A woman at Ascension Ebenezer Health Resource Center in Milwaukee.

The U.S. embraces personal responsibility. But is our emphasis on health care over social services the result of blaming those in need?

By Guy Boulton and Alexa Jurado, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

n a typical flu season, the cost of saving one life is about $1.4 million. A similar calculation puts the cost of saving one life with high blood pressure at about $8 million.

Those estimates, by Peter Muennig of Columbia University, are just two examples of the value we place on medicine and health services. And for the most part, no one questions whether the spending is worthwhile.

Roughly $8 million also is the cost of providing housing vouchers, which limit rent to 30% of a person or family’s income, to about 600 households.

But the United States, virtually alone among developed countries, tends to be much more willing to accept the cost of high-tech treatment and cathedral-like hospitals than it is to accept the cost of affordable housing.

For some people, stable and safe housing could do more to improve health and well-being.

Why the paradox?

For one thing, increasing social spending means taking money from some people and giving it to others.

For another, there is skepticism — reinforced time and again — about whether government programs, or programs that receive government funding, are accountable and actually work. Read more …