Socialized Medicine: Why Everyone Should Share The Costs.

NHS“A society will be judged by how it cares for it’s weakest members.”

Understand, I do not begrudge anyone from earning a profit, nor do I have anything personally against the entrepreneurial spirit. We should all do what we can to better ourselves. However, I am of the position that health care is not a privilege, but a right. As well, I reason that we are all morally obligated to ensure that each of us has access to it. That the United States does not have a national health care program is a major moral failure, and what we have in place is little more than a venue for unethical profiteers within the pharmaceutical and insurance industries.

Private Charities…

Private charities perform an admirable service, but they cannot and do not replace quality, long-term or day-to-day health care and diagnostic services. They do not provide the equipment and/or durable medical goods that many people require, nor do they provide the necessary follow-up services and continuing care provisions. They are stop-gap measures, much like Emergency Room visits. As well, there are not nearly enough private philanthropists to take this on in similar fashion.

When I became ill, my insurance company dropped me and I was unable to get any health care due to several pre-existing conditions. During the many years I had no access to proper medical care, my conditions – already degenerative and incurable – were allowed to progress, unfettered.

Consequently, in a little over one year after losing my health insurance and trying to keep up with skyrocketing medical expenses, the results were catastrophic.  I lost my business (and those working for me lost their jobs), my home was foreclosed, I had two vehicles repossessed and blew through my entire life savings. Yes, I was able to take advantage of some charity, but overall, I was in the wind.

By the time I got approved for Medicare, my unpaid medical bills exceeded half a million dollars. These bills will never be paid, which makes me a permanent debtor with horrible credit, unable to contribute anything even appreciable to the GNP as I cannot get loands, credit cards or anything else that requires payment other than cash. This also increases the costs of health care for those who have insurance. Their premiums, deductibles, co-pays and overall costs are going to rise because of people like me – the disabled.

To those who say that I should “do the right thing” and pay down this debt, I might as well piss into a hurricane. My Social Security Disability income totals about $13,000.00 per year, not inlcuding my Medicare premiums are deducted and allowing for co-pays and deductibles. That is the equivalent of a full time job that pays about five bucks an hour.

Premature Poverty…

With proper medical care, I might have been able to work for another five years and kept others employed, as well. Due to the lack of access to proper health care, I was prematurely thrown into the ranks of the unemployed for the simple reason that I was (and still am) unemployable.

So, the question remains. Should those who are employed (including employers) be mandated with the responsibility of paying higher taxes to shoulder the medical needs of an entire nation, including those who have no way to contribute to the cost of a national health service?

In a word, yes. They should, and they should do it knowing that a healthy society will prosper, but a society that is burdened with insurmountable, bankrupting and mentally debilitating medical costs that are generated by private industry will not.

Social Health Care…

The United States needs a tax-payer funded (single-payer) national health care system. Totally and completely socialized and incurring no costs to anyone beyond what their taxes pay. Those who cannot pay due to disability, unemployment or other circumstances beyond their control should have the same access as those who do.

In my opinion, putting a dollar ahead of the health and welfare of a human being is immoral. National or Socialized medicine should be a no-brainer. The cost to our society in terms of unpaid debt, the inability of those whose credit ratings have been destroyed by medical bills to invest in real estate, private industry and the general product is staggering.

The more debt that is incurred by private citizens who are uninsured and cannot pay their medical bills, the more the costs of health care increases for those who are insured. Unpaid debt raises premiums, deductibles and co-pays because the insurance and pharmaceutical industries operate on a for-profit basis, and when those bills are not paid, it increases their expenses. We all lose in this scenario.

Pay It Forward…

That phrase does not belong to the religious community, but the entire human race. As I stated, I reason that one of the core values of being an American is the ability to improve oneself through independent means, and that the American Dream should remain alive and well and we should do our level best to take care of ourselves.  I also believe that those who cannot, should not be made to suffer for it. There should never be any individual who’s life is less important than a number on a profit and loss ledger.

Somehow, with respect to health care, being a healthy American Citizen has become a crap-shoot if access to health care is limited or non-existent.  Not providing access to health care would seem to be in opposition to our constitution, which starts off:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to  form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility,  provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the  Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish  this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Yes, I know there are many people who interpret this in different ways, but consider that in July of 1798, Congress passed a law that authorized the creation of a government operated marine hospital service and mandated that privately employed sailors be required to purchase health care insurance. President John Adams signed it, so anyone who doubts what the Founding Fathers intended should realize that those who drafted this were also the drafters of the Constitution.

