Friday, August 7, 2009

Socialized Health Care for Dummies

health care

Our health care in America is a joke. It might be wonderful for a select few but for the rest of us it's downright awful. We are currently ranked 36th in the world with every other country who has universal health care ranking above us. We have 46 million people without insurance, doctors wasting time filling out insurance forms, insurance companies dreaming up ways to avoid paying out to people who faithfully paid their premiums for years and 50% of the 1,458,000 personal bankruptcies in the US in 2001 were due to medical bills. Health care should be considered a universal human right that should be made available to all persons regardless of race, gender, sexuality, or ability to pay. What it comes down to is countries who offer universal health care have happier citizens who live longer and are healthier.

For those who still are not convinced, I have provided some arguments that are posed to my friends and I almost daily, along with our replies:

"I, for one, do not trust our incompetent government to do anything, especially run our health care."

I hope anyone that argues that they don't trust the government to run health care is at least consistent and fights just as hard to get the government to disband the armed forces. If you can't trust the government to try and save lives, you shouldn't trust them to take them either.

That goes for the death penalty too, and really, the entire legal system. An error in the legal system especially as it pertains to the death penalty is, at least in my opinion, much more horrible. Your government making a mistake and purposefully killing someone is much worse than making your wait times for medical care slightly longer.

Most people’s views don’t jive with the facts of socialized health care in Canada or Europe, or of the role and usefulness of government in those countries. Many Americans seem to have an automatic fear of government which is based not on reason or clear facts, but of convoluted theories and misrepresentations of the real facts. Actually many government officials and representative are in bed with the insurance companies. So long as people profit when sick people don't get medical treatment, the system will stay broken, and quite inhumane.

"In Canada as well as England and other countries with socialized health care, you sometimes spend months waiting before seeing a physician. Many people would die just waiting in an emergency room."

Socialized health care has been proven to be far more efficient, fair, humane, and equal. It is not at all perfect, and needs improvement, but the US would be wise to adopt a more social health system rather than a private profit based one where insurance company bureaucrats are making medical decisions.

Although a few people do die waiting for treatment we have far more people who suffer and die because they go untreated due to lack of insurance. Not only is that statement about waiting for care patently misleading - (one only waits for non-emergency or elective specialty care which is based on the same principle as ER triage). Europe and Canada are doing very, very well under socialism. In fact the more socialist the country (Denmark, Sweden) the better off they are. Better education, health, longer life-expectancy, lower infant mortality, more productive, less crime, (because the poor have options and support from the community they don't have to resort to crime and violence out of necessity).

Those stories in which people die waiting for treatment, a rare occurrence, are flaunted about by the conservative news outlets, like Fox, which are owned by giant corporations and run by the elite few who make more money than God. This ruling class will do whatever they need to in order to keep the money pouring into their bank accounts. They recognize that higher taxes would drain them of some of their precious wealth and so they use their media power to spread the idea that covering their asses is in everyone's best interests. For example, the CEO of Fox holds stock in almost every major health insurance company; it would obviously be in his direct best interest to keep people from supporting universalized health care as he would end up losing millions when the insurance companies are forced to lower their costs to stay in business. So, of course, he is going to twist the truth and use scare tactics (in the form of hosts like Bill O'Reiley and Glenn Beck) to keep the populace complacent.

"Medicaid and medicare are a mess. Have you ever been on Medicaid?"

Yes we have and it is wonderful. The only reason that Medicaid and Medicare are a mess is due to a major lack of funding; they consistently have their budgets cut... thus why Medicaid has been forced to stop offering adults any dental and optical coverage. The US government already provides the best health care in the US for government employees and veterans, and the elderly (Medicare). It's cheaper, more efficient and provides a higher level of care than is available through private insurance.

"The US treasurer himself said the bottom line is that Obama's plan will cost $1 T more than taxpayers currently spend!"

Actually government health care has proven to be far cheaper and far more accessible than private. For one, overhead costs would be cut due to reduced staffing needs (administration, billing departments, etc.) than currently exist in hospitals and private health insurance companies. Also, socialized health care is not trying to generate a profit, just break even.

The fact is the US has by far the most expensive health care system in the world, has a lower level of care, lower life expectancy, and has far higher percentage of people without any access to care at all. More people in the United States are totally without access than the entire population of Canada. The US is currently paying out the nose for emergency care when it could be paying far, far less for European/Canadian type preventative care which is far cheaper in the long run for all involved. It's better to have free, easy access to a doctor whenever you need it than to have to wait until it develops into a serious, more expensive, problem to get help.

