they're losing money.

The safety net cannot become a way of life, we can't afford it as a nation. There aren't enough tax dollars to implement full coverage for everyone, you're talking $3.5T - $4T alone, and that's what the federal budget is today. Why implement a full government takeover w/o giving real free market reforms like competition over state lines, expansion of HSAs, catastrophic plans, etc., a chance?

4 months ago

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Richard Heckler

Put forth choices which would allow for consumers aka voters to pick which seems more practical for their needs.

House and senate members have conflicts of interest known as campaign money. LET THE VOTERS TAKE OVER TO GET THE JOB DONE!

Put forth the following package to voters for their approval.

=== ObamaCare which retains the health insurance industry for those who are pleased with the medical insurance industry after all it is their dollar. This needs stiff federal regulations that cannot be superseded by the states. Offer a tax dollar rebate at the end of every year that would equal about what families would “payout” through taxes = $3300..

=== Single Payer Medicare for ALL = excellent coverage for those who wish to enroll. The absolute best choice on planet earth. This group does not need tax rebates because our taxes are working for this plan and we the taxpayers.

WE know that using the existing medicare template to service Medicare for All Single payer saves lots and lots of dollars over reinventing the wheel. http://www.healthcare-now.org/docs/sp...

=== ALLOW self financed health care for those able to do so. Paying out of pocket is more efficient for this group. Offer a tax dollar rebate at the end of every year that would equal about what families would “payout” through taxes = $3300.

=== ALL Disabled vets should receive Medicare with a 100% benefit so they and their families can receive medical care immediately upon discharge.

=== Let the voters approve this package. NO ONE SHOULD EVER BE UNDERINSURED AGAIN NEVER EVER.

=== Business SHOULD NOT BE FORCED TO PROVIDE HEALTH INSURANCE!

BTW Taxpayers realize that the medical insurance industry is as corrupt as Kansas Senators, the mafia, President Trump, ALEC, too many in the house and senate, campaign finance , electoral college,the Presidential Debate Commission and our election system.

Members of the house and senate instead allow the insurance industry to design whatever then kick back to elected officials billions of campaign dollars over time ….those are health care dollars btw.

Paying back like a busted slot machine.
http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/blo...

4 months ago

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RJ Johnson

Health care is a right? Show me where in the constitution that is states that health care is a right? You forget we live in a free county, nothing is free. What you don't pay for, someone else must! As it stands now, anyone can receive medical aid and not be turned away. I do not get all this self entitlement crap!!

4 months ago

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Armen Kurdian

In fairness, the 'right' comes from the notion that withholding it from someone would be a violation of their human rights. So like those civil wars in Africa where there was actually plenty of food to go around, that people could buy, and food was used as a weapon...that's a violation of human rights. It is a conflation to say that HC is a right when it is so expensive that usually you can't pay for it out of pocket on your own. No one wants people to suffer, but the cost of HC is a very real issue that doesn't really fit the idea that HC is a human right.

3 months, 4 weeks ago

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Richard Heckler

How in the world does paying for my single payer insurance coverage with my tax dollars translate into FREE insurance coverage? Where do some people get the idea that OUR tax dollars represent free anything?

Humans were born needing health care not by choice but by design. Therefore humans have no choice in the matter. Therefore what could be better use of OUR tax dollars than to provide single payer health insurance which represents more efficient spending.

Why pay more for industrialized health insurance coverage that spends health care dollars recklessly on CEO's,golden parachutes, kickbacks masqueraded as campaign donations, funding 8 lobbyists per elected official etc etc etc.

4 months ago

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Richard Heckler

Tax dollars pay for Medicare and Medicaid, for the Veterans Administration and the Indian Health Service. Tax dollars pay for health coverage for federal, state, and municipal government employees and their families, as well as for many employees of private companies working on government contracts.

Less visible but no less important, the tax deduction for employer-paid health insurance, along with other health care-related tax deductions, also represents a form of government spending on health care.

It makes little difference whether the government gives taxpayers (or their employers) a deduction for their health care spending, on the one hand, or collects their taxes then pays for their health care, either directly or via a voucher, on the other.

Moreover, tax dollars also pay for critical elements of the health care system apart from direct care—Medicare funds much of the expensive equipment hospitals use, for instance, along with all medical residencies.

All told, then, tax dollars pay for at least $2 trillion in annual U.S. health care expenses. Take this $2 trillion and apply it to Single Payer which will help cover more people = more efficient use of health care dollars.

4 months ago

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Armen Kurdian

Actually it does, because of the need to reduce the Administrative burden. But I don't see how just putting in single payer means that tax dollars get spent more efficiently, there's no business case to prove that.

The use of pre-tax dollars eliminates a burden to take the money and redistribute it, regardless of where it goes. Plus it puts more power in the hands of the consumer.

You want a health care system that keeps to a minimum government involvement...there's no value there.

4 months ago

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Richard Heckler

Face it folks the issue with too damn many politicians is all about kickbacks which fund their campaigns and larger profits for the source of these kickbacks.

4 months ago

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Richard Heckler

Expect nothing different from the Lt Governor. HE is an ALEC loyalist.

NO ONE ELECTED THE CONSERVATIVES OR DEMOCRATS OR ANYONE ELSE TO DESTROY OBAMACARE or MEDICAID.....NO ONE!

Put forth choices which would allow consumers aka voters to pick which seems more practical for their needs. Let the voters have final approval authority!

=== ObamaCare which retains the health insurance industry for those who are pleased with the medical insurance industry after all it is their dollar. This needs stiff federal regulations that cannot be superseded by the states. Offer a tax dollar rebate at the end of every year that would equal about what families would “payout” through taxes = $3300..

=== Single Payer Medicare for ALL = excellent coverage for those who wish to enroll. The absolute best choice on planet earth. This group does not need tax rebates because our taxes are working for this plan and we the taxpayers.

WE know that using the existing medicare template to service Medicare for All Single payer saves lots and lots of dollars over reinventing the wheel. http://www.healthcare-now.org/docs/sp...

=== ALLOW self financed health care for those able to do so. Paying out of pocket is more efficient for this group. Offer a tax dollar rebate at the end of every year that would equal about what families would “payout” through taxes = $3300.

=== ALL Disabled vets should receive Medicare with a 100% benefit so they and their families can receive medical care immediately upon discharge.

=== Let the voters approve this package. NO ONE SHOULD EVER BE UNDERINSURED AGAIN NEVER EVER.

=== Business SHOULD NOT BE FORCED TO PROVIDE HEALTH INSURANCE!

NO ONE ELECTED THE CONSERVATIVES OR DEMOCRATS OR ANYONE ELSE TO DESTROY OBAMACARE OR MEDICAID.....NO ONE!

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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