Discussion Guide - Health Care for All

YES! Discussion Guides are designed to help you explore your own experiences, opinions, and commitments as they relate to material found in YES! magazine. Use them in group discussions, classrooms, or study circles. We believe that when people discuss with mutual respect and caring the critical issues of our time, they create a powerful avenue for constructive social change.

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The problems with health care in the United States are reaching crisis proportions. Every minute, five more Americans lose their health care coverage. How can a country that prides itself on being the richest, most powerful in the world be unable to provide adequate health care coverage to a third of its citizens? To hear the politicians and pundits tell it, there's no way out. In this issue, Yes! takes a hard look at the realities of the situation and at the realistic solutions that have worked elsewhere.

Health Care. It's What Ails Us . . .

What are the issues surrounding health care reform? Why are the people demanding universal health care while their representatives claim it's impossible? This article looks at the state of health care in America. Is it time for big change? The majority of Americans think so.
The writers of this article refer to the American health care as a "patchwork" and "broken" system, pointing out that a large percentage of us are not satisfied with our health care.

  • If you had to pick just one, which word would you choose to describe our health care system?
  • What experiences with the health care system have you had, or have friends or colleagues had, that influence your views?
  • In what ways has paying for health insurance or for medical or prescription bills affected your life?
  • What do you like best about our current system?
  • What would you like changed?
  • What worries you most about trying to change our system?

Like most of us, you were probably surprised to learn that "universal health care is in place throughout the industrialized world," costs far less than the private system in the U.S., and results in a far healthier population.

  • What myths about universal healthcare had you previously assumed were true?
  • How do you account for this widespread misinformation?

The majority of Americans (75 percent) support some form of universal health insurance, say Pibel and van Gelder.

  • Does your group reflect that view? (Try polling them and see.)
  • If so, what do you see as the main obstacle in achieving universal health care?
  • Can you see a way around the problem?

Pibel and van Gelder list several possible solutions to our healthcare system (pages 22-23, Health Care Options at a Glance), ranging from socialized medicine to tax credits.

Which is your first choice? Why?

Has Canada Got the Cure?

Holly Dressel looks at a 35-year experiment: What happens when one country institutes universal single-payer health care while its neighbor continues with an employment-based mixed public and private system. When that experiment started, health statistics were the same for Canada and the United States. They're different now, with Canada's outcomes better than the U.S. in virtually every category.
Dressel begins her article by posing this fundamental question: "Should the United States implement a more inclusive, publicly funded health care system?"

How would you answer? Why?

Were you surprised to learn that Canadian infant mortality rates and life expectancy are much better than those in the United States?

What was your opinion of Canadian health care before reading this article? Did this article change your opinion? Did it add to knowledge you already had? How?

Better Wealth through Fairer Health

It may surprise you to learn that people who work for equality are also working for better health. But Brydie Ragan quotes researchers who have demonstrated that it is not just absolute poverty that makes people sick, but relative social and economic inequality. In a London study, for example, junior executives died earlier than senior executives. What is it about us, as human beings, that explains why inequality is so socially corrosive?

Ragan also points out that we are full of fear -- because we have no health care insurance, because we're afraid of losing our health care insurance if we have it, or that it will not cover our health care expenses. But beneath those fears, she writes, lies an even greater fear, the fear of poverty, which can either cause or be caused by illness."
Do you agree? If the problem of healthcare is really the larger social problem of inequality, do you feel more optimistic about finding a solution or less?

A Growing Movement 

Reverend Linda H. Walling says "for the first time in over a decade, people all over the country are finding reasons to be hopeful" about health care reform. She details solid progress at the state level to move toward a health care system that works for everyone.

Walling compares the movement toward health care reform to the social reforms of civil rights, women's rights, and environmental protection. Is that a legitimate comparison? How is health care different from, or similar to, the issues involved in the civil rights movement?

Are human needs better served by markets, individual ownership, competition and profits, Walling asks, or by governments and laws that ensure access and the fair distribution of costs? What do you think?

Walling says the heart of the debate is the question, "Am I my brother or sister's keeper?" How do you answer that question for the issues surrounding health care reform? Do you agree or disagree that this question is at the heart of the debate? Are there other ways to frame the central issues?

What are you doing?

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