September 9, 2013 by David K. Sutton
Where’s The Freedom, Fiscal Conservatism, In American Health Care?
Are you free when you have a mountain of debt, and you feel trapped by your current job just for the health care benefits? Are you free when you are being hounded by debt collectors? Are you free when your primary concern is money and not your sick family member?
Conservatives love to talk about freedom, but they clearly wouldn’t know freedom if it smacked them upside the head. Conservatives are so concerned about what is or isn’t “socialism” that they cannot recognize the greater freedom enjoyed in just about every other modern democracy. America is NOT the most free nation, because too many of it’s citizens feel crippled under a mountain of debt. Too many Americans fear that risking a job change could mean forgoing the health care benefits they now have.
Why should health care benefits be tied to employment? Who made that rule? And why should people between jobs not have access to health care? And in a country where health care is tied to employment, why do we allow companies to play games by cutting back hours to avoid extending health care benefits to employees?
Americans must get past this reactionary nonsense. Americans need to stop calling people socialists. Americans need to listen to ideas to address our failed health care system, and stop dismissing these ideas as a “government takeover.”
America’s current health care system is not a model of fiscal conservatism. If you call yourself a fiscal conservative, you cannot in good faith say you are for the health care status quo. America has the highest per-person health care costs and in many areas we have worst outcomes, and this is because of waste and inefficiencies. Waste in the form of disparate forms and processes among hundreds and thousands of different insurances companies and hospitals. And waste in the form of insurance company profits. That’s what happens when you have a ad-hoc health care insurance system designed around profits and not patients. You can abhor socialism, treat it like a bad allergy, but the truth is, a true socialized health care system like the public health care services in the United Kingdom known simply as the National Health Service (NHS).
But we don’t have to go that far. We can go with a single-payer system, but still retain private hospitals and doctors. All we have to do is extend Medicare to everyone. And I can hear fiscal conservatives right now, saying Medicare is too costly. While it’s true Medicare currently pays out more than it takes in, per-service costs are actually much cheaper than private insurance. That’s because Medicare has massive bargaining power. That power only increases when it’s the only game in town. You think that limits choice? Who cares! I gotta tell ya, I don’t care about the specifics of how services are paid for. In other words, I have no love for insurance companies, I’m not sure anybody does. Why do you care about having that choice as long as you are covered? Isn’t that the whole point of insurance, to have it when you need it?
I wish the reactionaries in America could turn off the scorn for just a moment. I don’t think they are stupid, I think they are fearful, and I think they hold contempt for the sake of being against people and ideas. Just turn it off for a moment and try to envision the best way to cover all Americans and get the best bang for each buck. And remember, health care is not a commodity. You are not a health care consumer. You don’t buy health care services like you buy a new TV. You are not in a consumer-style bargaining position when you require health care services. That means a consumer-driven, market-based health care system is geared towards the providers and not the patients. You might hate government. You might think it’s inefficient. But government is meant to serve the people. In fact, in America, the government is the people. And if we could all tone down the contempt, we might recognize that the best solution is a single-payer health care system administered by a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.