SOC 2010 Lecture Notes - Thomas Szasz, Class Stratification, Socialized Medicine

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28 Jan 2013
Socialized Medicine
• Almost 43 million people (about 15% of the population) have no medical coverage. The United States
is the only industrialized country without national health insurance. Other countries, such as Canada,
Great Britain, Sweden, Germany, and Italy, have national health insurance systems, also referred to as
socialized medicine.
• Despite differences in how socialized medicine works in various countries, what is common to all
systems of socialized medicine is that the government:
1) directly controls the financing and organization of health services
2) directly pays providers
3) owns most of the medical facilities
4) guarantees equal access to health care
5) allows some private care for individuals who are willing to pay for their medical expenses
Sociological Perspectives of Health
The Functionalist Perspective
• Functionalists argue that if society is to function well, its people need to be healthy enough to perform
their normal roles. This means societies must set up ways to control sickness. One way they do this is to
develop a system of medical care. Also, rules are developed to keep too many people from “being sick.
Sick role a social role that excuses people from normal obligations because they are sick or injured,
while at the same time expecting them to seek competent help and cooperate in getting well.
- Talcott Parsons pointed out that the sick role has four elements:
1) You are not responsible for being sick
2) You are exempt from your normal responsibilities
3) You don’t like the role
4) You will get competent help so you can return to your routines
The Symbolic Interactionist Perspective
• Symbolic Interactionists focus on (1) how meanings, definitions, and labels influence health, illness,
and health care and (2) how such meanings are learned through interaction with others and through
media messages
• Symbolic Interactionists see illness as socially constructed—that is, there are no diseases in nature.
Instead, there are only conditions that social groups have come to define as illness or disease. For
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