BY RON du BOIS
As I understand it, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has made it impossible to go bankrupt over medical bills in the U.S.
If this is really the case, we need to celebrate the new law for this one feature alone!
It helps bring the U.S. into line with every other advanced nation where health care paid for through public taxation, is considered to be a birthright, and where medical bankruptcy is unknown.
Unlike the U.S., the mindset of other advanced nations is, “I’m willing to pay for the healthcare of my neighbor because I believe it makes for a stronger nation.”
The U.S. lags in its understanding that community support for health needs is consistent with a long established tradition of democratic socialism with regards to every other public service, like fire protection, postal delivery, military services, public education, etc. – all paid for through public taxation. These are true public services.
We don’t think of taxes for such services as “enforced” but they sure are, yet strangely go ballistic when the idea of paying taxes for a true public service like healthcare.
EMERGENCY ROOM HEALTHCARE
In other advanced nations healthcare is paid for by taxation. Their emergency room healthcare facilities function for emergencies only – everyone is automatically covered for both minor and major health treatment. Emergency room treatment for those who can’t afford it is unique to the U.S. for-profit medical system. Canadians, Europeans or Asians would consider such a concept bizarre.
Recently, Oklahoma state Sen. James Halligan explained to a local Stillwater audience that the cost of emergency room treatment at the Stillwater Medical Center is $12 million per year, passed on to patients who can afford to pay.
In my view this is a kind of disguised, perverse, enforced, twisted, full of subterfuge method of circumventing the unwillingness of many Americans who [against their own best interests] are unwilling “to pay for the healthcare of their neighbors.”
These costs constitute, in disguised format, a deformed genre of “enforced taxation.”
Every other advanced nation with the sole exception of the U.S. has made the decision that “paying for the healthcare of their neighbors makes for a stronger nation.” They learned long ago that it is far less costly in terms of GDP [Gross Domestic Product.] Other nations are right in viewing the current U.S. healthcare debate as a sad comment on the soul of the nation and as a bottom of the barrel debate – delusional and psychotic.
“PURCHASING” MEDICAL CARE IS BIZARRE
In other advanced nations “purchase” of medical insurance would be considered bizarre, unnecessary and without purpose. Healthcare in other western and eastern nations is given at birth as are all public services – paid for by public taxation.
Why are so many Americans shocked to hear the unfamiliar term, “birthright”?
The Affordable Healthcare Act stipulates “purchase” of medical insurance from private for-profit agencies and stipulates penalties if you refuse to buy. Surely this could be removed from the legislation and be replaced with a system of public taxation that could do the job as it does for every other advanced nation.
Bizarre concepts, flawed and contentious, should be removed from the legislation – they appear to be the expression of the soul of a nation that fears anything public – that wants no one to ask for help nor to give help to anyone.
Surely a saner attitude would be to consider healthcare as one of a long list of public services we take for granted “as a birth right” [a term strangely never used in the U.S.] paid for through progressive public taxation.
Some may consider this as “government intrusion.” What we don’t seem to understand is that public taxation to pay for public services has been “public intrusion” from the beginning of the nation and that it is here to stay.
When will we learn what other nations learned 50 years ago – namely, that keeping people healthy is far less expensive? When will we understand that the huge costs of emergency rooms across the nation is connected to the unwillingness of many Americans to “pay for the healthcare of their neighbors”?
Why do we perversely want to continue with the most expensive health care on the planet, reducing our status in quality of healthcare to 37 in the world, according to the World Health Organization?
The WHO ranks Canada as number 10, European and Scandinavian nations a lot higher. Even in Nigeria, a Third World nation, “If you get sick, you walk in for treatment and walk out.” Evidently, Nigerians don’t suffer the same “soul sickness” as do Americans.
Of course all these nations pay for healthcare through dreaded “socialism,” i.e., public taxation.
HR 676, introduced by U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Michigan, would institute a single payer health care system by expanding a greatly improved Medicare to everyone residing in the U.S. HR 676 would cover every person for all necessary medical care including prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and preventive care, emergency services, dental [including oral surgery, periodontics, endodontics], mental health, home health, physical therapy, rehabilitation [including for substance abuse], vision care and correction, hearing services including hearing aids, chiropractic, durable medical equipment, palliative care, podiatric care, and long term care.
HR 676 ends deductibles and co-payments. HR 676 would save hundreds of billions annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private health insurance industry and HMOs.
Winston Churchill said, “The Americans will finally get it right, but only after they’ve tried everything else.”
Will the Supreme Court deliberations constitute “finally getting it right” or another failed attempt at “trying everything else”?
Surely all Supreme Court justices must – in order to arrive at a fair and sane decision about the Affordable Healthcare Act – endeavor to think out of the box, to inform themselves of the healthcare systems of other advanced nations, and to reflect on the real merits of a single payer system [HR 676] as an antidote to the non-functional aspects of the American soul.
– Ron du Bois, a professor emeritus at Oklahoma State University, lives in Stillwater, OK and is a frequent contributor to The Oklahoma Observer.