Preface by Pam Barker | TLB staff writer
Although this post is not within my journalistic scope for TLB, I felt strongly enough to put this out. Why? Because having lived most of my life in two systems with true universal healthcare (UK and Canada), I can say unequivocally that it’s an awesome system for the average citizen. And anyone who has experienced this never wants to give it up.
I wouldn’t say this to a European or Canadian because I wouldn’t have to: does supporting such a system make me ‘left-wing’ or – gasp! – a socialist? No. It simply makes me compassionate toward my neighbor. I want to live in a system where YOU and your loved ones don’t have to spend exorbitant monthly sums for those expensive insurance policies, large deductibles, co-pays, and the fine print of your insurance ‘coverage’ that won’t actually cover you for a whole heap of things when the proverbial you-know-what hits the fan. I have American friends with relatives stuck in the hospital. It’s ugly.
It also makes me delightfully selfish. What I pay to provide for you I also get the benefit of.
To have anything resembling ‘freedom’ or ‘liberty’, good health has to be factored in. Nobody is free when they’re sick. Or when they’re in debt. Debt is a great enslavement mechanism, one of the best, and our governments well know that. I could provide that argument in defense of free university education, too, but I’ll save that for another time.
Costs go way down in such a system, as the article published below well demonstrates, and everybody benefits. What about taxes? Well, you’re going to have a problem I can’t fix if you steadfastly believe that you shouldn’t have to pay for another’s healthcare. That’s ideological, but then you would be taking a position that shoots you firmly in the foot. Or head.
And on the subject of taxes, Americans pay massively for the military-surveillance state. Just let lawyer John Whitehead tell you what you’re paying for. That should be something you oppose wholeheartedly. You’re also paying $16.7 million per DAY to Israel. Where our taxes go is a very very important topic, indeed. But there are some things worth paying for that anybody of sound mind can see are ‘worthy’.
You should also oppose a system that takes your hard-earned cash for an expensive insurance policy just to put money in the pockets of relatively few shareholders who own stock in the insurance company you’re a client of – all on the back of your sweat and ill-health. Why should ANYONE make a profit on the back of your misfortune? I question that on a moral level.
Let people make fortunes on producing a better widget or some other consumer item that people choose to buy, not on your heart attack or chronic illness.
I’m not a socialist. And a socialized medical system doesn’t make me one. Socialized medicine doesn’t turn your country into a socialist state either. I have lived under thoroughly capitalist systems of government all my life and still do. I’m a capitalist who knows how to save a buck, think about my neighbor, and sleep much better at night knowing I’m not going to lose my savings or my house because of an illness I couldn’t avoid.
And I want you to be able to do that, too.
And one last thing: when your healthcare system is tied to government, you have the democratic mechanism for changing it – the vote. If you don’t like feature X of your system, vote to change it. That is possible in principle. But when the whole system is privatized, the patient is no longer a democratic participant in a much bigger group of voices but a solitary consumer who makes a choice merely to refuse to buy service A in preference for service B. Problem is, we know the landscape of prices is fixed by all the service providers out there. When we plug our computer into the wall, there isn’t a choice of provider competing in a truly open market with others so as to drive costs down. That game has been rigged for years. And the neoliberal Obamacare program, originally a Republican-supported idea, just pushed everybody further into this rigged game.
Enjoy Deidre Fulton’s article on why doctors are making an extremely strong case for a publicly-funded, single-payer system. This includes an annual saving of $500 billion.
‘We can continue down this harmful path or we can embrace the long-overdue remedy that we know will work: a publicly financed, nonprofit, single-payer system that covers everybody.’
by Deirdre Fulton
Despite limited advances provided by the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. healthcare system remains “uniquely wasteful” and profit-driven, leaving tens of millions without any insurance and even more underinsured.
As a result, say leading physicians, “the right to medical care remains a dream deferred.”
In an effort to finally realize that dream, thousands of medical professionals across the country have signed onto the “Physicians’ Proposal for Single-Payer Health Care Reform,” calling for a publicly financed, single-payer National Health Program (NHP) that would cover all Americans for all medically necessary care.
The plan, unveiled Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health, aims to “remedy the persistent shortcomings of the current health care system,” reads an accompanying editorial.
It comes as the 2016 presidential race has thrust the issue of healthcare back into the national spotlight, and while the proposal is non-partisan, it hews closely to Bernie Sanders’ call for Medicare-for-All.
Drafted by a working group of 39 physicians and endorsed by more than 2,231 other physicians and 149 medical students, the proposal “would save enough on administrative overhead to provide comprehensive coverage to the uninsured and to upgrade coverage for everyone else, thus requiring no increase in total health spending,” according (pdf) to Physicians for a National Health Program (PHNP), which is backing the effort.
Under the proposal, according to PHNP:
- Patients could choose to go to any doctor and hospital. Most hospitals and clinics would remain privately owned and operated, receiving a budget from the NHP to cover all operating costs. Physicians could continue to practice on a fee-for-service basis, or receive salaries from group practices, hospitals or clinics.
- The program would be paid for by combining current sources of government health spending into a single fund with modest new taxes that would be fully offset by reductions in premiums and out-of-pocket spending. Co-pays and deductibles would be eliminated.
- The single-payer program would save about $500 billion annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of insurance firms, and the massive paperwork they inflict on hospitals and doctors.
The administrative savings of the streamlined system would fully offset the costs of covering the uninsured and upgraded coverage for everyone else, e.g. full coverage of prescription drugs, dental care and long-term care. Savings would also be redirected to currently underfunded health priorities, particularly public health.
- The “single payer” would be in a strong position to negotiate lower prices for medications and other medical supplies, yielding additional savings and reining in costs.
“Our nation is at a crossroads,” said Dr. Adam Gaffney, a Boston-based pulmonary disease and critical care specialist who co-chaired the working group that produced the proposal. “Despite the passage of the Affordable Care Act six years ago, 30 million Americans remain uninsured, an even greater number are underinsured, financial barriers to care like co-pays and deductibles are rising, bureaucracy is growing, provider networks are narrowing, and medical costs are continuing to climb.”
As a result, Gaffney continued, “Caring relationships are increasingly taking a back seat to the financial prerogatives of insurance firms, corporate providers, and Big Pharma.”
Supporting Gaffney’s claim, a separate study published in the May 2016 issue of Monthly Review finds that the Affordable Care Act’s neoliberal approach to expanding health insurance has in fact failed in other countries such as Colombia, Chile, and Mexico, where corporate profits have soared, the safety net of public hospitals and clinics has deteriorated, and health costs have increased.
“We can continue down this harmful path—or even worse, take an alternative, ‘free-market’ route that would compound our problems—or we can embrace the long-overdue remedy that we know will work: the creation of a publicly financed, nonprofit, single-payer system that covers everybody,” said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a co-author of the single-payer editorial and proposal who is a professor of public health at the City University of New York’s Hunter College and lecturer at Harvard Medical School.
“Today we’re saying we must quickly make that shift,” Woolhandler said. “Lives are literally at stake.”
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About the author
Deidre Fulton is a staff writer at Common Dreams
About the contributor
Pam Barker is a TLB staff writer/analyst based in France. She has an extensive background in the educational systems of several countries at the college and university level as a teacher and administrator.