the health care hype: observations of an international kid

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History was made in the U.S. this week, to the joy of certain Democratic leaders and the chagrin (read: fear, panic, anger, etc.) of at least 40% of Americans. I was subjected to loud debates outside my cubicle at work as early as Monday morning. To make a sweeping generalization, even those in favor of the reform seem cautiously supportive, and dissenters are up in arms.

I started to really think about this issue because of a blog post by a Canadian resident who was stunned by the strong American reaction against the passage of the closest thing to socialized healthcare we’ve ever experienced. The reactions to his post, in turn, seemed fairly representative of Americans around the country; themes included the unconstitutionality of the bill, big government, loss of freedom and liberty, budgeting woes, and subsidizing healthcare for the poor. These are HUGE topics and I am not an expert, but as one who was raised in the U.S. and abroad, here are some of my reactions:

The outrage being expressed by many Americans is very interesting. I see the current American reaction against this health care bill as reflective of the country’s history and also of the relationship of us citizens with the government.¬†Americans have been steeped in a healthy distrust of government since prior to our independence. We did not mimic the constitutional monarchy from which we came and purposefully set up a republican system (meaning, representational democracy) as a means of giving as much accountability and ownership to citizens as possible.

In theory, this is spectacular. But the practical implementation of this is impossible, which only further fosters a sense of governmental mistrust. If we compare the US with a country like the Netherlands (which requires healthcare coverage), I find that one member of the legislative branch represents roughly 74k people. By comparison, one member of the US legislative branch represents a whopping 574k people. Conclusion? We have a massive system of government with an even larger population to govern, and I think this incites the mindset of fear and panic that you’re seeing in Americans’ reactions.

I know I have not even begun to discuss my reaction to the actual health bill itself, but I can’t help but think that the government has an impossible task ahead of itself: bringing about change (How many of us actually like change?) and placing federal requirements on a nation that takes pride in not trusting its government.

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