03.23.10

Graffiti and health care in Germany

Posted in Society at 6:37 by RjZ

The whole world is upside down, as far as U.S. Americans are concerned, because congress either made made the first step toward bringing U.S. Americans out of the third world, or began the slide down the deep tunnel towards socialism, by passing the health care overhaul bill. The proposed health care changes will bring the U.S. quite a bit closer to a system that has been working in Europe for some time now; without even many of the freedom shrinking consequences conservatives are warning about. Meanwhile, in Germany, people are beginning to wonder how they can continue to pay for the very health care system approximately half of Americans so envy.

I noticed it right away. I hadn’t been back to Germany more than one time since living there years ago. After spending a month in Frankfurt area, I was surprised by something I rarely noticed when I lived in Germany nearly a decade ago—graffiti. It isn’t only in Frankfurt and it isn’t only in rougher parts of town. It’s not quite out of hand, but you can see it everywhere. Subways and building walls, sidewalks and old town architecture, you name it, someone’s tagged it. It will never cease to amaze me how tagging, regardless of the language, looks nearly identical; is there a school for this?

Graffiti in the Bremen old city center

Graffiti in the Bremen old city center

Crime hasn’t been skyrocketing. But the fact is, there are only a limited amount of resources available, even in wealthy Germany. Back when graffiti wouldn’t last more than a week before being painted over, health care costs were lower in both the U.S. and Germany.

There is a fundamental difference between the German philosophy, as stated in their constitution and that of the United States. In Germany, the constitution forbids putting a value on a human life. That is, when faced with a decision such as, if we pass this law, this person would die, but it would save us 100,000 €, the German government must always choose to spend the money. In other words, health care is a right, not a privilege.

It is this very problem that both countries face in the future. If health care really is a right, like the pursuit of happiness, and holding property, may we ever draw the line? When it costs $10 million for brain surgery, with a 1 in a million chance of survival for an 83 year old woman, does she still have a right to it? Does she still have that right if receiving that surgery deprives thousands of others from basic healthcare or so limits government services that we are afraid to step in our cars or eat food we didn’t grow? We continue to improve of the quality of life and quality of care. Much can be done to keep costs in control, but MRIs cost more than bandages, and tomorrows technology may cost more still. Things haven’t gotten that bad in Europe, and they won’t for awhile, but graffiti is already on the rise, what’s next?

Welcome, U.S.A., to the first world of universal health care. Now it’s time to learn a bit more from our European counterparts who are a few steps ahead of us on this path. The U.S. Constitution does not guarantee health care as a right. Let’s make sure we understand the consequences before make that mistake.

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