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Will COVID-19 finally spur a revamp of US health care?

April 1, 2020
Faded American flag on medical mask.The coronavirus pandemic “has exposed the limits of such an individualistic approach” to health care, writes University health policy historian Mical Raz in the Washington Post. (Getty Images photo)

America’s individualistic outlook toward health care has shaped the country’s health care policy and system—and not for the better, according to physician and historian Mical Raz, the Charles E. and Dale L. Phelps Professor in Public Policy and Health at the University of Rochester.

Now, the coronavirus pandemic “has exposed the limits of such an individualistic approach,” one in which we prize our own health while blaming other people’s poor choices and lifestyles when they fall ill, writes Raz in a Washington Post “Made by History” op-ed.

She outlines how the United States has historically responded to health policy crises—such as the shortage of dialysis machines in the 1960s—by carving out exemptions for treating specific illnesses rather than rethinking the health care system as a whole. “And, over decades, we’ve done this sort of thing hundreds of times, producing an incoherent, inefficient system in every aspect of health care,” Raz writes.

She calls on policymakers not to repeat these past mistakes. Instead, they must respond “by rethinking this individualistic mind-set, in recognition that healthy individuals make healthy communities, which produce a healthy nation.”

Raz, an expert in public policy and health, is the author of What’s Wrong with the Poor? Psychiatry, Race and the War on Poverty (University of North Caroline Press, 2013) and The Lobotomy Letters: The Making of American Psychosurgery (University of Rochester, 2013). She’s currently working on her third book—a history of child abuse policy in the United States from the 1970s to today.

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Category: Voices & Opinion

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