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Editorial: The policy question that matters most

Published: 12/1/2019 6:00:35 AM

Earlier this month, the Monitor Forum asked readers whether health care should be considered a basic human right. We expected a good response; what we received was overwhelming. It took four editions over four days to print all of the answers to the “Big Question” – and many of those who took the time to craft a thoughtful response were doctors.

In retrospect, we shouldn’t have been surprised. When discussing health care, the question we asked is fundamental. The way you answer should serve as a guide for which policies you will support and which ones you will oppose.

If you missed some or all of the responses, here’s a sampling.

Dr. Kenneth Dolkart: “We remain the only developed nation to neglect the necessity for automatic, accessible, universal and affordable health care.”

Dr. Robert S. Kiefner: “We are left to question the ulterior motives of politicians from both parties who object to true universal care, and perhaps to wonder if they believe that health care is a human right after all.”

Dr. Gary Sobelson: “No modern society would survive, or deserve to, leaving its sick and injured in the street, and we wouldn’t deserve to be called ‘human’ if we denied needed medical care to others around us.”

Dr. John A. McDowell: “No woman, infant, child or man, whether living in a wealthy nation or in Third World poverty, should be denied treatment for the pain and suffering of illness. If we are people of conscience, a society of conscience, a world of conscience, then this is a given. ‘Do unto others . . .’ ”

Dr. Marcosa Santiago: “Our multi-payer system delivers profits, not health care. With diagnostic tests or treatments delayed or unaffordable, death or disability can result – also depletion of savings and bankruptcy due to medical bills.”

Dr. Joann Buonomano: “I write for the under-insured hard-working couple who avoids care for treatable depression and coronary artery disease for fear of not being able to pay their rent due to their $10,000 deductible on their health insurance plan. May we all take a moment of silence, and then proceed together on the right path forward.”

Dr. Susan Zlotnick-Hale: “Our current health care system is based on profit, which leads to the dystopian concept that health care is for only those who can afford it.”

Dr. Angela Shepard: “Failure to provide appropriate preventive health services and appropriately manage both chronic and acute health conditions leads to far more costly utilization of health services later on.”

Voters and candidates alike sometimes make the mistake of leaping past crucial questions that should fundamentally shape policy. It happens with global issues, such as climate change and nuclear proliferation; national issues, such as health care and immigration; and local issues, such as education funding and affordable housing. The big questions, the ones we most need to ask in order to create policies that reflect the kind of world we want to live in, are too often lost in the noise.

Underlying all of these fundamental, policy-specific questions is the single biggest general policy question of them all. Philosopher T.M. Scanlon thought the question was so important in shaping society that he wrote a book-length exploration of it in 1998. Nearly two decades later, his argument would be lifted from relative obscurity by, of all things, a television sitcom called The Good Place.

We return to that question now, with hopes that you will ask it of yourselves often, as voters and citizens, in the days and months to come: What do we owe to each other?

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