Health care and the “S” word

July 23–

 

How did we end up with the idea that we should all get our health insurance from our employer?

 

Ok, yeah, I know, back in the day when there were more jobs (and especially, more union jobs), maybe it made sense to have employers provide health insurance. Kinda. But not really. 

 

I mean, what does one’s job have to do with it, (other than the fact that it’s hard to work when you’re really sick)? 

 

Someone out there knows the story of how this came to be. And they’ll write a cool book or article on it and I’ll read it. But for now I don’t know the details. I just know it sounds stupid.

 

It just seems like single payer health insurance would be a real good way to help out American businesses right now. That way they wouldn’t have to compete with businesses in other countries that don’t have to provide health insurance.

 

On the one hand, we have employers who are required to provide health insurance. On the other hand, we have health care costs that are spiralling way out of control. Sounds like the perfect way to bankrupt every business in America. 

 

Come to think of it, sounds like a perfect way to bankrupt damn near every single family in America. All it would take is one family member with a catastrophic illness to wipe out everything a family has. And don’t think it hasn’t happened already, over and over.

 

But single payer is a no go. Again. The easiest, simplest cheapest solution is once again not even considered. All the opponents have to do is say that it sounds like socialism (gasp!) and everyone rolls over in submission. 

 

So who’s afraid of a little socialism?

 

Ooh, scary. Russians in long lines. Disappeared dissidents. Cue the ominous music and drab gray scenery.

 

Could we quit pretending that some of our left-wing ideas aren’t socialism? Why not have a system with a little socialism thrown in if it works? Why not have a single-payer health care system, or any other program that might benefit the American people, despite the spectre of totalitarian communism?

 

Seems like we’re dangerously close to having a totalitarian capitalist regime now. 

 

Aren’t we smart enough to come up with a system of government that helps people to a certain degree without coddling them but still encourages private enterprise and hard work?

 

So why not have a single-payer health care system? Does it really offend people (*cough*insurancecompanies*cough*) so much that health care shouldn’t be done for profit?

 

I mean, I can see why some of us are into having as little government as possible. As a former anarchist of sorts, I sympathize. But I kinda like well-maintained roads, and fire departments, and even police departments when they’re not hassling people for no good reason.

 

So, if we’re going to have government, how about getting something for all the damn money we’re putting in, huh? Is it really in our best interests to pay taxes and then watch as welfare and social security and a whole host of social services get cut or turn into unworkable disasters? If we’re going to pay for government, shouldn’t we get something for our money?

 

And now, I’m going to say something, like, really politically incorrect. I’m going to piss off everyone. I’m sorry. I gotta say it.

 

Americans have been taught to hate and fear anything having to do with socialism or communism. We grew up hearing horror stories about Russia and China. So my question is….isn’t it possible that the Russians and Chinese are a bunch of idiots? That they took a potentially good idea and screwed it up because they had such a history of ruthless rulers, and not enough experience with concepts of liberty? 

 

We’re Americans. Maybe, just maybe, we can take a few socialist ideas and use them for good reasons. 

 

We do have Medicare and Social Security, and though their demise has been lauded many times, they still seem to be there, and I for one am glad they exist. I don’t want to see sick old people begging for food in the streets. Do you?

 

Those programs are just a little bit “socialist”, as the far right would remind us. And they’re not bad.

 

Imagine if the fire department wasn’t a government department, but rather, a company operating solely for profit. “I’m sorry, sir, we can’t come out and put out your house fire because you’re not approved for services at this time…”

 

Or how about if the police department worked like that? “You’re in which neighborhood? I’m sorry, sir, there will be a $500 copay for us to come out to your area after dark….”

 

So. Yeah. Is socialism really so bad? Let’s come up with something that uses all good ideas. Let’s pay attention to how our government actually works instead of how we’d like it to work. Let’s not be scared of loaded words that we’ve been taught to react to.

 

It’s kinda like cooking, yeah? If you met a horrible cook who poured way too much salt into everything, you might think that salt was bad. But it’s not bad. It’s good to have at least a little of it, or everything else suffers.

 

I think it’s way past time we quit being afraid of a few good ideas.

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