The way it works in Canada is that you get free access to basic health care, for specialty care you may be caused to wait depending on the status of your condition. If it is life-threatening you get immediate, free treatment. For elective or non-serious conditions you may well have to wait, but that is no different from how triage works in a hospital normally - those who need the care the most get treated first. Dentistry, prescriptions, optometric care are privatized and covered at different degrees depending on the province you reside in, but either way are far, far cheaper than in the US.

"Shouldn't the reform come from insurance companies, the doctors and hospitals who so ridiculously overcharge"

Unfortunately the insurance companies, doctors and hospitals will not reform, especially without government intervention. They are corporations whose primary purpose is to make the most possible money for their shareholders. The best way to drive their prices down is to offer some sort of alternative, where people do not have to pay exorbitant fees in order to receive treatment. Once they start to lose customers they will reform in order to stay in business.

"I have a doctor friend in Switzerland who had to go over the border to practice to make any money, because they were paid the same as every other average doctor, no matter how good they strove to be."

The fact that they weren't making 'any money' is a fallacy, obviously the other doctors in Switzerland are able to survive off of their wages. Another reason this argument is ridiculous is due to the fact that American doctors spend years paying off hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans, whereas in a socialized country such as Switzerland their government pays for their college education and doctors graduate debt free.

Under our current system doctors are paid money based on how many patients they can squeeze into a day, to make even more money they are also paid a commission by pharmaceutical companies for each prescription they write. In socialized countries doctors are paid based on how well they care for their patients as well as their patients overall health. In other words our doctors are paid more if we are sick, by being able to write more prescriptions and taking follow up appointments, whereas their doctors are paid more the better their patients fare.

It is irrational that anyone should make a profit on top of what medical care costs. Doctors and nurses should be paid. Pay the costs, but making money on people who are ill is immoral. HMO's and businesses making money on people who are ill are vultures.

"Many people don't have insurance because they choose to spend the money on another area of their life, not that they can't afford it. They just think the government 'owes' this to them. They refuse to get jobs, because then they would have to give up the freebies. I don't want to pay for your health care."

If health care weren't at all tied to employment it would be the same as education - a right that all people (and their children) have regardless of their employment. Are we going to punish children because their parent can't afford health insurance, maybe can't work or even won't?

Many Americans seem to have a warped view on how social programs work. Their anecdotal evidence is a poor reason to go up against the reality of how socialized health care (and education for that matter) actually functions. The percentage of people in the US who abuse social programs, in the 'they' group, are minuscule, especially when compared to how many people in the US are uninsured, uninsurable, and under-insured, and have serious health and employment problems because they are simply less lucky than others. This view seems rather limited and selfish.

"Socialized health care is not only economically unsound, it is immoral. Stealing is wrong, even if it's for a good cause."

'Stealing is wrong.' Yes. So how about industrial waste and environmental degradation that is stealing our health in the first place? How about pesticides and herbicides that are in our food, and all for maximization of profit? Do you realize how much industrialization has increased the cancer rates in developing and developed countries? Causing this whole health care problem in the first place is our particular brand of capitalism.

Do you pay taxes at all? Because that's the government 'stealing' from you, that's forced charity. As the US becomes more and more liberal, which it will, more and more people will start to see why socialism works and will overcome the McCarthyist fear they have of the word socialism. The selfish might, at that time, want to find a nice island to isolate themselves from all the evil forced charity that will be imposed on their 'extremely moral' selves. As for theft, if taxes are theft, then you'd best be prepared to give up much. Police, fire, roads, schools etc.

"The reason health care was so cheap earlier in the last century was because there was less government involvement. Medicare and Medicaid has been a horrible disaster for our country and have increased the cost of health care to what it is today."

As for profit, look back 20 years. Medical care before the rise of the HMO was cheaper, and the people who made money then were doctors, nurses, hospitals, and people doing medical care, not the insurance companies and drug companies. Ask any doctor who has practiced medicine between 1980 and 2009 when and where they made more money. Doctors are making less money now, nurses pay more money for their own insurance (and they work for hospitals and insurance companies.) And people who hold these views obviously don’t have a chronic or debilitating illness or they would understand what it means to be robbed of their money, homes and quality of life.

Things were much simpler in the 'last part of the last century', they have become significantly more complicated by insurance companies. In reality the 'invention' of the HMO may be the most insidious creation ever developed. Insurance companies have developed entire systems and protocols to stop providing for people they insure so that they may retain more 'profit'... the profit of the insurance company is entirely created to decrease the service provided to the insured. If that's not immoral, what is? Health care isn't about simple economics, it’s about quality of life. If quality of life is money to you, then I hope when you snuggle up with it, it gives you lots of warm fuzzies.

