“Help Yourself” to Health Care

elderly healthcare

Last night, before I completed packing for our vacation, I finished watching the last half or “Sicko” by Michael Moore. Wait, hold on. I know just the mention of that guy’s name on this blog will make some of you start praying for me. I appreciate that because I haven’t been too thrilled with the guy myself. And although I still don’t know what to think of him, I’m not here to talk about him, his methods, or too much about his movies.

Then why the intro?

I was interested in the story and topic of health care. I had actually heard good reviews of the film from people who’s movie recommendations I trust and I’m glad I did watch it. A few things jarred me, but not just about our health care system. I’m much less political than that.

The piece which interested me was about health care in France. I’ve always worried about health care in a different country. But that fear is completely unfounded, I know. The thing that struck me so hard is how the French culture thinks about its health care and medical system as a communal thing.

The idea is simple. Pay higher taxes to take care of someone else. Then, when you need help, the favor is returned in full. It’s basically what private insurance is supposed to do with your premiums, right? Except just for you.

Here’s the question I can’t stop thinking about. When did we, as Americans, make the shift from community-serving to self-serving? And secondarily, how do we get back to the former? When did the term “help yourself” change from an invitation into a command?

[tags]healthcare, health, care, michael moore, sicko, community, self-serving, community, travel, france, medical[/tags]

Nate Ritter lives in Austin, Texas (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

13 Comments on "“Help Yourself” to Health Care"

  1. France’s system is a great idea, in theory, but it’s the wealthy who would end up footing most of the bill. Also, with a country of our size, how do you keep the health care system from becoming corrupt?

    Ideally, we as the body of Christ would demonstrate God’s love by sacrificing our own comforts, lifestyle, etc. so that others less fortunate could have their medical needs met.

    “I was sick and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

  2. nate says:

    The wealthy are supposed to be paying more taxes in the U.S. also (even though that us not what really happens), so there’s really not much difference in the theoretical realm. And that’s exactly my point anyway. Why shouldn’t people help other people less fortunate?

    The only difference between it being done via the government or via a Christian’s good will is that the government could actually make it work as a msnsstory system of our culture. Leaving it up to people’s good will in a capitalistic society just won’t work. I feel bad that I don’t have enoughfaith in American Christians to help all those in need, but it has been an avenue we could have taken a long time ago and still haven’t.

    But why do you say “theoretically” it would work? It apparently practically works for millions of people in euopean countries. I think the difference is that we are focused on our own well being in the U.S. much more than our neighbors, which is a cultural problem. I doubt the difference is a tax issue.

  3. This is one of my favorite topics, especially as an entrepreneur. It is shocking to me almost every time I think about it that there is no easy safety net for people who want to leave the corporate shelter and venture out on their own. As an entrepreneur, you have to be exceedingly risk-tolerant and move quickly in order to ensure that you will always be covered. If it’s that hard for smart, professional go-getters to protect themselves and their families, then I can only imagine the struggles that less-advantaged people go through.

    I’m familiar with the logic that Justin is proposing, but I agree with Nate. It’s largely through the efforts of mainstream American Christians that put us in this situation to begin with and they continue to block most attempts to reform the system into something more equitable.

    My proposed solution? Keep the existing network of providers and insurance carriers. It really comes down to the billing and availability of coverage. Implement a single payer (the government) and bill people based on 7-10% of their gross, pre-tax income. Sure, the rich will pay more but somehow I think they will come out ok. Also, mandate universal coverage and prevent carriers from denying coverage. I know how their risk tables are supposed to work but as health care costs “continue to rise” the insurance companies only become more profitable. Something is definitely wrong there.

  4. nate says:

    Well, thanks for the support Ray, but I wouldn’t put “mainstream” American Christians at fault for keeping us in the mindset we’re in. I have a hard time believing that true Christians actually don’t care for their neighbor. I believe it’s a matter of definition, and many people attribute the term “Christian” to someone who says they believe in God or believe in Christ. The problem comes down to whether or not they work towards living out that faith.

    Anyway, besides the terms, I seriously doubt those who truly believe the verse Justin quoted are the ones to blame. They seem to be the ones with the right mind. Taking care of others is the point. The people who may or may not call themselves Christians but certainly want to focus on themselves are the ones who keep blocking the attempts to reform the system.

    I’m no politician or activist, but I like your proposal. Sounds good to me.

  5. I probably worded it the wrong way – what I’m trying to express is that there is a mindset that, in the most religious country in the world, that actively engages in policies that marginalize the poor. I don’t doubt either that true Chrisitans truly love their neighbor but (having grown up in a conservative evangelical environment) I’m all too familiar with the unapologetic capitalist vocabulary that many Christian groups willingly embrace. Maybe that doesn’t improve my stance at all, but this has been my perception anyway. I am encouraged, however, to see a shift beginning among many younger Christians and a growing attention to those affected by these sorts of policies.

  6. nate says:

    Ray, I hear ya and I’m with ya. I just wanted to make a distinction between the political “Christian” and the actual Christian. They are two extremely (and sometimes extreme) different things/people.

