If you become ill, you want to know that you’ll receive care from qualified professionals. Just as important, though, is the person next to you. Your co-worker. Your neighbor. Your fellow man. If they become ill, you should want to know that they too will receive care from qualified professionals. That’s called community. That’s called civility. That’s called human decency. Is this nation not a civil community of decent humans? Do we not at least desire to be? United, we stand, right?
Health Care. Yes, capital letters. That’s what we’re all talking about and it’s what they want us to talk about. Because we are being asked to debate the merits of “socialized medicine” against the ever-wise and just “market forces” so half of us will be able to chalk up another win for our favorite team. Instead of participating in the puppet-show argument that we’re told to believe is actual debate, though, I’m going to spell out the real story.
If we get health care reform this year, it is because the combined health care industries will make a lot of money off of the plan that is implemented. There will not be a plan that causes a net reduction in the profits of hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, or insurers, yet the only truly beneficial reforms for the average citizen would come at the expense of at least one, if not all, of those businesses.
The elected officials that are supposed to represent you do not care about you. They don’t. Unless you are on the board of a wealthy and powerful corporation, that is. But, I bet you’re not. They care about themselves. They care about their power and they care about their pursuit of wealth. We don’t have national health care because they care about those things more than they care about you or me.
As we saw with the Bush administration’s rush to war and fast-tracking of the PATRIOT Act, hasty legislation is a bad idea. The legislative process envisioned by the nation’s founders was deliberately slow, allowing for careful and extended debate. Now, following in Bush’s footsteps, President Obama is urging a quick ram-through of a health care reform bill. Despite his claims that he wants this to pass now because of all the people currently living without coverage, the reason for his urgency can only be that a proper and extended debate would expose enough flaws and logical fallacies that the bill would not maintain support.
Many people in the medical industry are not interested in your health. They are interested in money. As a doctor, it’s a lot easier to make money off of people being sick than to make money off of people being healthy. Those doctors don’t want a national health care system because they recognize the reduced revenue that would result from carefully regulated costs and a focus on preventative medical practices. There are plenty of doctors out there that are interested in your health, and really do seem to want what is best for you, regardless of how much money they make, but if the median income of a doctor were reduced at this moment to, say, $90,000 per year, I bet you’d see a lot of medical school drop-outs.
Insurance companies are not your friends. If you, for one second, believe any of the rhetoric being issued by American insurance companies about the dangers of socialized medicine, you’re being played. Insurance companies, like all other types of companies, care about only one thing: separating you from your few dollars that they may add to their own over-flowing coffers. They aren’t genuine when they tell you that competition between insurance providers creates lower costs and better care.
The power of the consumer to benefit from competition exists only when true choices are available to the consumer. For the most part, Americans are not provided that choice. We get the health insurance that our employer offers because to do otherwise is often cost-prohibitive. That isn’t going to change even if a public option is created because the insurance you get through your employer is not paid for with taxable income. Your public option would be. The end-consumer’s choices are not competitively empowering.
There is only one wealthy, industrialized nation on Earth that does not have a universal health care system. That country is, of course, the United States of America. According to a World Health Organization report from 2008, the U.S. spends 15.2 % of its Gross Domestic Product on health care. Out of 193 countries detailed in that report, only one spends a greater percentage – the Marshall Islands. Without researching, I am confident in stating that their GDP is dwarfed by that of the United States.
So, if we don’t have universal health care, but we spend more of our GDP on health care than Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, or the United Kingdom, all of which do have universal health care, why are we spending so much? Critics will likely point to government inefficiency and fraud, and claim they are plagues of the Medicare and Medicaid programs. I won’t make any claims that those problems don’t exist. But the problems of those programs are more easily fixed and pale in comparison to the problems created by bloated corporations.
According to a recent report, true health care reform in the United States as a single-payer system covering all Americans at no out-of-pocket expense to the patient would create 2.6 million new jobs. That number is equal to the number of jobs that dissolved in our country’s recession during 2008 across all industries. Not only would the single-payer system be an economic benefit to the country and its citizens, see the last page of that report to see how the cost compares to the other recent attempts that have been made to bolster our economy.
Ideally, we would have legislation introduced in Congress that would seek to cover all Americans under Medicaid. Guess what? It has happened in every Congressional session for the past six years. Representative John Conyers, Jr. originally introduced the Bill in 2003, but current debate won’t even allow mention of a single-payer plan as an option. Why not? Because we, the people, would benefit more than for-profit enterprises.
Sometimes, politicians wage wars of attrition against one another. They compromise and dilute to get something passed and claim the accomplishment, even if the end-result is a weak specter of the original intent. Other times, the point of the debate is to reframe the argument from “good option vs bad option” to “bad option vs worse option” (such as the recent cap-and-trade debate). I don’t appreciate my leaders asking me if I’d prefer to be punched in the face or punched in the gut without offering me the option of not getting punched. You can ask for single-payer coverage to be a part of the national health reform discussion, preventing politicians from playing these kinds of games.
It’s right. We have the ability. The greed of the few is preventing the good of all. We can not abide.