Friday, December 24, 2010

Making Michigan a World Health Care Leader

It's not news to me that Michigan attracts people from all over the world because of the quality of its health care. Unfortunately, in the last few years, I've had to learn more about the quality of Michigan health care and the way it stacks up against the rest of the world than I ever wanted to.

While studying health care options, time and again people would recommend Mayo Clinic or specialists in California, but research into the statistics always pointed to Michigan doctors and facilities being the best for the problem at hand. Friends from other states were surprised and made borderline racist comments about the quality of nursing care and other problems they imagined we would encounter. They couldn't imagine that a city from the rust belt would be leading in anything, but they were wrong.

But all the homework on health care in Michigan vs. elsewhere got me thinking about how Michigan was able to build up expertise in these fields. And I came to the conclusion that in many ways the outstanding hospitals and programs we have are houses that organized labor built.

The men and women who bargained for health care coverage in lieu of other compensation for their labor created a demand for health care and a way to pay for it that otherwise would not have existed. Union employees with health care coverage paid for the care they got instead of depending on charity. And when hospitals and doctors are being paid, they can take risks with new treatments and specialists. And the demand and the payment stream were secure, guaranteed by union contracts, rather than depending on the largesse of some philanthropist.

It's one of the ways that organized labor benefited everybody in this state, whether they were members of a union or not. It's one of the ways that organized labor is part of the fabric of this state.

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