Friday, August 7, 2009

US Health Care 2009 - Introduction

The topic of health care reform has become the political discussion in the US this summer, with President Obama originally hoping to pass health care reform legislation this summer, and now pushing to have something done to improve the state of US health care by the end of the year. This is a topic that interests me greatly, for a variety of professional and personal reasons. During my career thus far, I've worked closely with doctors, medical students, and health care researchers conducting various types of research examining the delivery of health care services in the US. But, this is also a subject that I find deep personal interest in, and is one of the foundational political issues that I consider when thinking about and discussing US politics.

As a Canadian living in the US, this is a subject that I've been forced to confront since I enrolled at Evangel University back in 1995. At that time, my colleagues would ask me what I thought about Canada's 'socialized' medicine, as if it were a system that ought to be in question as a legitimate form of paying for health care and providing coverage for the whole population. A question that would have never occurred to me had I never come to the US for school, but a question that I've enjoyed thinking and conversing about ever since.

If you were to believe many of the commentators in the US, you might think that I was raised in a totalitarian state with no 'freedoms', little opportunity for self determination or economic advancement, and that I was surrounded by suffering due to the ineptitude of government involvement in 'so many' of my day to day activities. Of course, this is not at all an accurate depiction of my experience, my family's continued experience, or the experiences of Canadians in general, but it seems to gain traction in the US because of it's frequent repetition and the availability of a few cases where the system has come up wanting.

Given the dissonance between my perception of the experiences of Canadians, and the caricature depicted by so many commentators in the US, health care became an issue that I've pursued as much information on as possible so that I could honestly understand the reality and avoid the ideological colourings that so often obscure the truth rather than provide clarity in political discourse. I've spent much of my adult life considering and comparing Canadian and US health care, alongside other systems around the world in order to determine what works and what the best way to achieve a workable solution (if indeed there is a problem).

Lately, I've found myself involved in a variety of online debates and discussions about the topic of health care in the US, and how health care reform might best be achieved. In the process, I've found myself repeating the same points over and over, sometimes even with the same discourse partners. I've decided, with the encouragement of my friend Angie, that I'll write a series of posts over the next few weeks outlining and dissecting many of the points of contention seen in the US health care debate. While I can't claim to be entirely unbiased in what I think is the 'right' thing to do, I will claim to present arguments that can be backed up with data, and despite my ideological bent I am first and foremost a pragmatist who would much rather see something work than to promote a pure implementation of my ideals. Despite my limited (or non-existent) readership, I welcome any comments to these posts, but I'll enjoy the exercise with or without comments.