3: The “S” word. Part one of my proposed solution

Is healthcare a right or a privilege?

Many people say that access to healthcare is a right not a privilege.  Not everyone agrees, but I do.  Allow me to explain:

Let’s say that a person commits some heinous crimes.  However, before getting arrested, this person gets drunk, steals a motorcycle, and while driving the stolen motorcycle at high speed without a helmet, this person gets into a serious traffic accident.

If there is anyone who deserves to be left to die in the gutter, this is the person.  But that’s not what happens.  What happens is that an ambulance picks up the injured motorcyclist, delivered him/her to the hospital, and this injured person will be taken care of regardless of whether he/she deserves it, or is willing or able to pay for it.  In our country, we just don’t deny medical care to those who need it.  This is a very strong argument that -regardless of individual beliefs- access to healthcare is indeed a right, not a privilege.

The “S” word

It’s time to talk about that terrible word that so many people hate: the “s” word.  The word is “socialized”, as in “socialized medicine.”

I think that the “s” word is part of the solution.

Americans seem to view the “s” word with great distrust.  It makes sense:  Ronald Reagan’s evil empire was the USSR – the Union of Soviet SOCIALIST Republics.  Countries behind the iron curtain were socialist.  They were places where governments had excess power, and people had no freedom.

However, many of the Scandinavian countries are relatively socialist, and their people are relatively happy and free.

In fact, we have socialism in the United States.  We just don’t like using that word.  We have socialized schools and socialized libraries and socialized streets.  However, we call them public schools, public libraries, and public streets.  Police and fire protection are a couple of other services provided by the government.  Stated differently, these services are socialized.

So, I would say that socialism per se is not the big problem.  The question is which services should be socialized, and how should that be done?  If the right services are socialized in the right way, then that’s good.  Otherwise, socialism is bad.  However, any way you look at it, don’t expect that anyone will be comfortable with the “s” word.  We’ll call it something else.

How do we provide services that everyone is entitled to?

Okay, let’s get back to what I concluded earlier.  Access to healthcare is a right.

When we decide that everyone is entitled to something, our government usually (but not always) provides that something, and it is paid for by our taxes.  Public schools and police protection are a couple of examples.

So it follows that if everyone is entitled to access to healthcare, our government should provide it, just like it provides public schools, police protection, and roads.

But doesn’t the government always do a lousy job of everything they do?

“But doesn’t the government always do a lousy job of everything they do?”  It is a common belief that the government always louses things up, will invariably cause bureaucratic red tape, and that everything done by the government invariably ends up costing more.

This is sometimes true, but not always.

Also, I can think of reasons how government run healthcare could actually be more efficient than the status quo.

I will discuss this later.

But the government doesn’t always provide things that people are entitled to does it?

Astute readers will point out instances where our government fails to provide basic needed services.  One such example is the public restroom.  There are instances where our government does provide public restrooms.  However in the majority of cases, people traveling away from home use the restrooms in hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and other private businesses.

If we take the position that everyone needs a place to go, then certain businesses end up footing the bill.  For example, a gas station owner might make his/her restroom available to non-customers, and bear the cost of the additional cleaning and paper products.

A similar situation exists in healthcare.  Sure enough, the drunken motorcyclist described at the top of this page will be delivered to a hospital, and his medical needs will be addressed.  However, in the end, there will be a private business who does not get paid.  Prior to Obamacare, I read about politicians who stated that everyone else pays higher medical costs to cover the costs of the uninsured.  That may happen in some instances, but I once owned a small medical business, and our experience was that if someone didn’t have insurance and/or the means to pay, it meant that we didn’t get paid.

Another way to look at this is that we feel that everyone should have access to healthcare, but the burden of that is randomly placed more heavily on the shoulders of some people than on others.

The rationale behind having our government cover the cost of this necessary medical care, paid from our taxes, is that the cost is spread in a more rational and equitable way.

But socialized medicine (AKA government paid-for medicine) is only part of the solution.  (In my opinion)  I will discuss that in the next section.