Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Health vs. Medical

Up for debate nationally is the matter of insurance coverage for “health care.” I think we do not need to debate among ourselves the merits of a single payer, universal coverage system as opposed to what we have now. Our chances for achieving that goal this time around seem slim to me. That does not mean we should stop trying. But I think we need to pay great attention to the language and rhetoric used by all interests in the debate, regardless of the proposal.

What we are hearing is the need to “reform our current system of provision for health care.” Let’s take that apart.  In the Random House Dictionary of English Usage I found the following definitions:

Health: the general condition of the body or mind with reference to soundness and vigor; freedom from disease or ailment;

Reform:  the improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt, unsatisfactory; to change to a better form; to put an end to abuses, disorders, etc.;

Medical: of or pertaining to the science or practice of medicine;

System: an assemblage or combination of things or parts forming a complex or whole; an ordered and comprehensive assemblage of facts, principles, methods, etc. in a particular field.

Given these definitions of words commonly used relative to provision of care for “health” matters, I contend that we have no system, but a mish mash of various approaches and programs, most of which are related to medical care rather than health care. If a diagnosis is required for payment to a provider, it is medical. This could happen with a single payer plan as well.

I suggest that we pay close attention to the language of the discussions as they progress. Yes, I think we need to continue to push for a single payer plan , but even for that we need to be aware of the differences between “health” and “medical”.  Let’s not call it health if it is really medical.

-Cleo Berkun, Ohlone OWL

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