“I’m covered—why should I foot the bill for somebody who isn’t?”
This question, unspoken but simmering at the center of the debate over universal health care coverage, comes in for a thoughtful hearing—and, perhaps, gentle corrective—in Larry Churchill’s timely book. Churchill, whose Rationing Health Care in America put the nation’s health care crisis into perspective, here does the same for our crisis of conscience over health care coverage. As Clinton and Congress spar over the financing and organization of a national health system, the true debate, this book reveals, is about moral and political values, about the meaning and ethics of health care reform.
Churchill begins by cutting through the confused discussion about rationing health care. Concerns about rationing, with all the moral and political questions they raise, deflect our attention from a more important issue, which this book brings into focus. Arguing that care is already rationed by ability to pay, Churchill suggests that the proper question is not whether to ration but how to do so fairly, and that answering requires a clear sense of the aims of a health care system. In pursuit of this necessary understanding, Churchill explores values and concepts such as security and solidarity, self-interest and social affinity, rights and responsibilities. Drawing on philosophical ideas of justice and individual responsibility, rendered here with remarkable clarity, he shows that universal care is morally as well as economically comprehensible and that a truly inclusive health care system should be seen as a common civic purpose rather than as a supply of services to be consumed. Accessible, deeply felt, and cogently argued, this book should revise the terms of the national debate over health care reform.