Insurance is not the answer to anything.
As I say in another policy piece I am not a libertarian. But the libertarians and I agree on one thing anyway, even if it is for completely different reasons: mandatory health insurance is garbage. It's worse than garbage, it's theft dressed up as a boon. It's taking your money, giving it to one of the most profitable industries in the world, and giving you nothing in exchange.
Health insurance is not health care. This is so obvious that it should not need saying. And yet it does need saying. For one thing, insurance agents and companies have no medical training. No training in "Western" medicine, no training in homeopathic medicine, no training in non-Western medicine. What they have training in is making profit. Their own profit. And they will put their profit over your health every time. This is not conspiracy theory, it is a clear statement of how corporations work.
There is absolutely no reason in the world why we need to have insurance in the health care business. Doctors and nurses and midwives are in the healthcare business. When I have a runny nose, achy feet, moles growing to the size of eggplant on my back I don't call someone whose training is in how to make a profit - I call someone whose training is in identifying medical causes and determining cures. Insurance does not figure in to that equation. We have mandatory health insurance not because insurance has anything to do with health care, but because insurance companies have spent gazillions in advertising to mislead the public and contributions to political campaigns. Insurance gave more money to Democrats in 2008 than almost any industry had ever given to one party before. We are talking about serious you-owe-us. And Insurance got it.
This of course does not prove that what Congress did is wrong. But it is wrong.
Don't take my doctor away from me!
The campaigns against anything resembling single payer health care are so predictable. They never mention that every other so-called industrialized country has some version of it. They never mention that even Germany, which is as capitalist a country as there is, has a government-administered health system that its capitalism-loving citizens would kill to keep. They don't mention that even England under Thatcher, who was quite possibly even more Reagan-esque than Reagan himself, didn't dismantle their National Health or even tinker with it or even discuss tinkering with it. And the ads sure don't mention that the US has, on average, the lowest life expectancy in the industrialized world; the highest infant mortality, the longest waits for crucial lifesaving practices; and the greatest number of citizens who lost their homes due to the cost of medical care. Most of whom become homeless despite having health insurance. The ads play up that we have more dialysis machines, more CAT scans, more machines-that-go-bing (a Monty Python joke) than any other country; but what they don't mention is that those machines are not distributed where they are needed, they are distributed where the money is; and most of our population will never ever see the working end of one of those machines anyplace other than on TV or in a movie. "I want to be able to choose my doctor," says some sad-faced senior. Of course you do. We all do. But if you have insurance you don't chose your doctor, your insurance company does. And you will see that doctor when insurance says you can. And that doctor will do what insurance tells her she can. Which is almost never any kind of non-Western or "alternative" therapy, no matter how effective it may be, because insurance companies are the daddies, that's why; but may include unsafe treatments that pharmaceutical giants or unscrupluous practitioners have successfully made acceptable. And probably does not include preventive care because insurance would rather deal with a few big bills than many smaller ones, regardless of the health consequences for individuals or the public. Anyone who has ever had health insurance knows that the only thing you will get coverage for is perfect health - for all else there is wait till next life.
Shouldn't we be worried that Obama care will bankrupt us all?
Where do I begin. When in doubt, said Sherlock Holmes, start with the obvious. The administrative costs of the US health care system are upwards of 20%. The administrative costs in most of Europe are under 5%. What is bankrupting you right now is paying bureaucrats to keep you sick.
But if you think health care is expensive try getting sick. There is no reason why most colds need to turn into something worse. There is no reason why most colds need to last forever. There is something called preventive medicine. Properly conducted regular checkups work wonders. My stepdaughter just found out that her dentist had been skimping on the X-rays during her checkups. How did she find out? By going to a different dentist who found nine cavities that had been in her mouth since long before her last trip to a dentist. The projected bill for the current dental work is around $1500. The bill for crowns, root canals, tooth extractions and replacement if no-longer-healthy teeth continue to deteriorate will be in the multi-thousands. X-rays are about $100 per session. Total cost for pre-cavity cleanups is a couple of hundred. My stepdaughter thought her teeth were fine. And large numbers of you who are skipping preventive health care measures think you are healthy and are just as wrong.
The reality is that every other industrialized country in the world can afford a government-run health care program, and we can too.
Why should I pay any part of the cost of health care for an illegal immigrant?
Because germs don't know or care who is legal or illegal. That person next to you at the baseball game who sneezed - guess where his germs went. If you are lucky he just has something weak that your body's defenses can overcome. If you're unlucky that weak cold he started with has become something far worse as poor nutrition and lack of antibiotics turn his body into a virus resort. It doesn't have to be an illegal immigrant - anyone you come into contact with is a potential risk to your health. The healthier your neighbors are, the healthier you are likely to stay. The unhealthier your neighbors are the unhealthier you are likely to become. You are going to have to pay something sometime. You can pay to try to keep everyone healthy. Or you can pay to try to get yourself back to health after that person you did not want to help shared his germs with you. The former costs less, and is better for you.
But it's socialist!
You know what the single biggest expense is in building a car? Not steel. Not hourly wages of employees. Health care. Ford and GM are losing ground with the rest of the world because they build badly-designed cars that are less popular, but mostly because their directors are so rabidly anti-socialism that they will give up their own competitiveness to fight against a government-run program. And people say we should run government like a business! But don't governments run inefficiently? Some do. Some government programs certainly are wasteful and inefficient. There isn't a government program I can think of that is more wasteful and inefficient than paying seven digit salaries to CEOs who run car companies into bankruptcy because they prefer that to health care for all.
Europe, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, other countries too have government-run health care programs. That work. That work to the satisfaction of the populace, and work to the satisfaction of the government. The only way it can't work here is if Americans are dumber, less able to run a workable system than the rest of the world. Whether that is true or not I will leave to others to decide. One thing is for sure - if we want to stop acting dumb we need to stop worrying whether something is socialist and start worrying whether it makes sense.
Universal, single payer health care.
Not health insurance. Health care. There are no good arguments against it. None. We need to join the rest of the industrialized world and we need to do it now. We can provide a system based on the concepts that if it makes someone healthier it's covered; and if it stops someone from getting sicker it's covered; and if someone needs it it's covered; and if someone is a human being there is coverage. If Congress won't do it in Washington then Maine should do it in Augusta. I organize rallies for single payer. The Democrats and Republicans would like you to think that you don't need it. It's your choice and your vote.
Universal, single payer health care for Maine.
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