Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Health Care and Socialism

Outrage at town hall meetings, fomented by mostly uneducated, far-right ideologues like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh. None of these individuals earned even an undergraduate degree (Limbaugh -- despite his self-professed "talent on loan from God" -- even failed a course called Ballroom Dancing). So what do they know? Not much, it turns out, and neither do the exceptionally uneducated people vituperating incoherently at town hall meetings across the country. I suggest that people actually learn what socialism is before they discuss it. I suggest that people try to understand the difference between socialism and Marxism, or socialism and capitalism, before they shout about socialization in public spaces. Here are some facts that help clear the waters muddied by rabid, uninformed people:

-- The US is the only nation in the industrialized West without a government-run, single-payer system. In all other nations, health care is considered a universal human right, and access is denied to no one.

-- And, in all these other nations, health care is actually better than in the US, based on certain objective criteria of evaluation. The World Health Organization, for example, ranks the US 37th among countries around the world in terms of health care quality. And guess who is above us on the list? Answer: countries with socialized health care systems.

-- The US is ranked 30th (among UN member states) with respect to life expectancy. And guess who is above us? Answer: countries with socialized health care systems.

-- In terms of cancer survival rates, the US is tied with Japan and France for the top spot -- both of which have socialized health care systems, and which rank far above the US is most other categories.

More stats could easily be adduced, but one gets the picture.

The fear that socializing medicine will bring about a decline in health care is factually unfounded. Countries with socialized systems consistently rank better than the US in virtually all categories of assessment. This is especially deplorable since the US probably has the best doctors in the world. Thus, the reason for our low ranking must not be poorly trained doctors, but a system explicitly designed to make money rather than help people. Don't believe me? Then consider the following discussion, which occurred just before privatized health care first emerged:

Again, one must be exceptionally uneducated to think that socialized medicine is going to make things worse. The facts simply do not support this contention.

Unfortunately, Obama's plan will not establish what these other countries have -- it will not completely socialize medicine. A week ago, Fox News reported that Obama's own doctor rejects Obama's plan (article in the Huffington Post), but they failed to mention why. The reason: it doesn't go far enough in eliminating the greedy, money-grubbing, for-profit insurance companies that are to almost exclusively to blame for the US's poor ranking in the world. I completely agree with Obama's doctor. But before criticizing Obama, people out to make an effort to understand what socialization entails and how it would change health care in the US. (See here for more.)