Friday, August 28, 2009

Healthcare debate

When I first came to this country, people would asked me if I came from the "socialist or communist" Germany -- and why the heck was it called "democratic" when it isn't? Don't they get free healthcare, and have no choices and freedoms?
Well, I hardly knew where to start answering! In broken English I'd try to explain that
(a) I came from West Germany, which was democratic (official name was Federal Republic of Germany) while East Germany (even if the name was German Democratic Republic) was communist, but that (b) West Germany did also have "socialized" healthcare, but it was not free - it was paid for by taxes (doesn't anybody understand that nothing is ever truly free?), and that you still had choices & freedom, and, most difficult of all (c) that socialism does not equal communism!

Today, I just came across a blog new to me, Solipsist, by a writing teacher. I really enjoyed his discussion on healthcare, and he offers an excellent explanation as to why Americans are so scared by the word "socialized" in front of Medicine.
and here I quote the Solipsist:
...maybe people get turned off by the phrase "socialized," which makes them think of socialism. Now, here again, the main problem is that the word "socialism" has gotten a bad rap. Political scientist Robert Axelrod in a book about cooperation, effectively defined socialism (or at least a socialist state of mind) as "niceness." So what's the problem with "niceness"? Well, nothing, but many people equate "socialism" with "communism"--which are not the same thing--and "communism" with Russia and in particular with "Stalinism." The thing people don't realize is that calling Josef Stalin a socialist is like calling calling Tony "Scarface" Montana a pharmacist...
Anyway, even if my family is among the lucky ones to have decent health insurance through an employer, I do feel that the AMERICAN HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IS BROKEN, and it needs FIXING!
How is it broken? Let me count the ways... the US spends much more on healthcare per patient without delivering better health; the unfairness of denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions, the huge number of un-insured and under-insured, and on and on...

Let me just give you one tiny lousy example of BROKEN: a gainfully employed (but under-insured) friend of ours ended up making the risky choice of NOT going to the emergency room with a dangerous bowl obstruction, risking rupture (and thus possibly death), because he simply could not afford it -- he's still paying off the bills from his last one several years ago that precipitated a HUGE chain of medical problems. Note also that an indigent or homeless person in the same situation would have been treated for free. THERE IS SOMETHING TERRIBLY WRONG WITH THAT!

Don't get me wrong: I don't think that it's "unfair" when the homeless get treated in the Emergency Room-- it's the compassionate thing to do: we don't let people die in the streets! I digress here, but there is a whole big problem with homelessness in this country, and much of it has to do with how poorly we deal with mental illness, and again, healthcare reform could help...

I think that access to affordable healthcare should be a basic right just like access to education -- maybe it would help if called our public school system "socialized education". Most countries have just that, including ours, as it is obviously in a society's best interest to educate its citizens. Imagine a world where not everybody could afford to send their kids to school -- what kind of a heartless society would that make us?

Here's an account of a British(-American) Mommy blogger entitled "Hey America, socialised medicine is not that bad!", very enlightening!
I also recommend any of Honeypiehorse's social commentaries: very insightful.


honeypiehorse said...

Yay Solipsist! He's a cousin of one of my friends from HS. Small world, isn't it?

Dawn said...

You've got some excellent points here. I enjoyed reading this, and believe pretty much the same way. It seems like health care in this country is the worst for the middle...the people who aren't poor enough to qualify for free medical care, yet struggle with health insurance costs.

A Modern Mother said...

Hi and thanks for the link! Hope this story has a happy ending!