Final Thoughts…

Socialized medicine makes sense on every level. It is much cheaper and more efficient than private health insurance. A single payer system virtually eliminates the waste and inefficiency that comes with private health care. This doesn’t even begin to speak on insurance practices that routinely deny needed medical procedures to keep profits up.

I would suggest that the unbelievably obscene amount of money this country is investing in the military be dramatically decreased and those monies be used to help fund a natonal health service. Individual income taxes would still increase, but the hit would be comparitively minimal. Either way, my position remains the same, and that is Capitalism should never be a cause of death.

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  31 comments for “Socialized Medicine: Why Everyone Should Share The Costs.

  1. May 18, 2012 at 11:14 am

    “When I became ill, my insurance company dropped me”

    How can this be? Pacta sunt servanda?

    This is atrocious.

  2. Erasmus
    May 18, 2012 at 11:31 am

    As a UK citizen it always amazes me that so many in the US oppose this. The NHS is not the best thing of its kind in the world, but it is amazing and I genuinely find it difficult to imagine living without it there.

    I am from a poor background and needed alot of healthcare when I was a child that would have been unavailable in the US. I have spent time as an adult unemployed and in need of healthcare and the NHS was there.

    I am now healthy and have a well paying job and whilst it is unlikely that I will need much medical care anytime soon I am glad to be paying taxes that are used to look after those who do.

    I was speaking to an American friend a while back and during the conversation had it pointed out that he considered gun ownership a human right, but not healthcare. Whatever a persons position on weapons it amazes me that they could be seen as more important than health. I considered briefly moving to.the US when a job opened up in my field there, but couldn’t shake the concern that I’d be moving to a country where such attitudes are common.

    • JustKat
      May 18, 2012 at 2:39 pm

      Powerful lobbies are at work here in addition to the propaganda machine.

      If you mention socialized medicine people have a negative knee-jerk reaction and go on to spout horror stories of those who couldn’t get necessary care because of long waits, etc. – things that they hear from right-wing news sources.

      I am personally for socialized medicine and even the people I speak to who shudder at the thought when speaking are actually for it themselves. All I have to do is ask them if their young adult children have coverage, or talk to them about a relative in a situation similar to Al’s. They will usually agree that the system we have now isn’t working.

      I also live in southeast Texas and Republican ignorance is rampant in this area.

      • 24fps
        May 20, 2012 at 1:29 am

        Ah, yes, the long wait gambit.

        I’m Canadian. Like Erasmus, I live in a country with a flawed but basically workable socialized medical system.

        My mother’s friend waited a long time for a knee replacement. She had a lot of pain and it was unfortunate, but due to a triage system, there were people in worse shape that got in first. And she got her surgery, which cost them nothing more than their taxes.

        On the other hand, a close friend of mine was diagnosed with lymphoma not that long ago. She is an artist and would not have been able to afford insurance if we’d been in the US. She was in treatment immediately. She has recieved the same level of care that anyone, of any financial status, might receive here. And while there are times that we wish things could be more efficient or that we had more specialists, I can say with confidence that she has received overall excellent care.

        So did my father when he had a catastrophic illness as his business failed when I was a teenager – it was hard enough losing his income, my mother and I kept us fed on my part time waitressing and her Avon sales, if we’d had to pay for the surgeries and lengthy hospital stay to deal with his diverticulitis, we’d have lost what little we had and never financially recovered.

        What terrifies me right now is that we have a conservative federal government and in my home province a very conservative provincial government. We see the underhanded drift toward privatisation – here, in Saskatchewan, where socialized medicine was introduced to North America!! – and because of majority governments are not in much of a position to stop it. I don’t know what the future of socialized medicine is going to be up here. I just don’t understand the impulse to dismantle something so terrifically important.

        I hope the US figures it out someday, too.

        • Anonymous
          May 21, 2012 at 2:36 pm

          I also had lymphoma not that long ago (in Canada) and what I loved was how easy it was to receive care ANYWHERE. I tend to bounce around a bit between work in the summer, school in the winter and switching schools after my first degree so I’ve required care in 4 different provinces during the course of chemo, radiation and follow-up. There were never any problems switching doctors or hospitals because I never had to switch insurance providers or worry that I might not be covered by my provider in a particular area.
          I get the impression that some Americans think that socialized medicine means less freedom for the individual, that they will not be able to choose who treats them or where, but this is so very much not true. Socialized medicine not only results in greater financial freedom (notice I am a poor student who has NOT been thrown into deep debt for the rest of forever) but also in greater freedom to choose who cares for you and where that care takes place. Americans like freedom right? So they should like socialized medicine.
          Also, regarding the wait times, I feel I should point out that we pay far less (about 2/3 to 1/2) per person than Americans do for health care. If we were really worried about the level of care we receive we could just decide to increase the amount we spend on it.

