Words

Words on health care

As part of my quest for information about health care issues for the poor, homeless, and underserved, I read T. R. Reid’s new book, The Healing of America. In it Mr. Reid profiles the health systems of France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Canada with additional information about Switzerland and Taiwan. Mr. Reid describes each in terms of the broken system that we have in the United States and how we have addressed (or failed to address) the first key question as posed to him by Professor William Hsiao, a Harvard economist who has helped design health systems for more than a dozen nations: “ ‘Do people in your country have a right to health care?’” (p. 212)

Over the next several days, I will be posting quotations from the book that I hope offer insight into the issues. Please feel free to comment with your reactions.

About the history of the German health system (pp. 72-73)…

“…it seems that Otto von Bismarck was driven as well by a charitable impulse, perhaps a product of his Lutheran upbringing. When the chancellor first proposed his welfare state to the Reichstag, in 1881, he described it as a means for more fortunate Germans to care for the least of their brethren; public welfare, he said, should be viewed as ‘a program of applied Christianity.’ Defending his medical and unemployment insurance schemes in 1884, Bismarck argued that ‘the greatest burden for the working class is the uncertainty of life. They can never be certain that they will have a job, or that they will have health and the ability to work. We cannot protect a man from all sickness and misfortune. But it is our obligation, as a society, to provide assistance when he encounters these difficulties…A rich society must care for the poor.’ “

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