American Healthcare and the Caduceus of Hermes

I have already cited Mike Stathis’ book, “America’s Healthcare Solution,” which is the source of the following summary.  I chose a few connections that seem the most crucial.  It’s not my purpose to fully describe the debate and the proposed solutions, only to use this information in pursuit of a new way of talking about healthcare.

At this time, healthcare is the fundamental national security interest of the United States.  To put this into perspective, Libya could never match healthcare in economic urgency.  Further, the decision to ignore Libya will not cure what ails us.  The healthcare crisis has overriding potential for harm largely because of its effects on American business, especially since the advent of NAFTA. It is well known that healthcare costs have increased much faster than other basic necessities.  Because health insurance in America has been employer-based since World War II, high costs have directly affected employers’ ability to compete with foreign companies whose governments provide universal healthcare.  This turn of events leads to strategies of outsourcing, freezing pensions, and relocating overseas.  For Americans the ensuing loss of jobs means the loss of health insurance.

Regardless of politicians’ claims, there is no fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans on this issue.  The democrats have proposed and continue to defend a plan that won’t solve anything.  It is claimed that forcing the uninsured to buy insurance will help solve the crisis.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, many Americans with full health insurance are not covered adequately.  “Of the two million personal bankruptcies each year in America, more than one-half are attributed to medical bills or medically related events, accounting for the nation’s number one cause of bankruptcies.  Furthermore, of the one million Americans filing for medical bankruptcy each year, most had full medical insurance…in fact one could argue that America’s health insurance system does not provide true medical insurance.  Rather, it resembles a pre-paid medical plan with co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses that can add up fast.”  For their part, the Republicans simply obscure the issue with patent lies meant to retain the old system with all its fatal flaws.

It can’t be denied that lobbyists who continue their treasonous activities for the “medical-industrial complex” deserve much of the blame.  Whatever the initial cause may be, their activities have led to widespread abdication of responsibility on the part of lawmakers and even healthcare professionals.  Again, the same interests control both Democrats and Republicans, so any perceived differences are illusory.

As so often happens, once the seriousness of the problem is understood, it only seems to illustrate the impossibility of a solution.  One begins to wonder whether healthcare is the problem, or something more fundamental?  How can a solution be found or implemented when all parties have become so invested in the status quo?   On the surface, the question provides the answer.  Feasible, short-term corrections have been proposed; the failure to act indicates a lack of will.  The problem with this analysis is it lumps all the players together as the source of the problem and discourages further attempts at reform.

That said there is an interesting element of the current reform legislation that might tie this debate to its underlying structure, the bedrock of principle.  I refer to the use of the commerce clause as a legal basis.  In order to discuss the significance of the commerce clause as a justification in current healthcare reform, it will be necessary to examine the history of the symbol of medicine in the United States since 1917, the caduceus of Hermes, god of messengers and merchants.