Private Charity is the Wrong Prescription for Health Care



In my husband’s country of Peru, many people are poor and many more are poorer still. When someone in a town or village becomes sick or has an accident, the women will gather, cook meals and assemble an event. The people attend to eat the food and then pay for it. That money is given to the family of the person who is sick or injured. This is because the people have no health insurance.

A serious illness, such as the time my husband had to have an emergency appendectomy, can wipe out what little wealth a family has. This is because in Peru, as it has been for several hundred years, a small elite controls the wealth of the country and providing health insurance to the population would diminish their overall take.

In our country, the richest on the planet, we are doing the same thing as the poorer Peruvians. In towns and cities around the country, we must now gather to eat food in order to donate the money because someone here does not have health insurance. Same thing. In this country we have enough wealth to insure that every man, woman and child has health coverage. Who is it that is against health coverage for all? Is it the growing number of poor and the sinking middle class who most need it? Or is it the health insurance business with their millions and millions of dollars of lobbying money busy convincing people that it is somehow un-American to want to provide health coverage for all? That universal coverage is unpatriotic!

Is it un-American? Is it unpatriotic? Nonsense! No. It isn’t. It is as American as coming together as a whole to promote the general welfare.

Do we want to keep slipping backwards so that we are living like the poor people in the mountains of Peru? No. We don’t.

I imagine the good-hearted people who put on charity events here in Laguna do so with the best intentions.  However, I believe we should reserve charity events for the smaller bumps in the road of life.

For catastrophic illness or misfortune a generally funded, democratically administered response is far preferable. Why? Because in the end, no matter how well intentioned, charity is arbitrary and undemocratic; it favors the known over the isolated; it can easily become capricious. As well, often it falls far short of the true needs of the recipient. And finally, it can become a platform for the beliefs of the group or individual doing the giving at a time when the recipient is unable to decline.

Private charity is not the answer to health care coverage. To believe so is to believe in the past. The future is a Medicare for all system. May we arrive there sooner rather than later. We should not be solving our health care crisis in the same way as people in developing countries are forced to.


Mary Dolphin, Laguna Beach

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