Health care reform: Can a communitarian perspective be salvaged?



The United States is culturally oriented more toward individual rights and values than to communitarian values. That proclivity has made it hard to develop a common good, or solidarity-based, perspective on health care. Too many people believe they have no obligation to support the health care of others and resist a strong role for government, higher taxation, or reduced health benefits. I argue that we need to build a communitarian perspective on the concept of solidarity, which has been the concept underlying European health care systems, by focusing not on individual needs, but rather, on those of different age groups—that is, what people need at different stages of life.


Community Solidarity Individualism Justice 


  1. 1.
    Kollmann, Geoffrey, and Dawn Nuschler. 2003. The financial outlook for social security and medicare. CRS report for congress. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Callahan, Daniel, and Angela Wasunna. 2006. Medicine and the market: Equity v. choice. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine, Biomedical, Behavioral Research. 1983. Securing access to health care. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ter Meulen, Ruud, Wil Arts, and Ruud Muffels, eds. 2001. Solidarity in health and social care in Europe. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Callahan, Daniel. 2009. Taming the beloved beast: How medical technology costs are destroying our health care system. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Crimmins, Eileen M., and Hiram Beltran-Sanchez. 2010. Mortality and morbidity trends: Is there compression of morbidity? Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences 66B: 75–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Steuerle, C. Eugene, and Stephanie Rennane. 2011. Social security and medicare taxes and benefits over a lifetime. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Alonso-Zaldivar, Ricardo, and Jennifer Agiesta. 2011. AP-GfK Poll: Baby boomers worried about Medicare. GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Rivkin, David B., and Elizabeth Price Foley. 2010. “Death panels” come back to life. Wall Street Journal, December 30.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Cutler, David M. 2005. The potential for cost savings in Medicare’s future. Health Affairs 24(Suppl. 2): W5R77–W5R80.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Hastings CenterGarrisonUSA

Personalised recommendations