Matt Coneybeare

MC

My Response on Health Care Attack

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I recently received an email from a friend that caught me off guard. It was a lengthy letter defending the authors belief: “I believe that health care in America is not a moral right”. I know I believe in Universal, even Socialized, health care but now I am forced to think about why and put it down on paper. I apologize in advance is my response is offensive or even rude… it is not the writer of the letter I am trying to attack but the arguments that were made.
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I believe that health care in America is not a moral right.  Not a right for anyone.
How could I, and why would I believe something that sounds so callous and
perhaps even evil?
You are right. That does sound callous.
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This is why:
"Rights" is not just a political term, it is also a moral term when you really think
about it. The American Constitution only gives us four rights.  Only four rights.
Please look at Amendment 9 which says that there are certain rights listed in the Constitution, but that does not mean that there aren’t other rights that the people have that are not listed.
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And we are the most free nation the world has ever seen!  You know these
rights:  the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of "happiness".
That's it.   Only four.  So why only these four?
Most free nation? Americans no longer have the freedom of speech, press or assembly that our ancestors had. Since the Patriot Act, the govt. can now eavesdrop on any American’s phone calls, emails and other forms of communication, with no probable cause and no notice. Most of us probably haven’t felt the effects of this, but what about Americans with Middle Eastern descent? People are thrown in jail for no reason other than a suspicion. I thought this happened mainly in the movies until I was informed of a Berkeley Professor who was detained for no reason on a flight back to the US… it really opened my eyes.
What about press, surely anybody can say anything they want in the press. I challenge any of you to call up your local TV station and see if you can get airtime. Or see if you can get a column in the newspaper. The fact is that ever since the introduction of Television, written word has attracted less attention than television news. With the majority of politically active Americans getting news from television, the best way to speak to the masses is to get yourself on TV. Only one problem… you can’t unless you have $$. Even if you do have $$, I don’t think Fox News would let somebody go up there and speak out against the president. These media conglomerates all have political motives and it is tough to find legitimate news-source anywhere. Thank god for NPR and BBC.
Finally, I can get my voice heard If I stand on a tree-stump and talk to my peers… oops…. In many (if not most) cities, if you want to assemble in a public forum you must obtain a permit which costs money (and may be denied by the govt. you may be protesting) giving the poor less of a chance to have their voice heard in a public forum.
One last thing to mention about those “rights”… they originally appear in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. Four years after the ratification of the Constitution, Amendments 1-10 were added (known as the Bill of Rights). Included with the some of rights you mentioned earlier is also the right to bear arms (2nd Amendment), the right of a trial by a jury of your peers, the 10th Amendment which says that anything not expressed in the constitution is given to the States or the People to figure out, and, importantly, the 9th Amendment saying “That’s not all folks!”. This is actually very important because the rest of your argument is based on the fact that Health Care does not fall within our Constitutional rights.
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These legitimate rights have one thing in common; they are rights to
action, not to rewards given by other people.   I'm sure this is the first
political fork in the road for many people, but American rights impose no
obligations on other people, merely negative obligations to leave you alone.
This is the American way--to be given the chance to work for what you
want--aka the Land of Opportunity.
The Land of Opportunity… It sounds so pure when you read it… it’s just not true anymore (actually… it’s never really been true). All people in this country are not born equal, not all people are treated equal and most definitely, not all people have equal opportunity. A child born to a wealthy family has it much easier than a child born to a poor family. The two children start off equal as an egg, but the wealthy child, even before birth has much more opportunity to succeed in the “American Dream”. He will have better health care, better education and better family stability… All roads that lead down the road to success. The poor child, however, will not have access to the same quality health care as easily, will not have the same quality education, and will not have the same family stability that comes with a wealthy family. Of course there are many that break the stereotype, some of those that are poor break through to the other side, just as some of those that are wealthy throw their lives away, but we can never say that these children were born with “equal” opportunity.
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It doesn't mean that others must make you happy, clothe you, or give
you things. It only guarantees the right to work for--to struggle for--
what we wish for, and that no one has the right to stop your struggle,
or when achieved, take your rewards away.  Of course you can always
voluntarily trade goods (another example of the American way).  These
rights do not guarantee you to be given things without any effort on your
part; that would simply take away other's liberty. If your desire for something,
-- anything,  (say health care) imposes any duty on other people to satisfy
you, then the choices in their lives are diminished.  What happens to their
"liberty", their "pursuit of happiness"?  It is a zero-sum game.  Your right 
to "anything" at another's expense means that they become "rightless".
