GYC Village

blog posts from GYC's participants, alumni, & staff

Healing Health Care?

by Viveka Hulyalkar

Panel discussion with the filmmakers after the screening on June 26. Along with the approximately 300 people in the audience, several GYC delegates were able to ask questions and engage with the panel.

Filing into the screening of a human rights-themed healthcare documentary, I was sure I would soon find myself gasping at heartbreaking statistics, cursing implacable Republicans, and maybe even crying a few impassioned “Yes We Can’s!” In other words, I fully expected to spend ninety minutes adding a few arrows to my quiver of arguments as to why universal healthcare is exactly what the American people not only need, but also simply deserve as human beings. However, at Human Rights Watch’s film festival, Escape Fire opened my eyes to a revolutionary argument admirably devoid of any political persuasion. It proposed a remedy for systematic inadequacies as massive as modern American waistlines that completely bypassed the bureaucratic cloggages of Washington. A fresh sense of possibility and empowerment replaced my resigned endorsement of a structure destined to crumble simply by applying a model that Americans have long incorporated into our daily lives.

The silver bullet? A healthcare system that mimics the track record-based payment style of car insurance companies nationwide. The logic follows that in order to cut excess spending, we need to shift the focus from reactive to proactive medicine. For instance, the root of America’s healthcare problems, the film argues, truly lies in the warped methodology of reimbursements that rewards medical professionals for over-medicating, over-diagnosing, and over-testing. Furthermore, experts interviewed in the movie stated that approximately 70% of the financial burden of health insurance companies derives from medical ailments that are preventable, such as obesity and lung cancer related to smoking. If we as Americans simply took better care of our health in the first place, we could therefore potentially alleviate a whopping 70% of health insurance costs.

The California-based supermarket, Safeway, has devised an inventive way to encourage such a lifestyle shift by providing monetary incentives to its employees for leading healthier lives through a program called Healthy Measures. Employees receive a standard rate that they must pay for health coverage, but every healthy habit yields a discount.  Just as safer driving leads to lower car insurance costs, the Safeway model allows healthy living to result in lower health insurance costs. This model, which is endorsed by President Obama himself, could provide American society with a solution to one of our seemingly most daunting social issues if only it were applied on a wider plane.

I definitely believe that the concept of privatized, incentivized healthcare holds a great deal of promise. In no other way could people be so compelled to alter their well-established way of living. Furthermore, it finally presents the American people with a way to overcome the political inertia that has historically prevented us from making great strides in healthcare coverage. However, I’m certain that this system, too, would have its critics.  Charging obese people more for health insurance would undoubtedly meet calls of discrimination, and the unemployed would remain uncovered if we were to rely only on employers for such incentive programs. I therefore believe it would be optimal to retain state-sponsored healthcare for certain groups, but promote a proactive incentive program such as that of Safeway for other income brackets. If we do our part to take the fate of our health into our own hands, then perhaps the government will be able to more effectively address the needs of those who cannot.


EDITOR’s NOTE: Please check out the version of this blog post at and also other articles about health care at including


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