“Friends of Socrates” Discuss State of American Healthcare

University Celebrates Global Understanding Week

In accordance with the 2013 Global Understanding Convention, “Friends of Socrates” hosted a panel discussion in the Turrell Boardroom in Bey Hall on Thursday, April 11 at 1:00 pm where they posed the question, “Why can’t we all have access to the best health care in the world, right here in America?”

The panel was led by Dr. Bojana Beric, professor of nursing and health studies and Co-Director of the Center for Human and Community Wellness; Tony Lazroe, Director of Grants and Contracts; Claude Taylor, professor of communication and the athletics professor in residence; and Dr. Marina Vujnovic, professor of communication and the Assistant Director of the Institute for Global Understanding.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a copy of which was presented to students as they settled around the conference table, “All human beings are born with equal and inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms.” It was this assertion that the Friends of Socrates stressed throughout their presentation.

The panel began at the head of the table where the hosts presented their findings on healthcare as it currently is, based on their experiences and research, in the United States and the status of healthcare in different nations.

“The purpose of this discussion is not political,” Lazroe said. “Let me turn your attention to Article 25 of the Human Rights Declaration.”

Article 25 states, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

“Rights of humans are from birth,” Lazroe said. “You have a right from being human.”

Lazroe recounted an experience he had which he said summed up a problem with healthcare in the United States. According to Lazroe, he was working at a non-profit organization and one of the local hospitals needed office space to discuss a client’s treatment. The meeting lasted for half-an-hour, 25 minutes of which was discussing in detail reviewing and analyzing the financial situation of the patient. The last few were given to determine an appropriate treatment based on his finances.

“Shouldn’t it be based on what is best for him?” Lazroe asked. “Our healthcare system is for profit and is discriminatory in cost, access and mobility.”

According to his findings, Lazroe stated that there are 40 to 50 million people with no healthcare insurance, 60 percent get insurance from their place of employment and 62 percent of people declare bankruptcy because of medical problems. For those who declare bankruptcy, 92 percent were the result of medical bills and 77.9 percent had insurance.

“Our healthcare is the best in the world, but too many people don’t have insurance,” Lazroe said. “Our healthcare system is the worst because it is for profit. It is inefficient and discriminatory. It is our practitioners who are the best.”

Taylor carried on with the discussion with comparative data of the structure of other healthcare systems in the world including the countries of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. He compared the role of the employer in healthcare systems, the individual’s role, the role of the government, universal coverage and the financial system. Many of the nations have federal assistance in healthcare and pay taxes to finance it.

The discussion was then opened to the students present to input their ideas or suggestions as to what could be done for the United States to have the best healthcare in the world. Mitchell Parker, freshman, posed the question that perhaps the problem with the current healthcare situation is the cost, but where would the money come from?

“People in the US expect the best care, but that’s not a reality. There is a fine line between efficiency and cost,” Parker said. He mentioned that he has relatives in Israel where they pay taxes for their healthcare, but have no choice in what care they must accept.

Taylor agreed and said that about 47 percent of people are uninsured and asked, “Would we have to accept a basic level of care?”

Beric also proposed the question, “Who has the right to decide the importance of life?” in regards the quality of healthcare.

Another student said she had studied abroad in Spain and pointed out that the nation’s setup is very different from that of the US. “They don’t have doctor visits; they go to the pharmacy unless it’s an emergency. Then they go to a clinic,” she said.

Students were then asked by the panelists about whether they were concerned with the healthcare issue. Many of the students admitted that for now it was the last thing of their minds.

“It will eventually become an issue,” one student said. “But for now, until we turn 26, we’re covered under our parents’ insurance plans.”

The “Friends of Socrates” is a philosophy-based discussion group involved with the Center for Human and Community Wellness on campus.

Their discussions are centered on asking questions like the philosopher, Socrates and with a combination of philosophy and science, they consider and answer questions in life by trying “to nurture their critically inclining mind,” according to Beric.