Some of the best things about this country is that there exists methods for the poor to get back on their feet. It is not a perfect system and some people do abuse it, but there are ways for low-income families can get financial support, and supplies through the US govt. I am more than happy to contribute a portion of my tax-dollars to helping out those in need, giving shelter, food and financial support to those who need it more than I. It would be nice if the underprivileged could pull themselves up easily by themselves, but history has shown that without a helping hand, the disparity between the rich/poor will only grow larger. How realistic is it to say that by adding a few dollars to you taxes (or by cutting the Department of Defenses Budget by half a percent), that your choices will be lessened?
I do not feel that my “pursuit of happiness” is threatened at all by helping to pay taxes for a system which will save human lives. About your last line… think about the public, “socialized” areas of your live already: Roads, Fire Stations, Police, Libraries… Who’s “pursuit of happiness” was diminished by the introduction of these systems for the community good? Furthermore, with the National Unemployment Rate at under 5%, the remaining 95% will be contributing (monetarily) to these liberties we all enjoy. If what you say is true, then we should not let those freeloaders have any of the rights that those of us that pay for it enjoy. We can banish them from the roads, keep their kids out of schools, let their house be robbed… why? because we would not want to give up any of our rights and become “rightless”.
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Let me use the example of Hair care because I've heard it used before.  Let's
say, instead of health care, hair care became "free", an American right. Wow!
Every teenage girl would be at the hairdressers as often as she could; several
would be there daily.  After all, it's "free" and it's your right.  At first my hair
dresser would be thrilled, the money rolling in, clients galore, and who can
complain much if the service is free?  But soon, (probably very soon) the
government would say that the costs are out of control and that my
hairdresser has to take a pay cut and also has to close shop early every day,
and there will be regulations on who gets which services.  My  hairdresser,
who used to pride himself on his artistic talent, is reminiscing about the good
old days, when he could choose his own hours and prices, when he wasn't a
servant of the state.  I also wonder about the good old days, too, while I wait
for months and months on a waiting list for my turn.  So, a waiting list forms,
but luckily it is only for hair, not health.  Not so lucky in Canada.
One major flaw with your argument… Hair-care is not necessary for life, Health Care (especially preventative care) is! This is like comparing Genocide with a Childhood Bully. I understand what you are trying to say but there are too many hypothetical if’s in your argument. Do we ever hear of the old Private Firefighters or Police, who took pride in their work, and reminisced about the days they could line their pockets with others misfortune?
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I understand that Canada is compared to Cuba and North Korea as the
only countries that prohibit the choice of private health care. (From what I
can gather--every province has layers of laws--but that's mostly true.)
The Canadians are wait-listed for their check-ups, and most surgeries.  
From what I know of personal friends and their parents, the health care is
great if you are imminently dying, or they at least if they think you are.
(There I can see where a social system of health care might give you the right
to life.)  I've had two parents of friends who had emergency bypass surgeries
and they are doing great.  I know of an acquaintance my age who waited a
full year for an intestinal operation, unable to work because of the pain (but
still able to collect unemployment).  She still loved the "free" health care
system, and had very little bad to say. She's a paralegal and had no
problem with the logic of losing a year's worth of wages, and they have no
children, so her job--and the meaning it had in her life--was paramount.
Now, her tax rate with her husband, federal and provincial, comes to about
44%--and neither of them have college degrees.  Oh, I forgot to mention
a sales tax and GST of about 13% on almost all goods and services. I guess when
you are paying a lot of taxes you feel justified  when you get some of that
money back.   I do wonder how she will feel when she has to be wait-listed
again; she, who lost a year of work--and had to live in pain--still got lucky.
Recently, the Canadian Supreme Court paved the way for a constitutional
overhaul regarding health care, allowing a patient and his doctor to sue Quebec.
"Access to a waiting list is not access to health care", the court ruled.  Yes,
people are dying while on the waiting list.  I do not know how many (we'll never
know).  I know that if a woman is diagnosed in Canada with breast cancer, she
has a 28% chance of dying; in the U.S.A. it is 25%.   I've read that prostate cancer
patients have a comparable border percentage survival rate.  My guess is that the
survival rate is lower because people can't get their routine appointments as
quickly, but I'm sure it's more complex than that.  As the boomer population ages,
any health care systemic problems will exacerbate everywhere.
