The honorable institution of medicine

posted by Jeff | Saturday, July 28, 2012, 11:08 PM | comments: 0

When you talk about health care in the US, you inevitably talk about insurance. You talk about the morality of it, the costs... pretty much everything but the practice of medicine. It sucks.

I was struck by the willingness of the Brits to include a tribute in the Olympic opening ceremony to the National Health Service, or NHS, which is their public health care system. Apparently there's a lot of respect for doctors and nurses in the field. One commentary I read said they're often respected the way Americans respect their military.

Of course, the American political discourse starts with shouts of, "Socialism!" Then it devolves into quality of care, wait times and other things not derived from experience. Mind you, if you have crappy or no health insurance in the US, you can pretty much make all of the same arguments. We're dealing with all kinds of crap right now ourselves, ranging from billing, to scheduling to prescription approval. Something ain't right when your doctor no longer dictates what you can take. I also scheduled a straight wellness check-up, and have to wait more than two months.

At issue isn't whether or not the British system is better. Availability isn't really the issue, either. What I'm thinking about is more the strange way we Americans view this, wrapped up in the passionate distaste for something different, and disregard for the professionals that train to care for our health. It's unfortunate.

I'm not saying that I believe a social system for health care is the right answer, because I honestly don't know. What I don't like is the outright dismissal of the discussion beyond the "S" word. I mean, the largest portion of the non-statuatory US budget is a socialist system we pay into: defense. Locally we pay into a socialist system for roads, schools, police and fire. And we honor these people who protect us, too. It just seems completely bizarre that we don't share this attitude with doctors.

Again, I'm not endorsing the NHS, but I'm questioning why we can't have a discussion about how to fix health care that gets beyond what everyone thinks is a bad idea (based entirely on rhetoric). It'd be nice if our culture celebrated science and medicine the way we celebrate safety.


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