SOCIALIZED MEDICINE! Did I scare you? That is just how the Republicans want you to feel, scared. That’s why they say things like, “Socialism is bad! Just look at Venezuela.” But here is where they are wrong about universal health care. Let’s break it down.
First, what is socialism? Although there is a tendency to lump the various forms of socialism together, especially when the goal is to scare people, there are important differences. To keep this column understandable, I will discuss what many call the “strict” definition as opposed to the “broad” definition.
Let’s look at the strict definition — a system in which the means of production and distribution of goods and services are owned and controlled by the government. It is this definition that most people think of. No wonder they get scared. They think that there would no longer be any private businesses. That is what the strict definition implies. But capitalism can work alongside strict socialism. In our capitalistic country, there are many organizations that fit this strict definition, in which the government controls everything in the organization right down to whom it employs and how much they get paid. The largest is the U.S. Armed Forces.
The Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard are forms of strict socialism. Would you have it any other way? What about your local police and fire departments? Socialism. Public K-12 schools, libraries, public universities, public park systems, public museums, jails and prisons, and the U. S. Postal Service. Socialism. You get the idea. They are all owned and controlled by the government. And, using this definition, we already have “socialized medicine.” It is called the Veterans Health Administration, government-owned and run, which, according to its website, is the “…the nation’s largest health care system, employs more than 322,030 full-time health care professionals and support staff at 1,255 health care facilities.” Strict socialism.
A broader definition of socialism simply applies to government funding, but not owning or controlling, the means of producing or distribution of goods and services. Private organizations or individuals would do those functions, but be paid with government funds. For example, consider the nation’s highways and roads. From the Interstate Highway System to your local roads, all are government-funded but privately built. The federal government, through many of its departments (National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, etc.), gives grants for scientific research. Then there are Medicare and Medicaid programs that pay private healthcare professionals and hospitals with government funds. Broad socialism.
The problem we have is with the Republican Party. When they mention “socialism,” especially when they talk about single-payer universal healthcare, they want us to think of the strict definition and its ties to Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, and China, not to places like Denmark, Norway, and Sweden or even Canada, countries with high standards of living. It is nothing but a scare tactic. They want us to oppose government-funded healthcare and continue to rely on private health insurance, often with high premiums, deductibles, and co-pays. They suggest that we should fear “Big Government.” My private health insurance is a PPO. Someone once told me, “I don’t want the government telling me which doctor to go to.” With universal health care, you may choose any doctor you want. My insurance company wants me to stay “in-network.” I don’t get to see any doctor I want.
I needed a simple surgical procedure. My insurance covered it after co-pays and deductibles. My primary care healthcare provider told me that he recommended the same procedure to another patient. Her health insurance denied it. That would not happen with universal healthcare.
So, the next time Members of Congress try to scare you with the word “socialism” remind them of what socialism really means and that we already have lots of it in the good ol’ U. S. of A.
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