Our highly profitable health care system is inefficient, incredibly expensive and, often, deadly for working people.
Liberty and death
It didn’t take Governor Scott Walker long to put his uniform back on and look for something to tackle.
Just a couple of days after grilling bratwursts for legislators at a peace summit, he had sausage and eggs with reporters. (Does anyone see an unhealthy trend here?) Then he went on a rant about the Affordable Care Act and its provision that requires people to buy health insurance. You have to give the guy credit. If the Green Bay Packers’ defense tackled as well as this guy, they’d have been in the Super Bowl this year.
Rants and tackles aside, one unavoidable fact remains regardless of what Walker says or how the Supreme Court rules on “Obamacare”: A recent study showed that one in four working-age Americans went without health insurance at some point in 2011. That equals about 48 million people, according to the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit organization that analyzes health care issues. Many of those people lost coverage when their jobs went south in the bad economy, and the study went on to state the obvious: Many of these people couldn’t afford plans sold on the individual market.
In the absurd theater of American politics, the fact that one in four people of working age doesn’t have health care coverage gets pushed aside, replaced by the big government bogeyman and false arguments about individual rights.
Let’s talk about individual rights. The preamble of the U.S. Constitution states its purpose is to “promote the general welfare” of the people. How does a country that lets one in four working-age residents slip between the cracks reconcile that?
The dirty little secret in America is that we have been conducting our own little experiment with eugenics for a long time. Without insurance, people avoid basic medical services such as doctor visits and screenings for cancer, cholesterol and high blood pressure. Mental health services? Forget it. Oh, and studies show the majority of all U.S. bankruptcies are related to medical expenses.
These are miserable and inhumane facts, but in the age of individualism, that’s just too bad for those poor people, whoever they are.
Of course, when people who can’t afford health care get really sick, they end up in a hospital with advanced conditions that raise the insurance rates for the rest of us. It is our individual right to pay more, in this case. Our per-person health care expenditures in this country rank No. 1 of the 193 member states of the World Health Organization. Some cruel voices say: Let them die. People who say this have obviously never watched a loved one suffer for lack of basic services.
But pay no attention to these facts. People think government should stay out of health care in America, unless you reach a certain magical age. Then everyone wants government health care. Even Ayn Rand, the icon of selfishness, grabbed Medicare and Social Security. Her acolytes will too.
One thing is clear: The current system is a mess. Ask any hospital administrator trying to juggle costs. Ask any small-business owner trying to find affordable health care for his or her workers. Those who think the current system hasn’t hampered business growth in the U.S. aren’t paying attention.
If there was ever a debate where ideology trumps human rights, this is it. American politicians and interest groups love to rail about how messed up health care is in places like Canada. But studies show that more than 90 percent of Canadians think their system is superior to ours. But what do they know? Here’s one thing: They know health care is a basic human right.
Despite all the ranting about individual rights, a cruel fact remains: We have a terribly costly health care system that can’t find a way to provide coverage to almost 50 million people in America. It’s the “choice” argument turned on its head, and it’s anything but pro-life. It’s a national disgrace. But never mind. If you manage to reach age 65, then government health care is OK, even if you’re a rugged individualist.
June 19, 2012
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Bill Berry is a FightingBob.com contributing editor who lives in Stevens Point and writes columns for the Capital Times and other publications.