  7. Point well taken – agreed.

  8. I agree… Unfortunately, there are very few people within the church who are sincerely concerned more for the welfare of others than themselves. This needs to change… I’ve noticed, just as Ray has, that there are a few young people who are followers of Christ who are truly laying down their own hopes, dreams, ambitions to take up their cross and follow Jesus. Lordwillingly, there will be a major shift in the coming years.

    Nate, when I said “in theory,” I was saying that because the system would work very well if we were, as a culture, more concerned about the well-being of our neighbor. In America our mantra is “look out for #1 – me,” and if you’re neighbor is struggling, so be it. I could see this same mentality creeping into a socialized healthcare system. What happens when doctors and nurses, who are only concerned about themselves, get paid whether they do an excellent job or an unsatisfactory job. So what? As long as their mortgage is getting paid, so be it.

    Anyway, you guys bring up some great points, it’s interesting talking about this.

  9. nate says:


    Those are some great questions regarding the motivation of health care workers. From what I’ve seen (which hasn’t been much) on the subject, I believe there’s a way to motivate doctors and nurses economically the right way. We just reverse the incentives.

    Right now, the insurance companies make money by not distributing funds to make people healthier. If we take the insurance companies out of the way and it’s governmentally subsidized, now the problem lies in the question that you asked, “What happens when doctors and nurses, who are only concerned about themselves, get paid whether they do an excellent job or an unsatisfactory job?”

    I believe the answer is to pay the doctors more based on metrics for individuals getting healthier. For instance, how much could we pay a doctor who has documentation proving they’ve helped someone quit smoking? Think of all the money that’s saved throughout the life of that person because they’ve quit. If we paid even a tiny portion of that savings to the doctor or practice which helped put that person into a healthier lifestyle, that would probably solve the motivational problem.

    See, I think people fear socialized medicine because of how it’s been done in the past. We’re smarter than that. Let’s think differently and use our business acumen (which helps us motivate people in the right direction to accomplish the tasks we want as well as get them closer to their own dreams). If we assume the problems of socialized health care can’t be solved, then we’re stuck. But hey, this is our country. Let’s be revolutionary as we’ve always been. We’re really good at being innovative. There’s no reason why we can’t do so in areas outside of technology. We rarely try innovation in the cultural/community sense. I think it’s about time we tried.

  10. nate says:

    Correction: perhaps “governmentally subsidized” was the wrong term to use, now that I look at what I wrote again.

  11. Nate,

    I can certainly appreciate where you’re coming from. That is a great point that we mustn’t be bound by the idea that just because something hasn’t been properly executed in the past, doesn’t mean it can’t be properly executed in the future.

    I have yet to see a proposal that would be viable, not to say it isn’t viable. Your idea (payment based on results) would cause much-needed medical improvement to the medical community, regardless of whether health care is every socialized.

    One question… You’re a Web designer / Web architect; would you feel comfortable ONLY taking projects that paid you based on results? I know that in marketing I’ve done, I would certainly be willing to take that route on a few projects; however, sometimes there are too many factors involved to determine who the real here is. (i.e. someone did PR, another person did SEO, another did Web design, another graphic design, etc.) Several individual practicioners, each doing their part, did marketing that most likely was a major reason that a company’s sales increased over time; however, how does one figure out who is responsible for what?

    My wife has recently seen every kind of specialist under the sun in an effort to find a diagnosis (Praise God! A diagnosis was found after 3 years of searching!). Some doctors did what they were supposed to do: perform tests that came up negative. Although they didn’t come up with any answers, one could say that they helped in the elimination of probable causes. Finally, a neurologist performed a blood test (similar to several other blood tests performed by other specialists) and the results happened to come up in the test. It just so happens that her disease took awhile to show up in her blood stream… The other doctors were (supposedly) doing the best they could, but should only the neurologist get paid?

    I know your idea was just a random suggestion, but the aforementioned is certainly something to think about.

    I certainly appreciate that you’re wanting to take up the cause of the destitute, afflicted, poor, meek. This is an evidencing of Jesus Christ in one’s life.


  12. nate says:


    I see where you’re coming from, and unfortunately I don’t have all the answers. But, one thing to note is that I didn’t come up with the idea of paying health care workers for results. Apparently it’s already done in France and other countries, so I’d expect whoever is revamping our system to borrow a lot from those countries who have been successful in that.

    I would guess if they are doing it, and it seems doing it well, that there are metrics which successfully measure (and thus could be paid on) people’s health and what spurred them on to become healthier.

    Again, since I don’t know exactly how the system works in those countries that pay for results, I can’t tell you what would happen in your wife’s situation (and I’m very glad a diagnosis was found!). I don’t think they get paid more for a correct attempt, diagnosis or actual practice which would fix things. That is more of a defensive/corrective move (saving a life, healing pain, etc) as opposed to an offensive one (get people to go from currently ok health to a better lifestyle via stopping smoking, nutrition, etc). We could be proactively informed to choose healthier lifestyles. And the doctor who informs us or helps us get there should be paid better for helping the public do so.

    I hope this helps give at least a cursory look at a possible solution.

    Thanks for participating in this Justin and Ray. This is great dialogue!

  13. Justin says:

    Yes, it’s some good “food for thought.” Best regards.

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