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Moral issues in health care reform

September 15, 2008

Moral issues in health care reform

The debate over the nation’s health care system has been swallowed up or sidelined during the last 60 years by war, impeachment, union opposition, and of course political bickering. During this year’s presidential election, the issue is again one of the topics being debated by the candidates, who have radically different views and strategies on the best way to offer health care to the 47 million Americans who are currently uninsured. This week, PLU’s own Paul Menzel, professor of philosophy, plans not only place to the issue front and center, but to look at the controversy surrounding health care from a moral and ethical perspective.

His talk – titled The Moral and Political Wars of Health Care Reform ¬– will take place on Thursday, Sept. 18, at 7:30 p.m. in the Scandinavian Cultural Center.

“There’s wide agreement that something needs to be done, and that something will always involve government action,” Menzel said last week. “But the war, crudely put, seems to be whether it’s a direct government subsidy” or not.

Menzel said he would try to push aside the political debate – which generally has Democrats calling for more government intervention and Republicans countering that tax credits and free market economics is the fix – and look at the moral implications of the health care debate.

“In the end, there are conflicting moral views underneath these political wars,” Menzel said, who added that he does plan to look carefully at the plan put forth by Democratic nominee Barack Obama and Republican nominee John McCain.

And he isn’t necessarily going to favor one plan over another.

“It is not a simple, direct moral war and it’s very complex and nuanced underneath,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily break along liberal and conservative lines.”

And it’s not a new topic. This KPLU report, looking at the health care issue, notes that Franklin Roosevelt wanted to include a universal health care program in his Social Security legislation in the 1930s, and he brought up the issue again shortly before he died in 1945. Harry Truman tried to get a universal health care program started, but it was President Lyndon Johnson who finally pushed through Medicare for the elderly in 1965. Richard Nixon almost got all the warring parties to agree in the mid ‘70s, but his impeachment and resignation scuttled that effort. The Clintons tried 20 years later, and again failed to get anything put into law.

So now, as this KPLU report notes, the United States is the only industrialized nation without a universal insurance.

“The European countries really put us to shame,” Menzel said.