      • MichelleZB
        May 20, 2012 at 9:44 am

        The wait time argument amuses me, because we’re talking about a chance that someone might wait a little longer for a surgery or an appointment. That is horrifying to the arguer. But it isn’t horrifying that at least half the people in their country have to wait FOREVER because they just can’t afford it? Like, currently under the US system, most people’s wait times are FOREVER. So the US has the longest average wait times in the world.

        • JustKat
          May 21, 2012 at 3:03 pm

          Waiting forever – good point.

          I was referred to a rheumatologist by my GP recently. The wait for that appointment was over two months. It’s not as if we always get right in to see someone here either.

    • No Light
      May 18, 2012 at 5:19 pm

      All of this.

      Not to mention that those who don’t want to “slum it” on the NHS, can buy private care. Fully comprehensive plans can be as little as £40pcm.

      To be honest though, the waits may be slightly shorter, and the facilities a bit nicer-looking, but the care is no better. Also. the private hospitals seem to be riddled with woo. I was alarmed to be offered reiki and acupuncture by a private rheumatologist. If I’d been paying for his advice (it’s a free employee perk of my partner’s job) I’d have been livid.

      I’m sticking with the NHS to keep me alive.

      • Steve
        May 19, 2012 at 1:56 pm

        True on the private market. There are hardly any countries that have literal single-payer healthcare systems like people in the US go on and on about. Most are multi-tier systems with a (partially) government financed public market and a private market in addition to that. That doesn’t necessarily buy you better medical care as such, but better service around it, such as easier access to higher ranking doctors or better rooms in a hospital.

  3. SatanHimself
    May 18, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    While I agree there should be a one-payor system to cut out the insurance company profits, I do think that people who voluntarily contribute to their own poor health (e.g. overeating, smoking, having children with high chance of birth defects, etc., etc.) should be required to pay more into the system than those who avoid such statistically risky behaviors. I spend more time in the sun than most others (though not as bad as Tanning Mom), so I should be charged a bit more. Same goes for my lack of exercise. I think we have the technology to monitor this kind of stuff nowadays, and I have no objection to it, if it makes things more fair.

    But remember, one of the great unspoken incentives of the capitalist system is that the most wealthy get to live the longest (or at least are given the best chance to live the longest). If not for that, why would anyone want work hard to “succeed”? If we take that away, everyone will just sit on their butts and be satisfied being bored and un-/under-employed. Right?

    • JustKat
      May 18, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      I don’t think I agree with you on this – there are people who take very good care of themselves who wind up having heart attacks or strokes or cancer (and so on) due to genetics or environment or a combination. It costs just as much to care for these people as it does to care for those who participate in risky behavior.

      Maybe I’m just looking at that the wrong way. I don’t know.

      I also don’t think living the longest is the incentive to get wealthy. The incentive to get wealthy is to enjoy the finer things in life like nicer housing or having a better car and so on. Giving health care to people isn’t going to make them want to live in cardboard boxes.

    • leftwingfox
      May 18, 2012 at 5:05 pm

      There are potentially ways to apply this on a national scale, if you have a centralized medical system. For example: calculate the annual cost of alcohol-related disease, accident, or addiction. You can then tax alcohol producers enough to cover that cost. Those costs are then directly passed on to those buying alcohol. The same could be done for most drugs, as well as other high-risk activities like professional sports, driving, etc. Whetever’s left becomes the base premium.

      • MichelleZB
        May 20, 2012 at 9:39 am

        Yeah, no need to tax the individuals for this directly. That’s ass-backwards.

        You just tax tobacco, junk food, and alcohol and use that to help pay for health services. The more tobacco you buy, the more tax you pay. Taxes can even help equalize the exercise gap. Fitness classes or equipment could be tax deductible to a very mild extent.

        It’s like taking road tolls to pay for public transit. It works WAY better than asking every person taking the subway if they drive and how much, and then adjusting their fare based on their answer.

    • smrnda
      May 22, 2012 at 8:59 am

      I’m not sure if you are being sarcastic with the ‘best incentives of the capitalist system’ but I’ll assume that you are since you sound intelligent.

      As for work, poor people WORK way harder than rich people. Imagine working in a slaughterhouse, doing agricultural harvesting, working in a coal mine. These are not jobs that make one rich, and yet they are some of the most demanding jobs you can find. One of the reasons why rich people have better life expectancy and better health is that their lives are so easy and cushy.