"Big government is the problem!"

Back in the day, you had to subscribe for police coverage, fire coverage, and other things that we now consider city costs. How is medical care much different? Everyone in America is one major illness away from bankruptcy, and if you check yourself or a loved one into a nursing/rest home, you can kiss every dime you ever made or ever saved goodbye. And the poor? They already get the best medical coverage in America. Medicaid: The Unlimited Gold Pot at the end of the social ladder.

When a society has its basic needs cared for and doesn't need to struggle to feed their family when making $6 an hour at Mc Donald's, when they don't have to go bankrupt to pay for a surgery, when they can afford to send their children to university, when their government spends money on the welfare of humans and not on imperialistic military goals then you've got a society where social equality is possible, and where people don't die of tooth infections which spread and get into the blood stream because someone couldn't afford to go to the dentist.

"Socialism is nothing more than moral cannibalism. It is evil and it always destroys the people who live with it."

Unfortunately, a Euro/Canadian style health care system isn't even on the table in Congress right now. All they're trying to do is fix the uninsured/under-insured problem by having affordable coverage. Health Insurance companies currently can charge whatever they want and then refuse to pay for people's medical needs because that way they make less money. As long as medical care is for-profit, it is bad for Americans (unless you run a health insurance company). They want to make money, not help people get better.

Obama is not a socialist. He's not even a liberal. He's a centrist. Almost the entire democratic party and certainly its policies are centrist ones. And again Obama's plan isn't socialized medicine. It's just introducing some much needed regulation so insurance can't decline to cover treatment or choose what kinds of treatments it will cover, as well as a public plan which would force insurance companies to lower their rates to a reasonable level. That's all. No socialization, it's American-style health insurance which people will still have to purchase. It's still a terrible idea, but not nearly as terrible as what is currently in place.

Is socialism evil? No, what's evil is basing a society on extreme selfishness, on giving power to those who are just lucky and born into a situation where they can succeed, and where the majority of people exist mostly to supply the ruling class with ever more money. Unregulated capitalism is as bad an idea as Leninist communism. What we need a healthy balance of the two extremes, and that is socialism. Where personal freedom & human equality are sacrosanct.

"Socialism worked real well for the Soviet Union or Cuba or North Korea didn't it?"

Actually if you look at these examples they are not socialists at all, but communists. Communism is no more socialism than American capitalism is Nazism. You live in a society, and must either learn to live with the fact that we as humans are interconnected, need each other, and never succeed in a vacuum. You need us, though because you're just one person, we don't really need you as much. Socialism is a natural result of our basic nature as social primates. If we care for our community, they will in turn care for us and we all profit. What I see as really immoral is the power that rich people have over the poor to control their lives, to refuse them medical treatment, education, and equality simply because they weren't born powerful. All the while American society is becoming more fractured, most are getting poorer, while the few rich are getting even richer, and turning into an oligarchy.

A special thanks to my friends Craig Fitzner, Mark Olsen, Jillian Phippen and Derek Johnson.


Dawson said...

Although I can't profess to be a true convert to the socialist way of thinking I must admit that everything you've said in this article not only stands to reason but seems to be the only logical solution available to us.

As is so often the case we find our virtuous pathways blocked by people too ignorant or close-minded to recognize the fallacies that make up their own viewpoint.

Like the nurse whose job it is to hold a squirming, hysterical kid fast while simultaneously injecting a vaccine into the child's rigid little ass... it falls upon the more enlightened among us to ensure that temper tantrums and crocodile tears from our peers are insufficient to dissuade us from the course that will, ultimately, bring about reformations that will ensure the finest quality of health and greatest amount of happiness.

Unknown said...

I can see that you are the perfect person to be promoting Wayne's Healthcare course. I think you are tremendously idealistic, and I'm annoyed by this sometimes. I think your passion clouds your judgment from time to time. But I truly love your fighting spirit and your desire for social equality and justice. In time you'll learn how to make arguments like these without losing your important audience. Your important audience are the people who don't already agree with you. They are the ones you must reach and convince... Sometimes if you go to far to the edge, if you are too controversial, you'll simply lose those people. Saying things like "American capitalism is Nazism" is an example of this. That's a feeling you've spouted out, which comes from your passion. But it's something that hurts your overall argument... Your liberal readers might love it, but nobody else will read it. And if they do, it might be just because they are itching for a fight. You are good at this writing thing. Keep it up. Especially the stuff that deals with these real social issues...