Health care reform (and its potential repeal) is back on the front page. The most recent, and unfortunate, news about health care shows that there are now 50,000,000 people in America who don't have any medical insurance at all. One can only wonder how many of these people will end up dying because they can't afford to get help.
A few weeks ago I watched the season finale of Real Time with Bill Maher. That night one of Maher's guests was Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), a former US Navy Vice Admiral and the highest-ranking former military officer to serve in Congress, who was sadly defeated in the latest Democrat debacle (the 2010 mid-term election). This was the first time I heard of this guy, but he made some points that really hit home. I'd like to share them with you here.
As expected, the possibility of the current version of the health care law being repealed was a major topic of the show. During the discussion, Rep. Sestak mentioned something that I've touched on in my posts on health care reform (see here, and here, among others), but in a way that I hadn't thought of before.
It's common knowledge that all military personnel and their immediate families get full medical coverage (paid for by the American public, which no one seems to mind). But I'm sure that, like me, a lot of people just assumed that it was an incentive to get men and women to volunteer for the possibility of being blown up in foreign countries. But Rep. Sestak showed that it was a lot more than that:
- By providing medical insurance, the soldiers are more likely to be in better health when they are called for duty. Basically, the United States armed forces want to ensure that their soldiers are in the best possible health even when they are not in combat situations.
- By providing medical insurance to the soldiers' immediate family, the soldiers who are on tours of duty here and abroad have one less worry about the health and well-being of their loved ones, and can therefore devote that much more energy towards the objective.
Now, I'll admit that the second point might seem a little nebulous and touchy-feely, but there's a lot of official support for Sestak's first point. The Military Health System, which is part of the US Department of Defense, has to say about the first point:
The MHS identifies, develops, and sustains critical military capability and readiness in support of resource management and the operational planning process. Medical readiness ensures service members are free of health-related conditions that limit ability to actively fulfill an assigned mission.
The goals of Medical Readiness include:
- Managing warfighter fatigue is the ability to evaluate fatigue and monitor its effects on warfighter performance. Fatigue management is a proactive initiative in predicting warfighter performance and counter the effects of fatigue.
- Enhancing warfighter sensory cognitive and motor capabilities is the ability to enhance and sustain human performance within three domains: sensory, cognitive, and physical activities. Addressing these abilities in individual warfighters aids in commanders' decision making.
- Enhancing physiological capability is the ability to improve success of the warfighter within the physiological domain: neuroprotection (to decrease brain injury), manipulation of metabolic processes (related to water intake, nutrition, and waste production), enhanced ability to withstand trauma, and maintained/enhanced performance despite the stressors of military operations.
- Providing/maintaining ability to operate across the full range of environments is the ability to perform in flight environments, kinetic and highly-explosive environments, extreme climates, space, underwater environments, chemical/biological/radiological/nuclear (CBRN) environments, and directed-energy environments.
- Providing a healthy and fit force is the ability to provide and enhance a healthy and fit force throughout the continuum from accession to veteran. This includes optimizing health/fitness of peacetime forces, maintaining health/fitness of deployed forces, and ensuring the physical and mental health of redeployed Service members to original optimal levels.
If you take out the sci-fi movie vocabulary, the US government believes that providing cutting edge health care for military personnel around the world (their words) ensure the productivity of the members of the armed forces. Good idea.
And yet, this is the same US government that believes providing health care of any kind for the rest of the population--which would allow everyone the same opportunity to be as productive as a "warfighter"--would damage the country! What's up with that?
As I've discussed in previous posts, all other industrialized countries have understood that providing medical insurance to everyone improves the likelihood that everyone will be able to contribute to society. My colleagues in Scandinavia and Europe certainly attest to this, as do my relatives in Canada. And since the American military gets it, one would think that the government as a whole might catch a clue.
Given the fact that the US is now a country in a perpetual war, as some have recently claimed (see here, here, and here), how can we, as citizens (young and old), be prepared--or even able--to defend our country* when so many of us have inadequate health care or no health care at all?
*Some have proposed the re-introduction of the mandatory military service (aka draft). Would everybody be able to fulfill their duties in short order?