Public school system and universal health care

In a previous post, I commented, if “socialized medicine” is bad, why isn’t “socialized education” equally as bad?  T.R. Reid notes how universal health care would be similar to public education on pages 234 – 235 of his book, The Healing of America:  A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care.

In some societies – – those with the most egalitarian traditions – – the notion that a millionaire might jump the queue, or have access to a new experimental drug that the average man can’t get, is offensive.  Consequently, some countries (e.g., Sweden, Canada) have tried to make it  illegal to purchase health care outside of the system.  Generally, these prohibitions don’t work; in Canada, as we saw in chapter 8, the Supreme Court ruled that this kind of restriction violates the basic right of Canadians to buy what they want with their own money.  This experience suggests what might happen in the United States if we moved toward a coordinated health care system that covered everybody:  Rich Americans would have to pay the same taxes or mandated insurance premiums as everybody else, but they would be able to buy care outside the system.  If that happened, the health care system would look like the public school system:  Everybody has to pay to support the public schools, and all have equal access to them.  But people who want to use their own money for a private school are free to do so.  That’s the pattern with health care in all the other developed countries.

Can America’s health care system be transformed to look like the public school system?  You say, no thanks, there are plenty of problems with the public school system model.  Well, may I suggest that we change the public school system model to mimic health care.  Basically, one’s employer should pay to educate an employee’s child/ren.  It works well with health care, right?

Why do we have and support the public school system?  Because Americans believe it is a benefit to the nation to have an educated citizenry.  Yet, Americans have not asked a similar question, why should we have universal health care?

T. R. Reid notes that Americans have never addressed this moral question.  Other countries have reached the conclusion, from a moral perspective, that all citizens should have access to basic health care.  Sadly, not America.

Despite all the rights and privileges and entitlements that Americans enjoy today, we have never decided to provide medical care for everybody who needs it. In the world’s riches nation, we tolerate a health care system that leads to large numbers of avoidable deaths and bankruptcies among our fellow citizens.  Efforts to change the system tend to be derailed by arguments about “big government” or “free enterprise” or “socialism” — and the essential moral question gets lost in the shouting.

All the other developed countries on earth have made a different moral decision.  All the other countries like us — that is, wealthy, technologically advanced, industrialized democracies — guarantee medical care to anyone who gets sick.  Countries that are just as committed as we are to equal opportunity, individual liberty, and the free market have concluded that everybody has a right to health care — and they provide it.  One result is that most rich countries have better national health statistics — longer life expectancy, lower infant mortality, better recovery rates from major diseases — than the United States does.  Yet all the other rich countries spend far less on health care than the United States does.

Pages 2 -3.

That’s all I have on the topic of universal health care for the foreseeable future.  I hope I’ve given you “food for thought.”


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