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The Middle Way

June 15, 2009

One of Buddhism’s central tenets is the doctrine of the Middle Way.  Most of us would agree that avoiding extreme positions, emotions, and actions seems eminently sensible, at least most of the time.

In the U.S. national debate over health care reform, we are led to believe that the status quo and a single-payer plan represent the two extremes.  The current situation leaves millions of Americans uninsured, and the number keeps rising as economic conditions worsen (or do not improve quickly enough) and as health care costs, particularly those borne by already stressed employers, keep rising.  The single-payer plan transfers all costs to the government or a quasi-governmental entity created for the purpose of ensuring universal access.  It guarantees coverage for all, but does not necessarily mean the elimination of private plans or mandates to limit costs.

Most of the developed world already has some form of single-payer plan.  In those countries, no one goes without some form of basic coverage, which almost always includes an emphasis on preventive care.  Health outcomes in single-payer countries are generally better, even much better, than in the U.S.  Although costs of care per capita are lower, often much lower, private health insurance plans still flourish as a way of gaining preferential access to elective or off-plan procedures.  Even the best private health plan in these countries costs about the same for a year of coverage as most employers here pay for a single month.

Opponents to single-payer health plans would have us believe that such proposals are the slippery slope to Socialism.  In light of the evidence that single-payer plans not only provide better access and improved health outcomes while allowing private markets to operate successfully, why do Americans find it so hard to see them as the Middle Way to economical, ethical, and equitable health care for all Americans?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. tmakashi permalink
    October 29, 2009 9:28 am

    When you realize that nothing in the real world is 100% good or 100% bad, then you can begin to understand that “Reality is Between the Dualities”. This is my reinterpretation of Buddha’s Middle Way.

    In terms of the healthcare debate, the dualities would be no healthcare, complete healthcare. The reality is that we are currently between those dualities. The problem is that a huge percentage of americans are bordering no healthcare (emergency rooms with consequent huge bills). The private option makes healthcare insurance much more affordable, which will move everyone closer to complete healthcare. The private option is currently a possibility. Single payer is the better solution, but lobbyists for the healthcare industry (and the problem of financing political campaigns) is making that unlikely. Dualistic terms like socialism are used to scare Americans, who ironically love Social Security. This occurs because corporate media and the neo-cons use money, fear and denial to manufacture consent. Obama will sign a healthcare bill. The question is will it be a small or large improvement over the dysfunctional (corporate welfare) system that we currently have.

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