It’s not unconstitutional for the government to develop and administer a system of providing, and financing, health care in the United States. I see that argument, but it is based on the false philosophical and political perspective that health care is an “industry” based in a free market economy, and must be completely free of any kind of regulation. Government’s role is the protection of its citizens, from foreign threats, and internal threats, and from the greed and exploitation of those who are more than willing to take advantage of people because they have the means to do so.
The previous article I wrote here establishes health care as a basic human right, rooted in the principle of the sanctity of human life. I see no credible argument against that position, and since many of my readers claim to be followers of the Christian faith, there is no argument in that domain against this position. Human pain and suffering should never be used for profit, period.
It is the government’s role, constitutionally, to protect its citizens from being exploited. People will pay whatever it takes, down to their last dime, to relieve their own pain and suffering, or that of someone they love. Survival instincts and the sanctity of life are strong forces that drive human behavior. And we have as many examples as we need of seeing the cost of services driven well beyond the resources necessary to deliver them and include a reasonable, fair profit for providing them. In the United States today, half of every dollar you pay for medical care goes to paying all of the people involved in delivering the care, including the doctors, nurses, employees of the medical offices and hospitals, and all of the direct and indirect costs associated with those services. So where does the other half go? That’s the profit margin. Half of what you pay doesn’t do anything to provide care, it simply gets transferred from your bank account to the individuals who earn dividends for owning the means of care, or of owning the insurance company. Half. Yes, that’s exploitation, caused by greed.
There’s even a question about the costs involved in the half that you pay which does cover your medical care costs. The cost of supplies, equipment, and medications purchased for health care purposes are much higher than the same goods get when used for other purposes. If you want to get involved in a good discussion of something that pulls in an inordinate amount of money for what it actually delivers, look at the prescription drug business in this country. Even health care professionals are victimized by the business tactics and profiteering that goes on in that business.
Part of the current problem with the American health care “system,” is that it is really multiple systems, some competing with each other, some monopolizing the provision of health care in a particular area. Three of the major hospitals in one particular metro area, which account for about half the patient population, are owned by the same corporation. Two of them still go by the names under which they operated when they were owned by church groups, when they were not-for-profit, though that is no longer the case, and that’s another issue. Rates are all over the place, and it is virtually impossible to shop and compare. The more desperate the situation, the higher the rates you pay.
Getting this under control may be quite a problem. The profit margins in both health care provision and insurance are staggering, higher than in any other business except energy, and the profiteers are well protected by friends in the government. The removal of the few government protections that exist as a result of the ACA drew a massive amount of protest and response, and so there’s a glimmer of hope in that many legislators who seemed bent on continuing to help the profiteers backed away when it seemed that their constituents might support an opponent who held a different perspective. It took seven years for people to catch on to how the ACA might benefit them, but it has gone from support by 46% of the electorate to 58% now supporting it. Those are numbers that few politicians want to oppose. So there is some hope.
It is not necessary to re-invent the wheel. A single-payer, government operated system, with private health care providers regulated through control of how they receive compensation for their services, would provide this country with exactly what it needs, and would, as it has in virtually every other country where its been done, maintain health care quality at a high level. With accessibility and research and development in countries with “socialized medicine” exceeding that of the US, most of the bugaboos that get raised are proven false.
This shouldn’t be a “partisan” issue. Do what’s best for the people you serve, not the profiteers who want to take advantage of their pain and suffering. Health care and health insurance are not part of the free market, at least, they shouldn’t be as long as human nature still bends to greed.