The world can certainly do better than this. Here's why.

Saturday, August 22

Alone on Health Care

There are many in America who would say that Declaration of Independence guarantees the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Health, these people would contend, is a possession and is to be pursued as an aspect of happiness. After 233 years, the Obama Administration cannot change this guarantee into the right to a healthy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They would contend that founding fathers knew what they were doing. Health, like happiness, must be pursued in the face of all stumbling blocks; be they environmental, divine, or corporate.

What the founding fathers could not have anticipated is the contemporary America in which life is lived. Massive corporations own, administer, or influence the conduct of all environments, hence all health and health care in America.

Massive corporations destroy, pollute, and otherwise corrupt every environment in which Americans and many other global populations live their lives. The natural environment is laced with pollution of the air, land, and water. Urban environments are choked with automotive industry exhaust and are powered by oil, gas, and energy companies. The food supply is, increasingly, under the influence of the same pharmaceutical and chemical corporations that hold sway in the health care industry. And, to top it all off, massive media conglomerates manage to engineer confusion and pollute the mental environment. This confusion, coupled to all of the other stresses of living an American life produce depression, manias, and obsessions that range from eating disorders to stalking to anti-social, destructive capitalism.

What is to be done?

Conservative forces declare that health care will work itself out on the open market. Competition will produce better solutions and those solutions must be rewarded with profits. They would say that the profits of the current health care industry currently provide the best health care in the world to Americans. Well, to some Americans. Government influence in health care will reproduce in America the kind of Socialism that Ronald Reagan defeated with the fall of the Soviets.

There is something more to be considered here, however. Several countries in the world have socialized, government-funded or government-regulated health care. These countries, with the exception of Canada in bits of cross-border comedy, were never stigmatized as being pinko-enemies-of-freedom. The close military relationships shared between England and America or the Republic of Korea and America, as just two examples, does not really point out that only one of these two partners, in each case, has universal health care for all of its citizens. As Tim Foley points out in his 09 March article entitled "Who are you calling a Socialist, Bub?" for change.org, at the fall of the Berlin Wall, only two of sixteen NATO nations were without universal health care for all of their citizens. The other one was Turkey.

Considering the global economic effects of unmasking the sub-prime mortgage bubble; wherein the banking, insurance, and accounting industries colluded to generate massive profits for the affluent and opportunistic while pushing the middle-class toward bankruptcy; a closer look at the possibility of collusion among pharmaceutical, hospital, and health insurance companies is probably warranted. There is good reason for people to call into question the need for so crucial a communal good as health care to be regulated by market influence and to be run for-profit.

Recognize that the debate regarding universal health care in America is no less earth shattering in America than the paradigm shift that saw the world become round. Echoes of McCarthyism and the Salem witch trials are here; mass-hysteria fueled with misinformation. The issues have reached a fever pitch because it concerns life and whether or not it is a fundamental right to live a healthy life. Perhaps the obvious question should be asked: Who stands to lose if the United States adopts universal health care?

Conservative voices declare: "Everyone!" The government will decide who lives and who dies. The elderly will be put to death en masse or be allowed to die slowly, painfully, and cheaply as possible. Children will receive worse health care than ever. Companies creating life-saving drugs will close their doors and move out of America due to insolvency, unable to compete on the cutting edge of research. If such a system is made actual — as opposed to existing only as the product of various worst-case scenarios — is there any indication that the system would be permitted to persist without change?

On the other hand, perhaps only heavily moneyed interests stand to lose. Those lobby groups paying for engineered disruptions of the discussion as a secure bet against what their employers stand to lose if health-care is made affordable under government influence. A healthy American population, out from under the constant influence of its insurers and the constant threat of expensive medical care, might pose a threat to its own national security. A vast and ascendant working class is certainly considered a threat, possibly a national security issue. Hence, the specter of Socialism is so often invoked.

Universal health care is enjoyed by Canada and eleven other nations of the Americas, seventeen nations in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and virtually all of Europe. Here, among nations of means, America is going it alone.


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