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Health Care Is Infrastructure



Whether Americans have a right to health care is the wrong question [“Who Deserves Health Care?” Jan. 31, City Weekly]. We do not ask whether we have a right to asphalt, yet we pave roads all over the nation such that I can drive from my house to the White House without paying a toll. It’s just that we recognize pavement as infrastructure for 21st-century American society.

And we have recognized health care and all of its attendant imperatives (facilities, trained professionals, research, etc.) as necessary infrastructure for at least 50 years. We pay more tax money each year for health care than was spent on the entire interstate highway system. And no country comes close to the tax rate we levy for health care. Especially not the countries with “socialized” medicine.

There is a simple reason why we have treated health care as infrastructure: self-interest. We cannot afford to have people dying undiagnosed in the streets when terrorists may be using biological weapons against us. And we fear the effects of epidemics that are not recognized early. Plus, treatment of acute injury, heart attack, stroke and other urgent problems depends upon our health professionals having frequent “practice” at their craft. We know that our future treatment in a critical-care setting depends upon the readiness of doctors and nurses today.

The article in City Weekly is mostly about people with mental-health and substance-abuse problems. Too often today, we use the penal system to handle these problems, at great cost, both fiscally and in loss of human resources. Surely, it must be apparent that health-care treatments are a more efficient, higher-quality way to address mental health and substance abuse.

I agree with the legislators who note that we cannot afford simple expansion of Medicaid. That is because the business-as-usual approach in American health care is incredibly inefficient and wasteful. We can only afford expansion of coverage if we have real health-system reform, which improves the quality of care delivered and eliminates the ridiculous overhead costs of the private-health-insurance business model.

Utah Healthcare Initiative