Sunday, June 6, 2010

What The Race for the Cure Tells Us About Healthcare Policy: The Paramount Issue is Cures, Not Coverage.

The Washington Post's Dan Morse covered the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure on the national Mall in Washington DC yesterday.

And while reporter Morse played up the grim humor of the event--"Yes they're fake," declared one T-shirt, referring to the breasts of the wearer. "My real ones tried to kill me."--as did many participants (see photo above), the reality of breast cancer is sad, and poignant--see below:  

The larger point, of course, is that what really motivates people about healthcare policy is cures, not coverage.   You don't go to the doctor because of your coverage, you go to the doctor for prevention and treatment--hopefully, for a cure. 

Health insurance coverage is important, but is really a means to an end.  Health insurance doesn't do you much good if there is not a cure.   And cures should not be taken for granted--we have a lot of cures, but only because we spent heavily to achieve them, because we cleared away the regulatory and legal obstructions, and so on.   It was hard to get to the point where nobody has to worry about smallpox or polio, and it will be just as hard to achieve the same desired end-point for breast cancer, and all forms of cancer.

In the meantime, breast cancer continues to maim and kill in huge numbers, worldwide. 

Putting an end to such diseases would not only be a humanitarian breakthrough, it would be an economic breakthrough, as well.  

And it would be politically popular!  As the polls show, most Americans are not happy with Obamacare, even if they are ambivalent as to what to do about it now that it's been enacted.   But everyone loves The Race for the Cure.    There's no controversy about the desirability of a cure, although there is some apathy, perhaps fatalism, within the political community.  Maybe the Race for the Cure--and the show of force that it represents--will be a cure for that apathy. 

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