For whatever reason, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about universal health care again over the past few days. It’s certainly not a new thing to consider; maybe it was sparked by some recent Facebook posts.

Like so many other controversial topics, I find that I simply cannot get my head around the position of those on the opposite side of the issue—and in this case, “those on the opposite side of the issue” means, naturally, those who oppose health care for all.

There are some arguments that make sense to me. The individual mandate—that is, requiring everyone to carry insurance or face a fine—seemed absurd until someone took the time to explain it to me. A discomfort with medicine being left in the hands of government, I understand. But, the most vocal oppositions I hear tend to fall into two categories:

  • “I don’t want to pay for everyone else’s health care.” Well, you already do, so that’s kind of a moot point. Between ER visits by the uninsured and loss of societal productivity and well-being due to their untreated illnesses and injuries, we all pay for it indirectly.
  • “In countries with national health care, the hospitals are overrun with patients. If we had it here, you’d never be able to see a doctor.” The more succinct and honest version that I’ve heard is “I don’t want to have to wait forever to see a doctor because suddenly everyone else is insured,” and really, that’s the gist, isn’t it? It’s such a cynical, self-absorbed position to take: I would rather let other people suffer and die from untreated disease and injury than be inconvenienced by waiting to get treated for the same.

The first of these two is argued from different positions, and the chosen angle makes a world of difference. For example, if someone says that they don’t want the government taking our money to make this happen because they don’t trust said government to do so efficiently and honestly—well, that I can understand, but that indicates a problem not with health care but with our elected officials. But, when one says they simply don’t want to help ensure that everyone gets medical care? That, frankly, is not a valid position. There is simply no way that one can defend the position that other people do not deserve health care just because they don’t make as much money or work for the right kind of employer. We live in a society. We’re all in this together. What happens to one of us affects the rest of us, one way or another. Unless you go live in the wilds of northern Canada and survive off of caribou meat or whatever, there’s just no way around that.

So really, that’s the part that just boggles the mind. How can so many people here feel so disconnected from their neighbors and countrymen as to be unwilling to chip in to the greater good? And I really don’t want to drag religion into this, but I can’t help but allow it into the room: we live in one of the most religious countries on the planet, with millions of Jesus-worshipping Christians, and yet there is incredible opposition to caring for the least among us. How can people rectify that in their own head?