  4. May 18, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Like Erasmus, #2, I find it astonishing that over 60 years after the UK showed that a national health service was possible, the US still doesn’t have health care for many of its citizens.

    Look – the UK started the NHS in 1948, only three years after the end of the second world war. Rationing was still in effect – i.e. there was difficulty in getting enough food to feed the entire population! There was a severe housing shortage due to war damage. The UK was severely in debt from fighting WWII.

    If the UK could start the NHS then, the US could certainly do it now!

    Health care isn’t like any other service I can think of in that no-one wants to use it. The only people wanting to use a health care service are those who are ill*.

    A healthy population produces more, and pays more taxes. A national health service is also cheaper than an insurance-based health service. This means that although taxes might need to go up, most people in jobs will be better off, as they won’t be paying out for health insurance.

    It’s a no-brainer.

    *Even hypochondriacs are ill. Just not with the illnesses they think they have….

  5. dianneleonard
    May 18, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Thank you for your comments on single-payer medical care. My story is very similar to yours, except for the fact that I was born with a disability. It was treated in childhood (orthopedic) and gradually grew worse and more painful as I aged. Finally I had to drop out of graduate school and quit school and apply for SSI. I ended up, several years later with Medi-Cal, the California version of Medicaid. I don’t know how this works in other states, but in California, very few physicians will take Medi-Cal because the reimbursement rate is so low. So I didn’t get the kind of care I needed. Just one example: I had to wait three years to get a hip replacement, with pain I constantly described to those doctors who would see me as “over 10″(on a scale of 1 to 10). I am now going to a clinic which sees mostly seniors and people with disabilities, so it is where I would go if we had single payer. People like you and me really get the short end of the stick when it comes to health care. Thank you for your great writing. (I have also read your books.) Dianne Leonard

  6. Jeroen Metselaar
    May 19, 2012 at 4:32 am

    The NHS is a good example but I can’t complain about things here in The Netherlands.

    When I worked I payed my taxes and duties so less fortunate people could be helped.

    Now that I am sick and can’t work my health care is payed for and I will continue to get 70% of my last earned salary as long as I am sick.

    When I am healthy again I will work and pay taxes and duties so that others can get the same care.

    What comes around goes around. Even if you will never need free (or cheap) healthcare there are others around you. Someone among your parents, siblings, spouse, children, friends, employees* or whatever will need it.

    *YES. This is often ignored in the US but in a country with good healthcare employees are healthier. There is no need to worry about healthcare plans during contract negotiations. When employees do get sick they will see medical help and get therapy as needed. This means they will get better faster without undue stress about bills.

    (And don’t get me started on sick children that have to whore out their suffering in public so they can get some charity money for treatment.)

  7. dubiquiabs
    May 19, 2012 at 10:48 am

    @ SatanHimself:

    How much of the variance in individuals’ cost of medical care – do you think – can be explained by personal behavior? Half? 25%? Do you have any evidence that it’s more than, say, 12% ?

  8. opposablethumbs
    May 20, 2012 at 6:00 am

    There are a great many national health systems in Europe (I’m less familiar with those in other parts of the world) which provide better access to healthcare than the US system (understatement of the century) for less money. It screams economic insanity (read: profiteering for the benefit of the rich by screwing the poor) that the US as a nation manages to spend so much more to get so much less, in order to provide profits for insurance companies, lawyers and private health companies. It’s brutal, sick, immoral and disgusting that so many of you are being in effect physically assaulted – i.e. deprived of the healthcare you need OR in some cases over-medicated for profit – so that others can make more money out of it. And what it costs the nation in terms of lost productivity, prolonged and exacerbated ill-health and broken lives – it’s just heartbreaking. Not having to fear bankruptcy on top of your actual health worries is wonderful and ought to be considered a basic human right. (And I think it also helps a little wrt not encouraging dependency on woo – if real healthcare is free, perhaps somewhat fewer people are likely to fall for the con-trick and pay for fictitious healthcare.)

    • Steve
      May 21, 2012 at 10:55 am

      Another problem is that hospitals are still obligated to provide emergency care to the uninsured. Of course that’s as it should be, but with so many people being uninsured it forces them to hand down those costs to everyone else.

  9. rickschauer
    May 20, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    There should never be any individual who’s life is less important than a number on a profit and loss ledger

    I think that nails it, Al.

    Unfortunately, Jamie Dimon needs to go derivative-gambling with those profits…so I’m afraid we’re just shit outta luck, Bro.

