Third blog post

Consider health care in the late 1700’s.  The founders of the Constitution were well aware of the options.  You had your sawbones doctor who would take your leg off without washing his hands, let alone using anesthetic.  Germs were unheard of and “gentlemen didn’t need to wash.”  Anesthetics had yet to be developed.

You had your local midwife and probably an herbalist.  They knew their business pretty well.  Midwives were highly successful with births that did not need surgery.  The herbalist knew what you could take to lower fevers, set bones faster, and nourish you to health.  Neither received medical training, but the sawbones didn’t get much of that either.

If you were lucky, you had access to a Native American medicine man or woman.  They really knew their business with wound care, childbirth, broken bones, etc.

None of these people, (with the possible exception of the sawbones), was usually paid with money.

You paid your medical bills with products you made or produce you grew.  Sometimes you paid with tobacco leaves, for that was an early form of currency in the colonies.  You paid the midwife for helping the baby into the world in April with a bushel of apples from your crop in September.  Sometimes you paid with your labor, if you were a carpenter or mason.  You paid the Native American medicine man or woman with pelts.

To be fair, those who lived in cities often used money.  British money to start with, and later the multiple forms of money that muddled around during the Revolution and afterwards.  Barter was better.

None of this medical care was prohibitively costly or required complex equipment and sophisticated facilities.  That came much later.

The most significant part of health care at this time was that it stood as a right.  In fact, the members of the community had a Christian moral obligation to provide it.  When your neighbor was poorly and bedridden with illness, you sat by the bed.

You took care of him and his home.  You washed up, fed the animals, minded the children, cleaned the stalls, and did everything you could to help this person – whether you liked him or not – to get back on his feet.

If he was dying, you sat by the deathbed.

Neighbors took it in turns.  They helped as they could.  When the illness ended, you went back to your home, secure in the knowledge that the community’s sacred obligation would serve you should you need it.

We still have this sacred communal obligation.

Since the 1700’s, doctors have learned to wash their hands.  We have learned to do a great many things to heal and repair the human body.  We have developed medical skills that require extensive training and elaborate facilities filled with sophisticated equipment and large staffs.  These are all costly.  The problem is payment.

Insurance companies are a poor substitute for the moral obligation of a community.  For one thing, they are solely interested in their own profit.  They have a strong vested interest in avoiding paying your medical bills.

Here is a story that illustrates the issue.  Almost all of it is true.

A young married couple, both blue collar workers, were happily expecting their first child.  Each of them had a job and each had medical insurance through their jobs.  Their doctor told the wife that she ran a strong risk of losing her baby to miscarriage if she didn’t quit her job, as the baby showed signs of distress.  The couple sat down and figured out that they could do a few months without her income.  They only had to get her on her husband’s medical insurance.

An unborn child is a previously existing condition.  The insurance company turned her down.  She had to keep her job and, in the second trimester, lost the baby in a pool of blood on the workroom floor.

President Obama stopped this from ever happening again.  No previous condition can prevent a pregnant woman from getting the health care her unborn baby needs.  Thousands of babies need prenatal care each year.  We’ll never know how many live today because of President Obama.

This story illustrates what is wrong with mixing the profit motive with health care.   Like our forebears in the 1700’s we have a moral obligation as a community to provide health care for all our citizens.

“We, the people, of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” – US Constitution.

Notice the phrase “promote the general welfare?”  That means, as a nation, not just as a jumble of independent states, we are to act for the general welfare of all our citizens.  Whether one is a Christian or not, we, the people, have a moral obligation to provide health care for all.




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