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Fabio Buffa

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How does the sum total of ALL US healthcare costs compare to the sum total of ALL US health insurance premiums paid by Americans, annually?

The problem of healthcare in America is often sold as an issue of scarcity, touching on political ideology. My question aims to see whether that scarcity(at least in terms of funding) is real or perceived.

If all of the premiums collected by US health insurance agencies were totaled, would the sum exceed the sum of all US healthcare expenses? If so, then wouldn't we have our solution to healthcare in America? at least in terms of Dollars and cents? Wouldn't it then become a matter of policy and reallocation of existing resources?

Must we also account for the untreated health issues that would have been included in the sum, if only those individuals could afford treatment?
IF we did account for those costs as well, how might that new sum compare to the Sum of Health Insurance Premiums?

Also, when we're talking about healthcare, at the core, aren't we talking about human rights? Our commitment to saving lives seems evident in the Hippocratic oath, and the laws mandating emergency care regardless of patient wealth. If we feel this way about human life; if we believe people deserve to be saved, then why don't we believe that all people deserve preventive and life sustaining healthcare? Why do we treat healthcare as a commodity, instead of as a civil right?

Whose interests are served when it is treated as a commodity and whose interests are jeopardized? Whose interests are served when healthcare is treated as a basic human right? Are anyone's interests not served by treating healthcare as a human right?

Doesn't a healthy society flourish? Doesn't a healthy society seem more likely to produce doctors, scientists and technicians who can further improve healthcare and life in general?

Your advice on where to seek these statistics would be of most immediate use. But perhaps more illuminating will be your perspective on health care as a commodity versus a civil human right.

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  • Mar 28 2013: Good questions. I may venture into the statistics another day. For now, I'm interested in the rights aspect of the subject. First, my presumptions...there is a difference between a right, and the right thing to do. Civil rights and human rights are by nature different. Of course these often overlap; human rights inform civil rights, and civil rights can illuminate human rights. Human rights are innate, based upon the intrinsic worth of human beings. We accept that we do not grant these rights, and are not to restrict them by any means, but especially political force. One back-of-the-envelope rule I use is that exercising human rights have costs, but we automatically bear them without weighing the trade-offs. Civil rights are dependent upon the society of origin, and are granted by that society. We base many civil rights on human rights, but this is not a rule. Civil rights also incur costs, and we do weigh them against the costs of alternatives. Marriage, for example, is at its heart a contract. It is not necessary for human happiness, healthy relationships, reproduction, self-determination, et al. It simply isn't a human right as all its...spiritual benefits, shall we say, can be attained without it, and barring it for homosexuals only robs them of the social mantle of legitimacy. The contractual elements, however, such as division of wealth, power of attorney, tax implications, insurance, etc., are very much in the domain of civil rights. There is simply no good argument against granting this civil right and its benefits to homosexuals; the costs to society are ethereal at best, and if I don't count psychological harm against homosexuals by denying marriage, I certainly won't give credence or weight to psychological harm incurred by granting it. I'm running out of characters, and this is only the set up. I feel it essential to lay out my first principles before jumping into commodity versus right. Too often I find people start from different presumptions.
    • Mar 29 2013: Neil,
      Great hearing from you. And here of all places. LOL
      So we have it:

      Civil rights=
      not needed for human health and happiness, BUT helpful in establishing/maintaining societal equilibrium, social justice
      acquired by citizens through political action, (at least in a democracy)
      can be withheld from citizens through political action by opposing factions
      enforced/by government once established


      Human Rights =
      unalienable,
      protected by the constitution, (in theory)
      absolutely required in order to have health and happiness
      Not bestowed by any power or authority other than shared human experience,

      This is a hasty and rudimentary attempt at defining the two kinds of rights, based partially on your post and my thought responses to it. there is probably some overlap. Revisions from any viewers are welcome. Just copy and paste it into a new comment with your revisions.

      I think I will make this a new question for discussion and post the link here later.
      Stay in touch!

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