Fresh Ideas: Time to embrace socialized health care
April 20, 2017
There's no going back. Minimum wage, Medicare, Social Security are not going away. And Obamacare? Many are saying this conservative approach to health care has only been paving the way to, believe it or not, socialized medicine (aka universal health care or a single-payer plan). It's the best thing that could happen to us and not simply because everyone would have health care. No. Right now there's an incredible opportunity to change something even more significant.
There are many key reasons why conservatives and liberals alike say social medicine is inevitable:
Today, because health insurance is bottom-line driven, insurance premiums are rising and insurance companies are scaling back or pulling out of many states;
Since Obamacare's passage, more than 10 million new citizens now have health care coverage. Under the proposed but defeated American Health Care Act (Trumpcare), it was projected 24 million would be without coverage in 10 years;
Volume is crucial to a successful health insurance program — the greater the number of insured, the smaller the risk pool, the more affordable the insurance;
Behavioral studies show time and time again, once an individual or society experiences a gain, the pain of losing something you already have is much greater than the pleasure of having gained it — loss of health care coverage will override any other argument for something else;
Some of the mandates in Obamacare are virtually impossible to remove even with the Republican majority in the Senate. And experts say taking away some parts of Obamacare, like government subsidies and the mandate to buy insurance, while keeping the harder-to-change provisions like pre-existing conditions, would destabilize the insurance market; and
Trump, in his book, "The America We Deserve," supported a single-payer system. Recently, he's stated he supports covering pre-existing conditions. And it's his red-belt states who need health care coverage most.
Embracing socialized medicine, however, won't be easy. Even though an emerging body of research shows social welfare policies may actually encourage economic productivity ("Supply Side Economics, but for Liberals," New York Times, April 15), we would be the largest and most diverse country in the world to trust a welfare system.
And consider the irony! Within the escalation of racism and white-identity politics, everyone — conservatives and liberals alike — might need to embrace what most scares us but which is at the truth of what unites us: At our human core we're all equally fragile. This scares some of us so much — our fragility and our fear over the hopelessness of winning at life — we resort to talking about health care as if it's a commodity.
For example, Paul Ryan erroneously equated equal health care with economic freedom: "Freedom is the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need." But unlimited financial access to the health care resources is a peculiar kind of freedom because millions can't afford it. While others, such as this far-right voice, make enemies of the disadvantaged and then hide behind scarcity: "There will always be the less fortunate … the irresponsible … either way, the reality of the world is that our resources are scarce. This will always be true." ("What should be the Next Step in Repealing Obamacare?" The Red State, March 27).
But in scarcity and a bizarre "reality" there will always be those who must suffer, who will be disadvantaged, to save us from our own fear … that's a story. As is Paul Ryan's view of freedom. Those are both stories. And where does real freedom and power lie? In our language and in our stories.
In her book, "Hope in the Dark," Rebecca Solnit says, "Liberation is in part a story telling process: breaking stories, breaking silences, making new stories … we make stories to save ourselves or trap ourselves. A free person tells her own story. A valued person lives in a society in which her story has a place."
Consider then this exciting moment in history when facts and irony have come together to help us write a new story about who we are and what health care is. Maybe we could call it "liberated health care?" Because, really, there's no going back. And moving forward is always about freeing ourself from our stories and our fear.
Kathy Walters is the mother of a teenage boy, works for Kirkwood Mountain Realty and lives in Gardnerville.