LudditeThe United States is one of the few countries in the world that considers health care as a commodity and pays for it through the mechanism of insurance provided by private corporations. The rest of the world considers health care to be a public service. Why don’t we change?

Well, other than the inconvenient fact that our legislatures are filled with elected representatives who are supported by the very corporations that public service health care would disenfranchise, part of the reason lies in inertia.

Matthew Heineman, speaking to our rigid health care system, provides “a metaphor comparing our broken health care system with a forest fire that ignited in Mann Gulch, Mont., in 1949. Just as the health care system today lies perilously on the brink of combustion, this forest fire, which seemed harmless at first, was waiting to explode. A team of 15 smokejumpers parachuted in to contain the fire, but soon they were running for their lives to the top of a steep ridge. Their foreman, Wag Dodge, recognized that they would not make it.

With the fire barely 200 yards behind him, he came up with an ingenious solution. He took some matches out of his pocket, bent down and set fire to the grass directly in front of him. Soon after, he stepped into the middle of the newly burnt area, calling for his crew to join him. But nobody followed Wag Dodge. They ignored him, clinging to what they had been taught. The fire raged past Wag Dodge and overtook the crew, killing 13 men and burning 3,200 acres. Dodge survived, nearly unharmed.”

There is an even shorter metaphor from a Pete Seeger song from the 1960’s, Waist Deep in the Big Muddy (

One day, we will truly consider the options available for providing health care in the US. Until that day we will fritter away the years with marginal systems that are profitable for any number of entities but that really do little to increase the level of wellness and quality of life for the elderly or for anyone else really.

So, how can a real willingness to consider the options for health care that are embraced by almost everyone else be created in the minds of the people best able to effect change in the US health care system? What are the options? Who are these people? How do we get to them in an effective manner?

Join us for a real-time discussion about ideas raised by this essay on Tuesday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room:


  1. Heineman, M. Do we want disease care or health care? Austin American Statesman, Thursday, April 4, 2013.
  2. List of countries by health insurance coverage.
  3. Universal health coverage by country.

Image Source: The Leader of the Luddites –