In just a few short hours, President Obama will be addressing a special joint session of Congress on the matter of health reform. As much as I would like to see him take Congress to task for the rampant lying and demagoguery of recent months, for failing to put the needs of the American people before that of corporate interests, I don’t think that is likely to happen. What I think will happen is a careful attempt to get the democrats, including the Blue Dogs, behind him, so that the Republicans will be outvoted on the matter of the public option. We shall see.
I’ve been wanting to write something about the health care reform debate for a while now, but have been hesitant to do it. It’s an intimidating topic, for one thing, and something I feel strongly about, for another. I always find it hard to compose my thoughts in some coherent fashion when my feelings about it are impassioned. Make no mistake, my feelings in regards to health care reform are impassioned.
I strongly believe that public access to good health is, if not a right, then an obligation. A nation founded on the principles of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is remiss if it neglects to care for the health and wellbeing of the people of which it is composed. The fact is, illness and wellness is a social concern. The health of one person affects everyone that person is connected to, even if only by an instant. The spread of epidemics proves this. The health of populations affects the health of each individual. The eradication of smallpox proves this.
I’m really sick of health care opponents throwing the word “socialism!” around like it’s a bad thing. I’m also really sick of people cringing from that word in blind fear without at least understanding what that word really means. To put it in simplistic terms, socialism is public property or services paid for by taxes. The post office is socialist. The library is socialist. The police and fire departments are socialist, as are the water and sewage treatment plants. Social security, medicare, highways, prisons and the military, all are socialist. The public schools are socialist. The very foundations of our society, upon which we live and breathe and depend on every day, are socialist!
The bottom line here is that privatized health care simply doesn’t work. If it did work we wouldn’t be having this debate. If it worked, health care would be affordable, and insurance available to all instead of just the healthy, wealthy, or the employed. If it worked, illness would not drive families into debt and bankruptcy. If it worked, employers would not have to make health care decisions for their employees, and employees would not have to accept whatever package their employers deemed acceptable (read: cheap). If it worked, 42% of the American people wouldn’t be uninsured or underinsured. If it worked, people would not have to worry about being dropped from their plans for some technicality when they become ill. If it worked, poor and un/under-insured individuals would not have to wait until an expensive emergency arises to see a physician. If it worked, doctors would care more about accurate, quality care for their patients than about “defensive medicine” or how much money they can get by foisting as many unneeded services and tests on as many people they possibly can. If it worked, healthy people would be more important than the bottom line.
If private health insurance worked, Americans would be among the healthiest, happiest, and longest lived people in the world. But we aren’t. In too many studies America is consistently outranked by those who provide some variation of a public, socialized health system.
No system is perfect. There are instances when socialized medicine fails to be the best health care for some exceptional individuals. But those instances are rare outliers, and do not detract from this one simple, observable truth: public health care works better for more people than private health care. That is why we need health care reform. That’s why we need a public option; because what we have now just doesn’t work. It isn’t working. Period.
And we, the people, need to do something to change it. Now.