Why is healthcare for-profit and not a basic human right?

MAY 17 — In an ideal world, anyone should be able to get care for whatever ailment without risking bankruptcy or huge debt.

Yet the reality is that if you have money, you have far more options than someone born into the wrong social class or wrong country.

Even Hollywood made a rather on-the-nose film about the current situation in Elysium where rich people get access to a special health haven where they can be cured of anything, while poor people try not to die too quick in overcrowded and poorly-supplied hospitals.

Fortunately in Malaysia, public healthcare is still fairly affordable with help afforded to the truly poor but at the rate of inflation and the current economic situation, keeping healthcare so cheap might not be sustainable in the long run.

Some argue that charging too cheaply is unfair to medical professionals who deserve to be remunerated well for all the time they spend studying and the ridiculous hours they work.

There’s no denying that medical professionals in public healthcare get a raw deal, but at the same time if the government attempted to match private salaries, cuts would have to be made elsewhere.

One suggestion would be to afford public healthcare professionals more perks: subsidies for housing, education, childcare and utilities, for instance. Letting them have more money in their pockets would help and perhaps even having a special taxation tier for them. 

Yet the argument is also that there is only so much burden a government can take on for its citizens.

There’s also the need for better preventative healthcare; making sure people have access to good food and decent shelter, better education on taking care of themselves and figuring out ways to keep citizens healthier and out of hospitals.

Still, it is undeniable that healthcare costs need some form of regulation. Leaving them at the mercy of the free market leads to greedy businessmen tripling the prices of drugs and private hospitals charging ridiculous amounts for things as basic as bandages.

We are already seeing private hospitals marking up bills in this country, to take up as much as they can of patients’ insurance credits.

If countries are defending signing agreements to keep petroleum production down (hello, Opec) to stop the slide in oil prices, why can’t there be a global push to push for more regulation for the prices of medication? 

I think we just really have to get on the same page: that no one should die because they can’t pay a bill. And if we agree on that, we have to figure out how to make it happen.

We can’t continue to live in a world where people think that people who can’t afford healthcare are “not their problem.”

A world full of sick and dying people is everyone’s problem and until we can all see that, the world will continue to be hell for the poor and heaven for the overly-monied.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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