(For previous posts on the issue of health care, see here.)
In order to effectively combat the health industry propaganda that seeks to preserve the current terrible system, people need to have a clear idea of what the main issues are and get clear on what the various terms mean.
First of all, ‘universal’ coverage, by which is meant that everyone has access to some health care is not enough. It is possible to achieve this by demanding that everyone must purchase private health insurance (the way all drivers must purchase auto insurance) and then providing aid for those who cannot afford it. All this would do is put more victims in the clutches of the rapacious and inefficient private health insurance companies and increase their profits while not improving the system.
So while universal coverage is a necessary condition, it is not sufficient. What is needed is universal coverage that is in the form of either single payer or socialized medicine. But the health industry and their lackeys are so terrified about people learning the truth about those systems that they have filled the debate with distortions that need to be swept away. A good place to start is by looking at this short animation that clearly explains how single payer works and why it is the best system.
Furthermore, not only are such systems not strange, unfamiliar, and complicated, the US has already had versions of them for decades and the people served by them are largely satisfied and would protest violently if they were eliminated.
The single payer system is what we now call Medicare, in that there is a single entity (the government) to which we pay premiums (in the form of payroll taxes) and which negotiates with and reimburses health care providers for the services they provide. In this system, people have the freedom to choose their doctors and hospitals. These are the systems that exist in countries like Canada and France.
The socialized medicine system is the Veterans Administration, in that the health professionals involved (doctors, nurses, etc.) are government employees and the medical facilities are government owned and run. This is the system in countries like England.
In both these systems, everyone who is qualified using simple minimal criteria (by age for Medicare, by military service for the VA) and needs treatment gets it without having to deal with health insurance bureaucrats, without being turned away because of ‘pre-existing conditions’, without worrying about the fine print in complicated forms, or all the other things that make dealing with the current private health insurance system such a nightmare.
It is interesting that all those who claim that single payer and socialized medicine are awful evils carefully avoid mentioning Medicare or the VA. If they were consistent, they would call for the abolition of those two programs. But they know that would be political suicide. People on Medicare and in the VA system, while complaining that they would like to see the system work better, would nevertheless react furiously to any suggestion of eliminating those programs and putting them back at the mercy of the callous private health insurance industry.
Watch this clip of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders at a Senate hearing explaining this point clearly and making John McCain squirm by pointing out that when he and other politicians talk about how awful socialized medicine is, they are attacking the VA. Sanders challenges his fellow senators that if they think that socialized medicine and single payer systems are so bad, then they should propose legislation to abolish the VA and Medicare.
Of course, there are no takers because that whole argument is a fraud, manufactured by the health industry and its Congressional lackeys. As Sanders points out, those systems do not deny health care because you had a ‘pre-existing condition’ or because you lost your job. As Sanders points out, opinion polls repeatedly show that people want the government to be in the business of health care and they want more things like VA, not less. As he says, the US Senate may be the only body in the entire country that thinks that a private health insurance system is better.
In fact, the simplest health care reform to implement would be to incrementally expand some form of Medicare to eventually cover everyone, perhaps starting with young children.
With Medicare, we already have a working model that is in place and that everyone knows how to deal with. It would be relatively easy to build on it. On does not need to design an entirely new system from scratch.
POST SCRIPT: French health care system
CBS News compares the French health system (which I think would be the best model for the US to follow) with the US system. (Thanks to RCarla)