Sunday, November 15, 2009

Affording Quality of Life

We can’t afford health care. At least that’s what the right side of the isle will argue in the U.S. Senate. It’s too costly, it will run up a deficit, it will kill our economy.

Wait a minute. It costs too much to provide health care? What is too much? Is it more than we as a nation spend on fast food? (over $110 billion) Or how about what we spend on going to the movies or buying DVD's ($10.8 Billion) What about video games? Does health care cost more than the amount spent on gaming systems and the elaborate escapist games that are no doubt played by kids and adults alike when they stay home sick? ($11.8 Billion)

I pose these questions because it occurred to me that if we truly can't afford health care, maybe we aren't as rich a country as we think we are. If providing health care will wreck our economy, and thus our ability to buy the things that make us feel rich, isn't that some sort of ruse? Is the ability to have the latest smart-phone-video-recording-mp3-playing-gadget that also makes julienne fries really more important than say preventing chronic conditions that will decrease the "genuine quality of life," and ultimately cost more money to treat?

Now, I want to make a distinction here about the difference between quality of life and standard of living. I think of these closely related concepts in terms of internal and external. Quality of life comes from our internal perspective that others cannot experience. These are our senses, what we see, what we hear, how we feel. Nobody else can experience these things for us. If we are in pain, it is our own pain. The same can be said of fatigue, muscle and body aches, and emotional stress or anguish.

Standard of living on the other hand, I believe is determined by the external. These are the things that outwardly comfort us such as clothes, housing, amenities and diversions. And as it happens, our standard of living has the ability to effect our quality of life. If our standard of living is depreciated, so is our quality of life.

Health care, I believe is a component of our standard of living. Access to adequate preventative care curbs illnesses before they become chronic conditions, which can increase quality of life.

So, when the argument is made that we cannot afford health care for everyone, what we really mean is that we can't afford the standard of living of every other industrialized nation, which will directly impact our quality of life. And if we are living at a lower standard than all the other industrialized nations, how rich are we really?

Are we fooling ourselves with diversions and materialism? Do gadgets and things really give us anything other than a false sense of security?

Or is that just a false sense of superiority?

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