I hadn’t visited First Thoughts recently, between Internet problems, being busy with work and church, and not feeling well lately. But I stopped by this morning and found links to two excellent articles.
“Putting Health in Perspective” addresses the issue of healthcare from the perspective of what priority we put on health compared to other aspects of life. All the debates about healthcare (so prominent in the current political climate), Yuval Levin points out, focus on how to make the system more efficient, but share the assumption that health is an overriding priority.
Our society – not just in the U.S. but modern Western society in general – values freedom from pain very highly. I remember, when I was young, reading about people who did not take aspirin for a headache unless it was very severe, and being astonished that anyone would put up with pain if there were an easy way to avoid it.
As an adult, especially now a middle-aged adult, I have come to realize that there are some aches and pains that one simply puts up with. Could I get them all fixed if I were willing to spend the time and money? Probably not, but some of them would probably feel better if I made regular trips to the chiropractor and to get therapeutic massage. But even with insurance paying part of the cost for chiropractic treatment, it would take more time and money away from other needs and wants than I consider it worth it for whatever benefit I would get.
And it’s that type of choice that does not have a large enough place in our current healthcare system (or rather, the tangled mess of systems). The insurance plan available through my new job (which I chose not to take, as my husband has insurance through his job) is, as the human resources person described it to me, the “Cadillac” among health plans. Low or no deductibles, low or no co-pays, dental and vision included automatically as part of the package.
With a plan like that, I would have no reason to think about whether the benefits were worth the cost before going to the doctor, getting new glasses, or getting tests whether I really needed them or not. When I was a young adult, and my husband’s insurance had $2 co-pays, I had no reason to think twice about getting expensive tests done if my doctor suggested them. (The tests didn’t show anything to explain the discomfort I had.)
I pointed out to the HR person at work that “Cadillac” plans like that were part of why the state (I work for a community college) is in the financial straits it is in. It’s not that people should not have access to healthcare, but they should have an incentive to consider the priority of healthcare among all the other things that are important to them. As Levin’s article explains, it is not a necessary feature of human society to consider alleviation of pain as its highest good. But that’s a tough argument to make in our society.
“O Captain My Captain” is about pride, about the human desire to be in control of one’s destiny. I remember reading comments at worldmagblog by non-Christians who could not understand why Christians would see it as a virtue to be submissive to God. If God really is a good Father, they would ask, wouldn’t he want his children to grow up and think for themselves and take care of their own problems instead of always feeling they had to submit to him, and expect him to take care of their problems?
My mother asked questions like that, and I had trouble coming up with good answers. (She believed in God, but an impersonal God who made no decisions and had no thoughts or opinions.) If we had one of those conversations/arguments now, I would want to pull out David Fulton’s article to explain. She probably would not be convinced, but at least I would have explained the Christian position more clearly.