The pancake supper system
On this matter of health care: Every single developed democracy in the world has found a way to provide health care coverage for all of its citizens except for the United States.
What do we do here when somebody gets sick? Throw a pancake supper.
Is there an outcry in any of those countries to adopt the American pancake supper system?
Of course not.
And yet, raise the specter of universal health care coverage in this country and people crawl out from under their rocks and cry "communism!"
Not surprisingly, many of the people who use such language are Cold War relics who themselves are covered by Medicare, itself a form of socialized medicine. They got theirs, now it's just to make sure nobody else gets theirs.
Yes, if you support health care coverage for all you are somehow unpatriotic, a servant of Moscow. Or Hitler. Or the devil. Or something bad.
But travel to other countries with a system of national health care coverage and you'll find the people incredulous that our system has so many holes. Almost without fail, their health care systems are a source of patriotic pride -- not the first step towards a communist world order.
I have seen too many people struggle with health troubles who, in addition to worrying about their actual sickness, must also worry about financial ruin.
Some have been insured, some not. Some have made smart life choices, some have not. Some have planned ahead, some have not. Some saved for a rainy day, others did not.
But no matter what, when a person gets sick or is in pain it is no time to self-righteously tut tut the less fortunate and say you should have lived life better! You should have planned for this!
Pancake suppers are nice. They are a way for a community to show concern. But they provide little more than a drop in the bucket.
Personal responsibility? I am all for it. Nobody has a right to free food, free housing, free cigarettes or free beer. People who don't want to work should suffer some form of depravation or they may never get off their duff.
But when a person comes down with cancer or is in severe pain, it is simply cruel to deliver responsibility lectures. Sickness is a time for civility, compassion and nothing else.
Some say, oh, there are programs already in place which will cover you.
If so, why all the pancake suppers?
How reform takes shape should be subject to fierce debate, but in a civilized country, everybody should be insured.
The health care systems around the world are not perfect, but we can learn from them.
Canada's system deliberately creates long waits for non-emergency procedures, but nearly all other systems are faster than ours even for minor matters.
England and New Zealand have government-run hospitals, but Germany covers its citizens using private hospitals and insurers.
Red tape? Our insurance red tape is the worst. The percentage cost for administering our present patchwork of insurance coverage is many times that of the rest of the developed world. And the results are poor.
Even the conservative government of Great Britain's Margaret Thatcher, which wisely removed government from much of private industry in the 1980s, left the national health care system intact.
Conservative governments in France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand have never even raised the issue of dismantling their systems of health care coverage.
Again: Nobody is rushing to imitate our pancake-supper health care system. When it comes to health care, America is not a shining city on a hill.
To me, it has always been simple. If we can put a man on the moon, if we can build an interstate highway system, if we can rise up as a nation and kick butt in World War II, we surely can figure to solve the health care problem.
We should have the greatest health care system in the world. No system that leaves millions uninsured can make that claim.
Yet, instead of working together to create a better system, we have wasted time fighting ancient ideological battles, debating "death panels" (which exist nowhere) and calling people communists, Nazis, or whatever name means something really, really bad.
Fear has replaced facts.
Instead, let's build a uniquely American system of health care that is as ambitious and lasting as our interstate highway system.
Let's hold pancake suppers to raise funds for playground equipment, not cancer surgeries.