I urge you to visit some websites and really dig in. You will find that nearly most in this paragraph is bogus! Canadian Health Statistics and American Health Statistics. Lets just look at some pages quickly… On the Canadian page, if you scroll down to “Life expectancy at birth, by sex, by province”, you will see around 80-82 for all provinces. On the American page, if you search for “life expectancy”, you will find 77.8 years. Here is another page that caught my eye on the Canadian page… scroll to the topic “Access to selected health care services”. Here you will find that 93% of Canadians accessed free health care. If we go to the American page, search for uninsured and click on the first link… we find that 15% of Americans are uninsured, giving them zero chance of getting the same kind of care the Canadians get. Would you rather be in the 7% of Canadians that didn’t need to access Health Care, or the 15% of Americans who could not get help if they needed it? No system is perfect, but I think it is much better to be wait-listed than completely denied.
Apparently so do Canadians, voting Tommy Douglas, the founder of the Canadian Health Care system, as the Greatest Canadian in a national survey. As for wait-times, please look at the last paragraph on this page in which the median wait time for specialists, non-emergency surgeries, and diagnostic tests were between 3-4 weeks. Here in America, If you want to go to a good specialist, you usually have to book in advance as well. I imagine that that time would also be 3-4 weeks, maybe a little shorter. I feel sorry that your friend hit the extreme right end of this bell curve but most Canadians just don’t have to wait that much longer for anything.
Worth mentioning here is that in France, known for having the world best health care, where they also have a socialized health system, and spend less percentage of their GDP on health care than the US (10.5% vs. 15.4%), –in France they also have physicians that are available for free house calls any time!
Here in the U.S.A. who really can't afford insurance?
Besides the 14.8% of all Americans without insurance, Me. I have gone the past 5 months without health care because I could not afford it. Luckily I attend a public university where I will have a subsidized health care plan starting in a few weeks. This statement is not as easy to say coming from a position of poverty or even middle class.
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In a free market there will always be those who can't afford everything,
though politicians with agendas may have us believe that the problem is
really worse than it is.  It is a matter of priorities for many.   For $120 a
year (30 cents a day) we can personally buy insurance (24 hours) for our
children through our public school system.  Sometimes people are indigent,
handicapped or just down on their luck, and they have to depend on a
charity, either private, or through the government.  I believe the first job of
the government here is to help take care of people who just can't take care
of themselves through no fault of their own.  But who will give  this charity?
A free people will always give freely.  According to the Catholic Register,
Canadians give only slightly more than half of what the average American
gives.  Half! And those people have "free" health care. Americans are the most
generous givers in the world, and it's a product of being the most free.
I actually think it is more a product of having more need. Who do the Canadians need to give to when most of the services are free? The “Catholic Register” article you mention (here) also states their belief that “The wide wealth gap in the U.S. may partly explain its high level of giving”. This is certainly true as the top 10% of US Citizens (ranked by household income) hold 70% of the wealth ( I am having trouble finding the exact stat in 2006, but it is close to this give or take a few percentages). It doesn’t account for all the donations, but we can’t rule out the fact that there exists a tax incentive for giving. Or perhaps they give of guilt or the need to create some types of image. The companies that exacerbate breast and prostate cancer are the ones that donate the most to breast and prostate cancer research and even have created drugs that help treat breast cancer that is antagonistic to what their pesticides and toxins do. How convenient for them… they won’t stop making products that harm Americans by polluting the atmosphere, but they will give tons of money to look like they care, even trying to find a way to not harm Americans. If they really care about they people affected (conveniently it is mostly low-income, industrial areas), here is an answer: “STOP MAKING YOUR PRODUCT”.
As an aside of the evil of corporations, look at BP and their donation to UC Berkeley of 500 Million to develop alternate fuels. Sounds good at first and of course any research into alternative fuels is beneficial to all, but you have to ask why? As public funding for University research decreases, Universities are forced to look for private sources to further their projects. Sometimes, those private sources are corporations. The corporations want to have their investment produce a return, so they stipulate that they own (or partly own) the technology developed. So why does BP donate? So they can own the technology and make money. You may ask why this is a problem? Well, they want to own it so that other companies have to purchase the right to make the product, and when that happens, the cost is translated to the consumer. Instead of a low-cost alternative fuel, we now have a high-cost alternative fuel and that translates into less desire for consumers to adopt the new technology. This is all besides the point… sorry for the digression.
