Koop calls for universal care
Former U.S. Surgeon General and Dartmouth professor of surgery C. Everett Koop '37 spoke on the right to healthcare yesterday, giving the first in a series of talks about the subject.
"I think I am right when I write that all Americans have the right to healthcare," Koop said. He added, however, that the idea that healthcare could become a constitutional right is still years away.
"If we agree that there is a right to healthcare, then we are also agreeing that someone must provide these rights," he said, noting that the right to healthcare is different than some other constitutional rights because it incurs a monetary cost on society.
Koop said that amongst the industrialized countries in the world, only the U.S. and South Africa deny the right to healthcare to all.
According to Koop, the American public overwhelmingly supports universal healthcare. He noted that in 1965, 1975 and 1978, a series of surveys found that about 75 percent of Americans think that healthcare should be a right. In 1998, 90 percent of Americans surveyed felt that everyone should be entitled to healthcare.
Approximately 43 million Americans are either uninsured or under- insured, he said. According to Koop, the uninsured and the underinsured are more likely than those people who are covered by a form of insurance to get ill and die sooner.
Koop commented on the ways in which politics affects healthcare. He noted that President Clinton's healthcare plan failed because it promised healthcare but the only way that it could be financed was through raising taxes.
"One of the things that the American public is fooled about every four years is the President can do very much," he said. "Congress has indicated that it is only interested in incremental change."
He added that Alan Keyes, John McCain and Steve Forbes would have been effective in bringing about healthcare reform.
One of the problems associated with universal healthcare, according to Koop, is deciding who should be eligible for universal healthcare.
Koop said that a commitment is needed by doctors to uphold professionalism in the medical field. He said many doctors are more interested in money than doing what is good for society.
"In the years before Medicare and Medicaid, I remember that I was paid for only 30 percent of all of the surgeries that I performed," he said, encouraging all medical professionals to donate services to those in need and thus give something back to society.