THE TOUGHEST JOB YOU’LL EVER LOVE

The English Professor at Large

This is Peace Corps week and time to remember and honor the two years and three months I served as a Volunteer in Slovakia. It was 1994, and I was sixty-seven years old, part of a group of much younger, wonderful women and men. For our first three months, we went to training school to prepare for what the Peace Corps calls “The toughest job you’ll ever love.”
To help the process, we were farmed out to Slovak families who had volunteered to house us. Now, this was a gutsy move on their part. They had been raised during the Nazi and Soviet regimes, and Americans were always the enemy, and, suddenly, there we were….right in their living rooms. My family consisted of three women in their 40s, none of whom spoke a word of English. They were kind to me, and one of them, Ema, became a good friend…

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Health Care 2017

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It’s time we faced the issue of health care coverage without the slant of ideology or partisan politics. Obamacare was flawed, but it was further crippled by Congress changing and not implementing some of its provisions, including those which provided funding for the program. Insurance companies professed interest, but several of the largest refused to participate in the marketplace of many states, citing fears they would be putting their better-paying customers in the position of paying for those less well-off and this was too big a risk to take. The hoped-for competition didn’t take place and premiums rose.

We have to face facts. Many rural areas and some inner city areas lack the economic base to provide quality health care to all of their residents. Some people perceive the economic gap as unfair, and believe a different arrangement would solve the problem. When that arrangement has been to receive financial help from the more affluent, often urban areas, or centralized government, it has added to the resentment. Buying policies across state lines, as has been proposed, only puts the burden on those states with a more affluent population. Tax credits will most likely be inadequate, and health savings plans cannot provide enough of a safety net in the event of chronic illness. The free market won’t solve the issue, either, since there isn’t a large enough market in many rural areas, insurance companies have little incentive to provide coverage. None of these address the basic problem of inequality.

Rather than repairing Obamacare or putting together a cobbled-together health care program, which will probably greatly resemble Obamacare, or fall far short of solving the problem, we need to take a fresh look at the problem. In my view, the best way to provide health care to everyone is to have a form of health care program similar to Medicare, with various options, into which everyone pays and everyone receives quality coverage. This would overcome the issues of income redistribution and inequality, and the anger and division which they create. Whether this program is operated by the federal and state governments or by a consortium of private and public health care providers, or allow people to choose between these models, would make for an interesting debate.