UHC and innovation

Adam Doster

In the cover story for this week's The New Republic, health care whiz Jonathan Cohn does a solid job of deconstructing one of the more convincing reasons one might oppose universal health care: namely, that it stunts medical innovation. My mom, who worked in a hospital as a social worker for many years, subscribes to this school of thought. I'd question why so many Americans are riding over the Ambassador Bridge to obtain pills and primary care, she'd ask why so many canucks are on the other side of the road headed to the Mayo Clinic. Well, if you believe that the market doesn't dictate all human behavior, the two aren't mutually exclusive. The great breakthroughs in the history of medicine, from the development of the polio vaccine to the identification of cancer-killing agents, did not take place because a for-profit company saw an opportunity and invested heavily in research. They happened because of scientists toiling in academic settings. "The nice thing about people like me in universities is that the great majority are not motivated by profit," says Cynthia Kenyon, a renowned cancer researcher at the University of California at San Francisco. "If we were, we wouldn't be here." And, while the United States may be the world leader in this sort of research, that's probably not--as critics of universal coverage frequently claim--because of our private insurance system. If anything, it's because of the federal government. Read the rest here.

Adam Doster, a contributing editor at In These Times, is a Chicago-based freelance writer and former reporter-blogger for Progress Illinois.
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