Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Socialism--That Dirty Four Syllable Word

Let's be frank, all capitalist systems have in place aspects of socialism in them. It comes in the form of public schools, public libraries, public roads and transportation, public health coverage for seniors and the disabled, and so on. When it comes to healthcare, the U.S. is sharply divided on the role government should play.

Now I am no expert on healthcare or the economy, but I just for a moment want to ramble on with my two cents in the argument. If you've read my previous blogs, you'll know that I'm a leftist when it comes to economics and that is true when it comes to healthcare too. I am for government offering healthcare to all its citizens and here's how I think healthcare should be run in America.

For those happily covered through their own private insurers, they can stay with their providers. I don't have a problem with that. For the forty or so million Americans lacking health insurance, either because they're unemployed, their employer doesn't provide it, they cannot afford it, or they are young and healthy enough and they feel they don't need it, government should provide an opt-in single payer medicare for all type option.

It will go like this: If I'm employed and my employer doesn't provide health insurance, and buying private insurance is not affordable, the government will offer me a cheaper option and the premiums will be taken out as a slight tax increase. The overall increase in money that I will be paying through my taxes, will not be as much as even the cheapest private healthcare, and of course there would be no denial of coverage for preexisting conditions. Imagine a 2 or 3% increase in taxes, to pay for government provided health insurance. It could be far less cheaper than private insurance.

Now let's say I'm unemployed and lack healthcare and cannot afford to purchase private insurance. In this case government will provide it for free. The money will come from those employed paying into the system like I just mentioned above, along with (1) an increase on taxes for the wealthiest Americans by letting the Bush Tax cuts expire, (2) raising taxes on capital gains to 25%,  and (3) aggressively closing tax loopholes that the wealthy often exploit. The costs would also be balanced by cutting government subsidies to large corporations, having either cuts or a budget stabilization of the defense budget and new tax revenue gained from the purchase and sales of legalized marijuana. Other budget cuts on frivolous or bad performing government programs to save money will certainly also be considered. 

The payoff is that when people are covered, and are provided free preventative screenings, it will offset the more expensive costs when people show up in the emergency room with extensively progressed diseases. There will also be an incentive program where if people attend annual screenings they can get deductions on their premiums that are paid through taxes.

Now what if a person is gainfully employed and decides not to buy private health insurance or opt into the government option? Well they can be forced to pay the premiums they would have paid if they had opted into the program, with perhaps a penalty added to discourage those who think they'll just take their chances and not buy any insurance while thinking the government will just pick up the tab when they get sick.

One argument against government run healthcare is that it will put private healthcare out of business because they won't be able to compete with the government's subsidized costs. Well, I think a little competition will be great for recipients if their healthcare providers had to compete. First, the government will be insuring those that private insurers will already not be covering. Second if the program is run well enough that it makes people leave their private insurers for what the government provides, then they will simply have to lower their prices and/or offer better services to compete. I am not crazy about for-profit healthcare in the first place. Capitalism is the reason why we have such a broken healthcare system in this country, not socialism.

Do I believe in the mandates that other public options such as Romneycare and Obamacare speak about? To be honest, government mandates scare me a little. I don't like the idea of government forcing anyone to buy anything. But government forces drivers to buy car insurance. Why? Because every driver is in a system in which an accident is always possible. No driver can be absolutely sure an accident will not happen. Likewise, every person by virtue or their existence is in a system whereby they cannot be guarantee that they will never become sick or develop a disease. So much like how every driver must be forced to buy car insurance, because if there is not mandate, many will simply opt to take the risk, in theory, all people should be forced into having some kind of healthcare coverage.

With healthcare it is a little different though. If I am not able to afford car insurance, I could in some areas of this country, choose not to drive and therefore exempt myself from the pool of potential car accidents creators. With healthcare, I have no choice to opt out of any potential pool since my very existence makes me a candidate. I therefore do not believe in a government mandate because we have millions of people out of work who simply cannot afford healthcare and have no choice to exist in a pool of those who might need medical care. I really do believe that healthcare is a right, and that it should not depend on whether your employer provides it, or whether you can afford it. Thus, above I propose that everyone not covered be placed into a collective pool so that if they do get sick or would simply like a doctors visit, that will be provided free of charge, so long as they cannot afford it.

The individualist's opposition to this, who doesn't want a single penny of his taxes taken from him to go toward's anyone else's healthcare, must stop taking all aide that government provides, including public roads, schools, grants, mail, and defense. They must hire their own private military, police force, build and maintain their own private roads, schools, colleges, and programs that regulate everything from food to disease to air safety. Or else, they should shut the fuck up. If you're already willing to have tax dollars cover programs designed for the greater good, why wouldn't universal healthcare be one of them? We spend 16% of our GDP on healthcare, more than any other industrialized nation that provides universal coverage, and we get some of the worst results from it back.

It is actually a very Christian thing to do if you take the words of Jesus Christ. Jesus healed the sick, even those with preexisting conditions, and championed the poor. I cannot imagine that the philosophy of Jesus, whether he existed or not, would be compatible with the hard right individualism of Republicans and Libertarians. It completely goes against Jesus' world views on the care for the poor, which is clearly in line with collectivism, and is actually socialist.

So there you have it. I'm no expert on healthcare or economics but I know that the status quo is not sustainable. We need healthcare reform and we need aspects of socialism to provide what private industry is not willing to do because it is not profitable. That's my two cents on healthcare reform and it is subject to change at any time if and when new facts are discovered.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that we need socialized health care in this country but what will the standard be? You reference car insurance as an example. Do you realize their are multiple coverages in a policy? You can have what is called bare bones coverage which is a state mandated minimum or you can have the cream of the crop.
    So with this single payer program what will the standard be? Will everyone receive the best care they can get or will it be income based or taxed based?



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