Healthy and Educated? Or Sick and Poor? Your Choice …

Two talking points in this election year have gained a lot of attention: health care and education. While one side proposes to demolish both the Affordable Care Act and the Department of Education, the other side supports expanding ACA to a universal health care system and providing free college education for all. Perhaps there is a happy medium? What is your stance on these two issues?

Health Care

Bernie Sanders states that “We are the only major country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people as a right.” Is Mr. Sanders right? It turns out that depending on how one defines “major country”, he is very nearly correct. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United States and Mexico are the only two member nations that do not provide universal health care coverage. As of today, Mexico has made remarkable progress toward some degree of universal healthcare, given that Mexico is a much poorer nation than the U.S. and is still considered to be a developing nation. That said, one could argue that even Mexico provides better healthcare to its citizens that the U.S., even with ACA (Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare). ACA was never actually intended to provide universal care, but merely to make health care insurance affordable for all, a goal which to date is approximately 90% successful.

For the purpose of simplification, let us look at only the OECD member nations, though there are many nations around the globe outside this list that do provide some form of universal health care ranging from free health care for only pregnant women and children, to full care for all. Below are the OECD nations that do provide universal heath care:

• Virtually all of Europe has either publicly sponsored and regulated universal health care or publicly provided universal healthcare.
• Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Israel
• Asia: Japan, Korea

Just a few examples of non-OECD nations that provide a significant level of universal health care

• China, Hong Kong, India, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Pakistan, Qatar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, UAE …
• African nations of: Rwanda, Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Libya, Mauritius, Morocco, South Africa, Tunisia

I bet some of these surprise you. As you can see, many countries that are considered “developing” nations yet offer better opportunities for at least basic health care than the U.S. There are some differences between “universal health care” and a “right to health care”, differences that are too detailed to cover in any depth here. Additionally, each nation has its own definitions of coverage that makes a complete analysis worthy of a book, which is not my intention. My point is that almost every other nation on earth has acknowledged the need to provide its citizens with some form of health care. Apart from Medicare/Medicaid, the United States had done very little toward that end until President Obama launched the Affordable Care Act. Even that is not enough, but it is a start and needs to be built upon going forward. I find it impossible to understand the mentality of those who completely oppose ACA without even a thought of alternate proposals. For one of the most technologically advanced nations on the globe, it is shameful to let people go without health care under any circumstances.

A couple of very useful links for anyone who is interested in delving deeper into healthcare systems around the globe:



Do you remember the time when you often heard “He/she is the first in the family to go to college”, or “I am going to make sure my son/daughter gets the opportunity for college that I never had”? That was once the way in the United States … each generation saw more young people entering college than the generations before. Today, however, the reverse is true. The reasons are fairly simple: college costs have soared, student loans are a lifelong burden for many, there is very little help available outside student loans, many “blue collar” jobs pay better than those requiring a college education. The OECD released a report on college graduate rates in 2014 saying that the U.S. ranks 19th out of 28 countries included in the study. Not the bottom of the barrel, but certainly far from top of the list. In 1995, we were at the top of the list, ranking first in graduation rates (33%) of all OECD nations. We have fallen from 1st to 19th in just over two decades, leaving us to wonder where we will be in another twenty years.

In this election year, the politics point to two polar opposite sets of ideas: one side seems convinced that we need to disband the Department of Education, that there should be no free rides for college students, while the other side strongly advocates at least two years of free tuition for all students. Free college tuition, while not nearly as globally prevalent as universal health care, is the norm in several countries: Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Demark, Finland, Germany, Slovenia, France, and Brazil. Many other countries provide additional assistance to students, including free college tuition for certain courses of study, no interest or low interest student loans, and other incentives.