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There will always be people who are dying needlessly, either on a
waiting list or just because they can't afford it, and yes, it's a very
noble cause to try to alleviate those numbers as much as you can, 
but when the very caregivers become servants of the state, boggled 
down with bureaucracy, limited in freedom to give the services they 
need, the result is utterly disastrous.  You are young, but do you 
really want the government to decide when, if, and what kind of 
health care you should get?  Medicine is also an art as you know
--everybody has a different body.  These are the very same people--
and they will be worse--who brought you your friendly Department
of Motor Vehicles!  Surely that must hit a raw spot. If you have one
good example of the Government providing a better, more efficient
service than the private sector anywhere I'd be willing to listen to
your point.
You shouldn’t of said that… If I provide two examples, does that mean you will really listen? If I provide more, does that mean you will support health care? ;) First, let’s talk about the way the Fire Department used to operate. All Fire Departments used to be privatized. There would be local fire companies that would operate the same as they do now, driving around a truck with water in it to put out fires. It was really easy to get the benefits of that service too, all you had to do was have a special plaque on the front of your house that would let the Fire Department know you had paid for the service. What!? There are countless instances where there would be an entire block burning down, but the houses without plaques would not be touched… even if they were right next to a “plaqued” house. Can you honestly say that the Fire/Police Departments we have now under state control are worse than the privatized versions?
Second, lets talk about public libraries. When is the last time you went into a bookstore, not pay anything, walk out with multiple books, and bring them back whenever you felt like it? If I had to buy every single book I have ever checked out of a library I would be drowning in debt.
Third, lets look at public transportation and roads. Yes, private roads are better quality but are they efficient? How would you like to stop on every turn as you have to pay the toll to drive on the next road? The BART in San Francisco already costs me $35 a week, at govt. subsidized costs. What if it were private? Would I be forced to pay 70… 100… 200 dollars? What about other forms of public transit, airports, and street lights? All definitely better run by the govt.
Lastly, lets look a little at public education. Granted, there are many public school districts that are sub-par, even horrible, but most of the US lives in suburbs and most of everyone I know that went to a public school had nothing bad to say about their quality of education. Let’s take UC Berkeley for example. Last time I checked, Berkeley was the 13th best University in the Nation and the Top Public University. Lets focus on Berkeley’s sciences where we consistently (of late) outrank the next two competitors (MIT and Stanford). Berkeley is the golden child of public schools. It goes to show you all that can be accomplished within a public system when things are done right. As of now American public education is a joke, but nobody said that the Education System is not in need of reform too. In fact, Health and Education are so closely related, with preventative health barely touched in schools and the high costs of secondary education trickling up the societal ladder.
The real reason doctors are boggled down with bureaucracy is that they are limited in freedom to give services they need due to rejection of claims by insurance companies. There are procedures many patients ought to receive but for insurance reason many patients do not receive those until much later, if ever.
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I once knew someone who was in the country illegally.  She needed an
operation and had to "wait" for an opening at the county hospital.  (Free
health care in the U.S.A. for people who can't afford.  It's already here 
but you'd never know that if you listen to the mainstream news.)  She 
was a trooper, had young children of her own, and I feared for her very 
life, not really understanding her broken English.   Her husband had a 
green card, but she did not want to get medical help back home.  She 
waited a good six months.   The short and grateful version is that she 
got her operation, free, and in time, and, yes, she was one of the lucky 
ones.  We were rooting for her all the way, but if it was my child that ill 
or someone I loved in a waiting line behind her I would be distraught.  It's 
not that her life was worth any less; it's clearly not, but if I were to wipe 
all hypocrisies off the table I would want the freedoms to chose the 
service, to earn the right to move to the front of the line--to mortgage the 
house--to toil--to reap a reward for some kind of sacrifice.  Not to move 
to the back of the line because everyone is entitled, to be given a service,
simply because the service exists and politician says it's a now a universal
right.
I have been to some of those free clinics before and they provide a great service to needy, but they are not numerous enough. Let’s go back to the wealthy and poor child. Both come down with a sickness and need to be treated. In our privatized system, a wealthy family can mortgage the house and sell their car and heal their child, but the poor family cannot as easily (if at all). Basically, this says that the wealthy deserve to live more than the poor, is that what you want? Do you think that if the poor had the opportunity to sell their car they wouldn’t? Do you think they love their children any less? I know you keep on talking about waiting lines but it is just not the case. Of all the first-world countries, America is the only one where you have to pay for the right to stay alive. Consequently, we are the unhealthiest nation of all the First World Countries… why? Because the Drug Companies and the Insurance Companies make more money if you are unhealthy and they pay a lot of money to politicians to make sure the regulation goes their way.
