photo via Stoneth's Flickr

photo via Stoneth's Flickr

In two or three or four generations I hope the children of our children’s children are wise enough to look back on our generation with kindness. With more of a smirk and sense of wonder at our naivety and unwillingness to do what is right by our fellow man, rather than a bitter disdain for a people that could, on one hand, preach family values and, on the other, allow their neighbors to die, uninsured, as a sacrifice to the all mighty dollar.

I hope they choose to look at the bigger picture and see what has led us to this place where people are willing to vehemently oppose healthcare for people cut from the same cloth as themselves. People who may have been forced into surviving by whatever means they can, even if it means working for a company that doesn’t offer healthcare for its employees just so they can put food on the table.

I hope that they are far enough removed from us, however, that they, no matter how hard they try, cannot quite comprehend how what were otherwise decent, hard working people, associated healthcare with being a “personal ATM”. People who believed that healthcare was a privilege, not an inalienable right.

I hope that they are baffled at how we could have allowed private insurance companies, whose only goal is to turn a profit, to funnel tens of millions of dollars of those profits directly to the politicians who we elected to serve and protect us. The same politicians who, in turn, actively enabled an environment that allowed the least among us to whither and die.

I hope that they can understand the hypocrisy of a nation of people that claim to be a Nation of good, God fearing Christian people.

On the last day, Jesus will say to those on His right hand, “Come, enter the Kingdom. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was sick and you visited me.” Then Jesus will turn to those on His left hand and say, “Depart from me because I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not give me to drink, I was sick and you did not visit me.” These will ask Him, “When did we see You hungry, or thirsty or sick and did not come to Your help?” And Jesus will answer them, “Whatever you neglected to do unto the least of these, you neglected to do unto Me!”

I hope.

I hope they can forgive us for ignoring facts like this:

Here’s a system in which we spend over twice what the next most expensive country spends on health care — that’s Switzerland. We spend roughly $4500 for every American, whether they have insurance or not. Switzerland spends maybe $2500 for every citizen. Canada spends maybe $2,000. Great Britain, poor little Great Britain, spends about $1,000 for every British citizen. And what do we get for it? What do we get for that $4500? Well, we certainly don’t get our money’s worth. We have roughly 43 million people with no insurance whatsoever, and among the rest of us, many of us are underinsured. That is, we have shrinking packages. This might be covered, but that won’t be covered.

Our life expectancy is shorter. Our infant mortality is higher. Our childhood immunization rate is lower. And look at how often we get to see the doctor, how long we get to stay in the hospital. Canadians see their doctors far more often than we do. Americans really can’t afford to go see their doctor. There’s always some co-payment, some deductible, or they have to pay out of pocket, or something isn’t covered. But in Canada, where everybody is covered for everything, they go to the doctor much more often. When they are hospitalized, their hospital stays are longer. If they’re having a baby, they get to stay four or five days. Japan has very long hospital stays. Ah, it’s almost a rest cure. People in Japan who are hospitalized might lie around the hospital for a week or two just to take a rest. So we’re really not getting our money’s worth. It’s going to all sorts of things, but not to doctors and patients.

Our health care system is based on the premise that health care is a commodity like VCRs or computers and that it should be distributed according to the ability to pay in the same way that consumer goods are. That’s not what health care should be. Health care is a need; it’s not a commodity, and it should be distributed according to need. If you’re very sick, you should have a lot of it. If you’re not sick, you shouldn’t have a lot of it. But this should be seen as a personal, individual need, not as a commodity to be distributed like other marketplace commodities. That is a fundamental mistake in the way this country, and only this country, looks at health care. And that market ideology is what has made the health care system so dreadful, so bad at what it does. Yes, it does do what markets are supposed to do. It expands. That’s what markets are supposed to do. And it distributes a good according to the ability to pay. But that sure is not what we want of health care.

It’s very American. This is a very capitalistic country with relatively few safety nets as compared with Europe and Canada. It’s a cowboy country. It’s always been a cowboy country, and health care, as I said, has been seen as just one more commodity and the genius of the marketplace will take care of it. People don’t think, “Well, how will that play out? Suppose you’re poor and you’re sick, what will the marketplace do for you,” because if you want a VCR, for example, and you’re poor, you don’t get it. So you do without a VCR. Are you really going to say that to someone that has a brain tumor? So you do without your brain surgery. And also what markets do is they put out a lot of goods. The consumer pays out of pocket. He or she looks around, looks for a bargain, decides maybe he can’t afford a VCR this year, he’ll get one next year. Well, imagine you have a brain tumor. You’re gonna shop for a bargain? You’re gonna say, “Well, I don’t want an excellent brain surgeon. I want a mediocre brain surgeon. I want a cheap piece of brain surgery.” No. And you can’t say, “And I’ll wait until next year,” either. This is a life and death thing and we ought to treat it that way. We ought to treat it the same way we treat education. You don’t personally buy education insurance or your employer doesn’t buy you education insurance. It’s something that a decent society supplies to everyone.

After we fix healthcare we’ll start working on fixing higher education so that our children that want to learn past high school aren’t forced into making the choice of a quality school or starting off their adult life with a near, if not more, six-figure debt. But, let’s just work on healthcare first.

Posted by James Poling

A socialist, tinkerer, thinker, question asker and all around curiosity seeker. If you'd like to reach me you can use the contact link above or email me at jamespoling [at] gmail [dot] com.

Speak Your Mind

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s