What Would George Think About Healthcare Reform?

George Washington

As we take a breath in between battles over health care reform, did you ever wonder what our country’s patriarch, George Washington, would think about this situation?

Back in his day, there were no hospitals, few doctors, almost no knowledge of medical science or sanitary conditions, no technology, and no antibiotics. When poor George caught a cold while out on a winter day inspecting his property, it quickly progressed to what was probably pneumonia. Today a good course of antibiotics might have saved him. But in rural Virginia 200 years ago, the only remedies doctors could offer were leeches that sucked blood, cutting instruments that let blood, and scorching hot poultices. We now know that these procedures do absolutely nothing to aid in recovery, instead they cause pain and weakened an already very sick man. Finally, George told them to stop and just let him die.

If George were alive today, he would have a doctor whose fees would be paid by Medicare. If his conditioned worsened suddenly, he’d be rushed to the Emergency department of the local hospital, where all kinds of lifesaving measures would be used to save his life. If his condition was too far gone for recovery, numerous highly expensive techniques could still be performed in a desperate attempt to keep the Father of Our Country alive and with us into the new, 19th century. The cost would be horrendous, and the outcome probably the same – death. Medicare and the country’s taxpayers would pay the cost.

If he did not have insurance for some reason, he would still be rushed to the hospital, probably sicker than he was previously because he didn’t have a doctor to go to – too expensive. Much of the same lifesaving, expensive care would be provided, with the same outcome. This time, George’s surviving family would be on the hook for the payment – depending on their family wealth, a serious medical incident could swallow their assets and leave poor Martha and the two grandchildren they were raising to seek charity from more well-off relatives and live out their impoverished lives in some damp version of a Colonial basement.

George probably couldn’t have imagined the health care dilemmas we face today. But we can speculate on one piece of advice he probably would have given. George agreed to take on the Presidency of the new republic with little enthusiasm, and accepted a second term even more reluctantly. The reason he agreed to sacrifice his desire to return to private life was out of concern for the fledgling country. He did it because his presence and prestige could moderate the bitter and rabid political fight between two opposing factions, an enmity that he feared could destroy the United States of America in its infancy. Seeing such intransigence and anger dividing the government once again, he’d probably counsel everyone to remember the lessons learned in school: play nice in the sandbox, for everyone’s benefit – especially our country.

What do you think the Founding Fathers would think about the health care reform wars?

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