Healthcare: A Sociological Perspective

A society is able to work at its best capacity when all of its members and groups are functioning adequately and are beneficial to society.  In order for these groups to function and benefit society, they must be equipped with the resources necessary for overall health and wellness. Healthcare has become one of the most controversial public matters over the last few decades – we constantly argue over whether medical care should be a right or a commodity. Currently, medical care is an obvious commodity, benefitting those who can afford it and neglecting those who cannot. While it may be tough to hope that healthcare will ever be a considered a “universal right”, there are discernable progressions in the field of medical care that don the possibility of expanding aid to those currently underinsured or uninsured. Sociologists examine the effects of healthcare and healthcare reform in terms of the costs and benefits and how different theorists interpret this controversial subject.

When we hypothesize that society is only able to function well when all of its members are provided the means necessary to obtain proper health care, we are theoretically taking a functionalist perspective. A functional order theorist would argue that we need all members of society to be as healthy as possible in order for them to contribute to society through their normal roles. On the contrary, a conflict theorist would argue that, in providing everyone with health care, we are encouraging an inevitable struggle over scarce resources. Ultimately, one side is arguing that universal healthcare is mandatory for a functioning society, while the other rebuttals that it is not a crucial necessity for every person, and that we need to consider how we can best utilize our resources. It is conflicts like these that make healthcare such a controversial subject, and that have subsequently delayed any kind of progress.

Minorities are habitually segregated in healthcare. Feminist theorists focus on the domination of Caucasian men in medical societies and the lack of attention minorities, especially women, receive with America’s current healthcare plan. Since healthcare is currently hard to obtain due to strict regulations and boundaries, many people have considered alternative solutions to standard medical care. One popular alternative is to focus ones attention more so on the prevention of the disease, rather than the treatment itself. Many threats to ones health are preventable—such as suicide, heart attacks, or broken bones—and many physicians and companies are starting wellness programs to prevent such health issues from occurring, and ultimately lower medical costs. Another common alternative to our current system of health care is alternative medicine. With focus on acupuncture, yoga, meditation, herbal remedies, and other possible substitutes, both standard and alternative doctors are able to avoid high medical costs and scathing insurance rates while focusing on cheaper and easier antidotes for their patients. Many conflict theorists, in concurrence with many Western traditional physicians, claim that these alternative solutions do not make sense, that they are based on the ignorance of superstition, that they leave room for bias, and that they encourage physicians focus all of their attention on these alternative and consequently pay too little attention to those who are actually injured or unwell.

The United States’ current healthcare program has been under intense scrutiny for the last decade. Our society has been hounding the government to figure out what exactly they plan to do about the high numbers of uninsured or under-insured people, and the high costs they require for decent health insurance. While this issue has long remained stagnant, on March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which will provide low-cost insurance to the 44 million Americans who are currently uninsured; signing this act is the first step in President Obama’s plan to lower healthcare costs and expand healthcare to make it more readily available. Order theorists, along with many liberals and Democrats, strongly support the idea of providing universal healthcare. Order theorists reason that Obamacare is beneficial to a functioning society because it provides all groups and individuals with the means necessary to maintain good health and wellness, thus promoting their everyday contributions to society. Conflict theorists, however, reason that providing universal healthcare would be a waste of a precious resource, and that benefits that universal healthcare would produce are not worth the costs of abusing our dwindling resources.

If we were to ask ourselves the question, ‘what should the U.S. do about these healthcare issues?’ we are ultimately triggering our inevitable political bias. There is no infallible solution to social healthcare problems. Much like many other political controversies, it is based on an opinion that will diverge greatly among different societies, social groups, and political parties. However in pursuing Obamacare, our government is promising affordable healthcare to every American citizen through the expansion of Medicare and Medicaid. While this act would theoretically solve our current issues with healthcare, arguments will continue to be made in regards to depletion of resources and abuse of certain social groups. If we, as individuals, were able to do anything to support healthcare, it would be to spread awareness of alternative solutions and eliminate political ignorance in terms of healthcare’s costs and benefits.

Antiwar Pacifism

Is war always justified? Sometimes justified? Never? This question has been up for debate for generations – ever since we have been able to really discern, as a society, the devistating repercussions of war.

I am an antiwar pacifist. I believe that war is never justified. I believe that the inexcusable violation of rights present during war time should reflect the incompetent lack of morality that a disappointing majority of our country holds. I believe in the right to personal self-defense. However, I believe that war can not and should not ever be considered a type of self-defense. Our country’s tendency to preemptively (and unnecessarily) strike contradicts a large portion of our “U.S. values”. It is unpalatable.

I would like to take this moment to save my own ass from all of the potential private pacifists reading this (which is highly unlikely) and dictate that I am NOT anti-American! I absolutely adore America and I am so grateful to have been brought up in such a noble country – and a beautiful Southern California city, to top it off! I am also appreciative of the men and women who fight for our country – whether or not I believe in the bigger picture of their actions and commitments, they are doing what they think is right for our country, and that holds my upmost respect. I am also a die-hard Barack Obama supporter, if that wasn’t already evident from posts prior; he acts to favor the majority views of our country, but still knows when to stray from these norms (his desire to pass gay marriage equality laws, for example) in order to evolve and change our nation for the better.

But back to why I think was is never justified…

How many of you actually know our national military budget? Since 2010, the United States’ Federal Budget for the Department of Defense averaged about $545,000,000,000. Yes, that is five-hundred-and-forty-five-billion dollars spent on our military and department of defense. But here’s the catch… that is just our budget. How many of you know how much we actually spend on military and international defense? The answer to that question, taken from the year 2012, is approximately $720 billion. That is almost $200 billion more than what it should have been. Still wondering how our national debt got so high?

But let’s get to the point, shall we? This is not just about our national spending. Do you know how much it would cost to end world hunger and save impoverished societies around the world? Why don’t I stop with the rhetorical questions and tell you. $30 billion per year. That is 4% of our average annual military spending. News flash, people, what do you think is one of the main contributors to war in the first place!? The extremes of poverty and wealth, along with racism, religious strife, and universal education are just a few of the root causes of war.

Let’s put two-and-two together. Pull out of war… use that money to instead give international aid in a nonviolent way… neutralize the poverty level… SAVE 80% of humanity… eventually, hopefully, and idealistically gain world peace.

I know, I know… everything I just said is a long shot because of the conditioned ideas and values that our nation holds. However, this is the 21st century; our nation has fought through many extreme changes in societal values, and I personally believe we can handle just a few more.