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So, what really is health care?  It is only a service.  It's a complex,
scientific service, requiring years of intelligent practice (study) at
great costs.  (Ask Di how much debt a new Doctor bears).
I did… here is what she said: “If a doctor becomes a doctor for monetary reasons, then they do not deserve to enter such a noble profession, nor will they become a good doctor. Despite the mounting debt a doctor bears, I’m still surrounded by thousands of very talented premeds at Cal. We feel very indignant that whereas medical school students have no debt after graduation in most Western European countries, we will probably need half our lives to pay off all the debts we will accumulate. And unfortunately, most of the premeds, actually all that I know, come from very privileged backgrounds and very few are African American. I think this speaks very ill of how our education system is structure in places of different socioeconomic backgrounds. Genetically and biologically, there is no such thing as race (The genetic and biological variations within a so called “race” is much greater than any comparison between any so called “races”. However, socially, race very must exists. It exists in how many people are represented in higher educational institutions; it exists in the different types of diseases; it exists in the difference in ability to access health care”
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How can anyone be born with a right to be given that service?   America
gives you the right to act upon liberties, not to have other people serve 
your desires and needs simply because you wish or desire it, without 
any effort on your part. It's terribly sad and tragic when people are 
caught up in a bad system or slip through the cracks of a good one and 
the result is illness or death; there will always be suffering and our world 
is not perfect. But, I believe that in a free society there are fewer of these 
cases.   Yes, there is corruption in business, because power always 
corrupts.  You see this more clearly in Governments everyday around the 
world.
You say you believe in the right to live, but not in the right for health services. I just cannot see the line between the right to live and the right to preserve that life through preventative and non-preventative health care. An absence of affordable health care translates directly into an higher death rate for the underprivileged. Who gets to draw the line on what is important or necessary to live?
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I suppose if in the U.S.A. a doctor truly felt the need to serve those who 
did not, or could not, pay for health care, that doctor could freely and easily 
only serve those patients only on Medicare (don't get me started on the abuses 
of that system), but considering the number of doctors flocking to that area 
of Medicine I'd have to say that it's not the first choice of many.  Ask the 
doctors if they want to work for the government.  It's our health, but it's their 
livelihood that is also affected.
Very few Doctors go into medicine to make money. Asking Di and other premeds my suspicion was confirmed. If a doctor could give out free or low-cost health care to all, while still making a living, then they most definitely would, but unfortunately, the malpractice insurance and student loans have taken their toll. As it stands, no doctor would want to work for the government, but with a revamped system, I truly believe many would switch over in time. If you think these things can’t just be “turned on” look at what the UK did after WW2 with NHS. They just “turned on” Socialized Health Care and Education. Granted, it is much harder for the US to just “turn on” these services, but maybe we can start moving in that direction with some of the plans offered by current Democratic Presidential Candidates.
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If you truly believe that socialized medicine is the moral road to take, then I 
have no case against you.  I can't argue against something you truly believe is 
moral.  But I have seen what has happened in Russia, with their "moral" 
programs, and although Canada is clearly not as corrupt, it's immoral to take 
away health choices for virtually everyone -- which is what socialized medicine 
does--it ends up hurting all of the very people it's trying to serve.
I do believe socialized medicine is the way to go and the majority of the industrialized world agrees with me. It cannot, however, come alone. We need educational reform to lower costs, tax reform to reverse Bush’s tax cuts on the wealthy and corporations, and an overhaul of the insurance system. I don’t think we can just turn on socialized medicine, not unless we can simultaneously fix the other related industries. What we can do is start to ease the transition by accepting a plan that most of the Democrats are proposing… a mixture of private and public insurance. Lets take the price off of a human life and give people a better chance to survive through the jungle of insurance rejections and corporate carcinogens. In a way, I am so happy that Bush screwed up this country so bad that a Democratic sweep come November is inevitable. At the risk of sounding crass, it seems like Democrats are the only ones who really care about those who have little wealth and are willing to stand up to those that do.

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My name is Matt Coneybeare, I design and develop for iOS (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch), Mac OS X and the Web out of New York. In 2008 I started a software company called Urban Apps that has made some pretty popular apps such as Ambiance and Hourly News. My current Stack Overflow reputation is about 27k.

I was a Rockstar a decade ago, but then went back to school and collected a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science from U.C. Berkeley. Now I am settled down with my beautiful wife Di and our two doggies Hamachi and Foxy. While coding, I walk several miles/day on my Treadmill Desk. When not at my desk, I love exploring New York City as a Yelp Elite, or training for marathons.

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