Lack of health coverage America’s shame

Posted Feb. 16, 2010, at 5:43 p.m.
This image by Michael Osbun relates to the cost of universal health care in the United States.
Michael Osbun
This image by Michael Osbun relates to the cost of universal health care in the United States.

In 1992, professor John Kenneth Galbraith, a renowned professor of economics at Harvard University with an exemplary public career, academic career and author of many widely read books on economics, wrote the book “The Culture of Contentment.” This book depicts the need for a commitment to the human needs and remedies of the economically and socially disenfranchised in the United States. Health care is one of those crucial needs for some 47 million Americans.

Universal health care coverage is essential for all citizens in our country. Universal health care is implemented in all industrialized countries, with the exception of the U.S. Universal health care is also provided in Canada and most South American countries.

“Universal” implies applicability to every member, every citizen in a country. Germany has the oldest universal health insurance dating back to 1883. Britain’s National Insurance Act of 1911 was the first step there toward universal health care.

After World War II, as a process of deliberate health care reform, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, was signed by every country involved, except the United States. That was more than 60 years ago and here we, the United States of America, still have people fighting in opposition to a universal health care program. Imagine it — we are the only industrialized nation in the world that does not have universal care. Universal health care is provided in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay, Trinidad, Venezuela and in many other countries throughout the world.

It is incredible that today, in 2010, we are still trying to promote universal health care for our citizens. We have about 47 million American citizens without health insurance. The U.S. Senate is still a stumbling block toward health care for all Americans.

Every senator has government health care along with other perks and 40 percent of the senators are millionaires. In fact, about half of the billionaires in the world are citizens of the U.S. We claim to be the wealthiest nation in the world, and yet we are still fighting to defeat a proposal for universal health care for 45 million of our own people.

It seems that some of those rich and privileged senators have no shame. One hopes the residents and elected officials of Maine will wake up to the fact that health care in the U.S. and Maine is a disaster. A disaster not only for the less fortunate without health care, but for the countless small businesses that are failing and cannot compete with businesses of other countries that have universal health care.

I remember the struggle Congress and President Roosevelt had in 1935 trying to pass Social Security with zero help from Republicans. The wealth divide in the U.S. between the rich and the rest was not different from today. Galbraith’s “The Culture of Contentment” explains the rise of the greatly self-satisfied, affluent elite that is now dominant in the U.S. They and those making a financial killing from insurance, pharmaceuticals, etc., dominate our Congress just as they did in 1935.

It seems we have forgotten the premise upon which this great nation was established — “equal justice, certain unalienable rights to promote the general welfare for all citizens” and so forth seem to be missing by the leaders in this great society.

Are we no longer committed to the human needs and are we a society that does not include the economically and socially disenfranchised? Are we no longer a democracy believing in equality, equal rights and so forth? Or are we a society, a “culture of contentment,” as professor Galbraith writes about in his book? Are we be-coming a society that does not believe in a commitment to the least of our brothers and sisters?

Let me repeat, the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not have universal health care.

Nat Crowley Sr. of Stockton Springs is a World War II veteran, a former teacher and coach, and former Maine state legislator.

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