I Publius: Medicare a health care option for all

First comes health care. I am an unreconstructed believer in a single-payer, national health care system. I get Medicare, which is a wonderful government funded and run operation. For once, my tax dollars go toward something that really works.

It has always seemed logical to me that we should simply extend Medicare to all those people below the age of 65. We can spend billions a week on wars, but somehow, when it comes to the basic welfare of the American people, we can’t get it right. From my perspective, this is not only stupid, it’s sinful.

The arguments against such a program are spurious. The enemies of single payer say that it would cost too much and call it socialism. Nonsense.

We bail out banks and we bail out car companies. That’s socialism for the rich. We build a military industrial complex and machines of war that we just don’t need. I had a congressman tell me that we had to build another nuclear submarine to keep up with the Chinese!

As for socialism, we have post offices, public education and libraries that are owned and run by the government. No one is suggesting that they have a hammer and sickle over the front door.

Imagine a little child whose parents cannot afford health care dying in a mother’s arms because we say health care for all is too expensive. If just one such little baby or his mother or father dies, it is too much.

The doctors know the health system is broken. But, somehow, we still need to protect the behemoth insurance companies, with their stockholders and insane pay checks, giving them the money that should be going to save lives.

More doctors are choosing not to be part of the American Medical Association, and the AMA itself applauds the young president with his plan that would allow the insurance companies to continue with their need for profit, but this time balanced with what we are calling a “public option.”

We don’t really know what that option might be. It could be a plan that gives ordinary Americans the kind of health care that our elected representatives enjoy right now. We know we need more primary care doctors. We know that many specialists make a lot of money while the GP’s make too little. We know that technology is used for both good and bad reasons. Tests are good to make sure that nothing is wrong inside of you but tests that are given defensively to avoid malpractice suits are sending the system to the poor house.

It is frustrating that, as a country, we don’t have the political will to insist on a program that meets our need for basic health care. If the body politic insists on one, be it at the ballot box or in the streets at mass rallies, the politicians who are now enjoying the largesse of the insurance companies will have to give in.

The problem lies in the unconscionable power these people wield. Sooner or later, the people who have led us to this point are going to have to look in a mirror. Sooner or later, someone they love will die because they didn’t have enough bucks or because they couldn’t manage to navigate a confusing system. Sooner or later, it will be their child, and, sooner or later, they will see themselves and be horrified when they realize that they sold out for more money than they could ever use in ten lifetimes.

Barack Obama is a brilliant man. My faith is in him. I suspect he knows that in order to get where he wants to be, he has to take it slowly and step by step.

He and his people think that if he starts out with single payer, they will lose the war. If they do it his way, he may just be able to pull it off.

The only other way to do it is to let the steam continue to build up in the pressure cooker until the American businesses that are going broke because of high health insurance costs and the constituents who are suffering scream loud enough and the politicians listen. Sooner or later, we will have a single payer system.

Right now, my money is on Obama. I hope he knows what he is doing.

Originally Published in the Berkshire Eagle, 6/20/09

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2 Comments on “I Publius: Medicare a health care option for all”

  1. Bob F. Says:

    Finally I hear the right comparison…we have spent nearly $700B to date (just in congressional authorizations, probably tens of billions more in reality) on the War in Iraq (not including Afghanistan) but we now hear the the American people are nervous because the health care plan might cost a trillion dollars over the next ten years?

    Last week some right wing protestors (leftovers from the Tax Tea revolt in April) were at the state Capitol waving signs that “Free Health Care is NOT Free” or some such nonsense. I wonder who ever told them it was supposed to be free? Don’t THEY pay for health care now? Of course a nationalized health care plan will be expensive, but for many of us it will be the safety net that keeps us going financially when times are bad.

    I sure don’t have an answer, but the writing on the wall for health care reform this year (or next) does not look good at all.

  2. Re: Single Payer Sysatem

    Have we all forgotten what the original single payer system was??? PATIENTS PAID THEIR DOCTORS DIRECTLY and a social contract between them was born. MD’s were flexible, i.e., if patient[s] couldn’t pay at time of service they only had to have a discussion with there doctor – payments could be made monthly, the amt. based on what patient was able to pay. Some patients on rare occasion, because of need, were forgiven their debt. The barter system was also in play. [NOTE: State Aide was and is available for those people who have slipped through the cracks of our system]. I speak of times not more than 15 years ago. I know because I’m both a Registered Nurse [ for 40 years, working in a physicians office for half that tim ], and also a patient. BTW: The physician I work for continues to treat some patients on a cash bases – using the “old system”. It works. When the HMO’s came galloping across the U.S from the west coast, the cost of medical care was beginning a down-shift. Go and read about it …..

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