The Department of Education, established by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, is a cabinet-level agency tasked with three main goals:

• Provide financial aid
• Collect educational data
• Identify education issues

Ronald Reagan attempted, but failed to abolish the department in 1980, and the republican party has rallied to abolish it almost ever since. The argument in favour of abolishing the department is purported to “end federal meddling in our schools, and promote family choice at all levels of learning.” The bigger reason, I suspect, ties to economic platforms and the desire to “get rid of big government”. (One word here, to be covered in depth in a later post, is that the U.S. is a large country with over 318 million people … such a large and diverse country requires a large central government.) With all the controversy surrounding “common core” today, there is ever-increasing and understandable support for abolishing the department. However, there are also some strong arguments against such a move:

• Some states would fail to implement minimum standards and there would be no national standard, resulting in inequalities from state-to-state
• Elimination of the Department of Education would also eliminate federal funding for schools
• Left to the states, it is almost certain that civil rights violations would occur in many states

In my own opinion, our system of education, both at the federal and the state level needs an overhaul, however I do not think that simply abolishing the Department of Education is the answer. I am almost certain that it would lead to a further drop in our ranking within the next decade, and that is not acceptable if we wish to maintain our status as one of the world’s leading technological and humanitarian nations.


In sum, universal health care and education are two areas in which we lag woefully behind many other developed nations. Improvement in these areas will take much work. Neither education nor healthcare are free, but we need to address both as a nation, distributing the cost more equitably rather than simply shrugging our shoulders and leaving “every man for himself”. We will not resolve this overnight, it will take years, decades perhaps, to catch up in just these two areas. Any move in the opposite direction, such as dismantling the Department of Education or abolishing the Affordable Care Act is a step in the wrong direction and can only have disastrous results for the citizens of this nation. These are not the steps we need to take if we truly want to “make America great again”.

6 thoughts on “Healthy and Educated? Or Sick and Poor? Your Choice …

  1. I have always thought that Mexico indeed does have a nationwide health care system. In fact when I once got a horrific sunburn on my legs, I went to a small clinic which was part of the national system. I think that the clinic system, which even extends to the remote indigenous village (that I have been to) is mostly run by nurses and medical students…including young doctors who are paying off financial aid that helped them to attend medical school and exchange serve a given period (two years I thought) of time. Once when I was at the pyramid site in Oaxaca I stopped at a medical tent to get a free bottle of water…I had been climbing the steps and slopes, and due to my age was very red in the face and puffing a lot. The doctor (she was a medical grad working in various sites) wanted to do my blood pressure, then she insisted that I rest a few minutes.

    Same thing with the so-called free education. Nothing being free…and of course there are costs of living and books, etc… and transportation issues. Also–any government anywhere in the world where “free” services exist– are subject to corruption and other.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. On the health care topic: In the Netherland everyone is required to have some sort of health insurance, a basic one. It is then your choice to “fatten it up” with additional plans, like extra dental care etc. But the idea is that everyone should be able to get medical help when needed. And I think that is really important and a good thing. It surprises me that there is even discussion about it.
    Education: While it is true that college education was free of charge in Germany and Austria for a long time, there is a trend in the other direction now. So there are fees (depending on the university and the courses), but they are really, really low compared to the US. And there is a variety of scholarship possibilities, some where you need to pay the money back, some where you do not need to. But the discussion about poorer people and access to education is a big one here too. Sadly enough, chances are, if you are born poor, your education will be lower.

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    • I’m sure you are right about that, but I still keep advocating for change. What has me going now, of course, is that several candidates in this upcoming election would like to see us actually do LESS for the disadvantaged, and I feel a need to stress to the voting public that this is NOT the way we need to be heading. Sigh.


      • Very true! Also, the cost of education here in the US, and the low-paying jobs that force people to work long hours and care for their children without reasonable health care and child care contributes to the difficulty of higher education. Even reasonably well-paid jobs such as nursing, social work, teaching…requires additional income sources.
        So many of the candidates do indeed think there are too many benefits here…and will cut them if they get in. Here in Ohio our governor (who is a Republican candidate) has managed to cut or eliminate valuable services here….he is often touted as one of the “best” of that motley crew of candidates…but just ask some of us residents about that! 🙂

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        • Yes, when Kasich first threw his hat in the ring, I thought “no way”. But now, if I were a republican, I think I would view him as better than the rest of the circus clowns. Fortunately, I only have to worry about choosing between two pretty equally and well qualified candidates, and hope that Hillary can beat Trump 🙂


          • As an Ohioan the hair on the back of my neck bristled! I still say I might have supported Jeb Bush…realizing full-well what might occur–but if he would put his Mom in his cabinet that might make up for the predictability of the son. I like Bernie Sanders a lot…but “they” meaning the dark-forces…would bring in the big guns against his ideas. I admit to being an Obama-ite, I wish HE could run again. Yes, I am very opinionated–which is a good thing. 🙂


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