  10. Tsu Dho Nimh
    May 21, 2012 at 6:18 am

    Even if you don’t give a damn about others, even if you are a narcissistic bastard, it’s in your enlightened self-interest to make sure others stay healthy. Just think what happens at your favorite restaurant or car repair shop when a couple of wage slaves are too sick to work because they couldn’t afford to see a doctor early in the illness. The service is DREADFUL, and you deserve better service. Don’t you? Of course you do!

    I know of someone who HAS health insurance and a lot of money … and the lack of universal coverage has cost them a pile of money and hassle and time.

    The contractor working on their vacation house was uninsured, and delayed seeing a doctor about an infected cut. Next thing they know, he’s in critical care with septicemia and kidney failure, none of his subs are getting paid, none of them know what’s going on, they start filing liens against the projects …

  11. bybelknap
    May 21, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    A very good friend of mine was just complaining about not having a regular doctor because she can’t afford insurance. She always votes Republican. I have tried over the years to gently suggest that she is voting the wrong way. Out of patience, today I just wrote back, “It’s a shame that universal, single payer health care is socialist and evil, isn’t it?”
    I haven’t heard back yet.

    • Lurker111
      May 22, 2012 at 8:29 pm

      Ouch. That had to sting. Nevertheless, I’m going to write down your reply for my own possible future use!

  12. burpy
    May 21, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Have a listen to the latest “This American Life” podcast which investigates the corporate lobbying system in Washington, and you will understand why the U.S. will never adopt a European style health service. It doesn´t matter how many economists tell you how much better and cheaper it could be, if the politicians can´t factor in a way to funnel taxpayer´s money into their donor´s pockets, it will never wash.

  13. smrnda
    May 22, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Here’s what I think. There are certain services that everybody should get, as needed, regardless of income. We should all get fire service and police protection, and rich people shouldn’t get priority over poor people in those areas (though many times they do.) We should get access to education and health care as well. People who argue that *other* people’s health care shouldn’t be financed by them should realize how many things they use which are financed by others, and any nation built on a philosophy of “I matter and screw you” should just cease to exist. Mostly in the US – and only among the privileged – do you get that crap that life is all about “liberty” translated to mean “the right to be asked to do nothing about social problems, no matter how large.”

    • Daisy
      June 6, 2012 at 12:54 am

      Oh,that is so true! I foolishly married an American, and so got stuck with ONLY PRIVATE HEALTH-INS.(1/2 of my wages!)in America!

      Therefore, when I recently awoke with severe chest pain and my heart rapidly beating — couldn’t move atall, even lift my head to take the Asprin my daughter gave to me — I WAS AFRAID TO GO TO HOSPITAL, because American health-ins. can’t be relied upon to pay the bills! I wouldn’t let my daughter ring for an ambulance, because I feared losing our house, more than I FEARED DEATH!(They will take your house and make you homeless in this State, for un-paid medical bills!)

      Although I pay through the nose for health-ins., I CAN’T RISK AN E.K.G. — still get periodic chest pains (I just sit down and take an Asprin), because if the ins. co. gets wind of my prob., next year the ins. could could double, even trebble! I’m basically waiting for the big one to end my life, in order to protect our house for my children to live in, after I die! That’s American health-care for you (and me)!

  14. Christo
    May 25, 2012 at 7:09 am

    It’s absolutely outrageous that a person can be bankrupted due to
    illness.
    The British system is good but not ideal America doesn’t have to go the British way.Other developed countries have different systems which are worthy of study.
    My wife has had two bouts of cancer ,several operations protracted chemotherapy and it’s hardly cost us a cent.
    In Australia everyone pays a 2.5% levy on their wages which covers almost everything you just have to pay a few dollars when you visit your general practitioner or specialist.
    You pay nothing while you are unemployed but are still covered.

  15. Siverly
    May 27, 2012 at 5:45 am

    Al,
    I couldn’t agree more. One of the considerations around emigration- to a European country- for me was just this issue. It was easier to leave the US and settle elsewhere knowing I was leaving this behind. The lack of universal health coverage is a moral failure of tragic proportions. I know what it feels like to grow up in a household where getting sick could jeopardise keeping a roof over your head. Where losing your job means little or no healthcare options. This fear so easily indermines mental health. Your blog is required reading for those who would let public-funded healthcare be privatised or starved of funds in places where it already exists.
    A truly decent, ethically-minded society shares the costs of looking after each others’ health needs because its fundamental to what defines us as human, imo.

  16. June 7, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Well you pretty much hit the head on the nail I had the same tax lien issue. And uhhuh. The IRS backed me into a corner and I didn’t know what to do But I found this magnificent guide on removing an IRS tax lien. Problem solved.

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