By now you might have seen this viral video of a healthcare worker yelling at his representative about the dire consequences of repealing the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare for the slow). If you haven’t, watch it because I’m not going to say anything better than he said.
Still here? Okay, good.
Do you know how they measure the beginning of human civilization? Anthropologists look for signs of debilitating injuries, usually broken bones, and then that the person lived for years after that injury. Think about it for a second. The implication is that someone cared for that person even though they could no longer hunt and/or gather. We measure the transition of ape to man by the evidence of a social safety net.
I know it’s a day that ends in Y and by the time this piece is published Der Gropenfuhrer has probably already done some asinine new terrible thing, but I am still hung up on the House repeal of the ACA (reminder, that is STILL Obamacare). The American healthcare debate remains one of the silliest, yet terrible, things that has ever existed, and it boils down to a single, salient point. Is healthcare a right?
Of course it fucking is.
The argument against this seems to be based on the idea that those who provide services should not be compelled to provide them for free or against their will. And there is some merit to that idea, but orthodox adherence to this doctrine is nonsensical.
First, there is no “free” healthcare. None. Nada. Zip. Every doctor, nurse, and technician in this country is being paid by someone to perform their tasks. Those paychecks come from a combination of private insurance and public sources. None of them are slaves. Trust me; I’m married to a NICU nurse. If you are receiving care, no one is being forced to provide it against their will or for free. Heart surgeons in America make half a million dollars a year whether the patient has private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. So, please, let’s not pretend that this debate has anything to do with the drudgery of medical professionals.
The sticking point seems to be that the working class is somehow subsidizing healthcare for the parasites, and that’s true, but not in anyway that should be understood. For instance, my wife’s insurance funds parasites. We call them children. I’ve got one. Her best friend from nursing school is about to have another. None of them will so much as chip in a few bucks from a lemonade stand for their healthcare, and unless you think they should then the argument those with means should not help provide care for those without is meaningless. That is just not how insurance works.
There’s also this idea that Medicaid is somehow “free,” and that we dodged a bullet having the expansion here in Texas lest more lazy loafers suck the sweat from the teats on our brow (I’m not a life science guy). However, even those who receive Medicaid are paying for it. Payroll tax comes out of their paychecks the same as mine and the same as yours. As a percentage, it comes out exactly the same unless you’re self-employed, in which case you pay double. Most abled-bodied, non-elderly, adult people in this country receiving Medicaid work. The rest are people who can’t, not won’t, and in the hospital where my wife works some 400,000 children come through on the program annually.
I had someone quote to me the other day that the only real rights were the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness on this issue. Life. LIFE! How can we possibly provide for the right to life for a 26-week old premature baby with developmental issues. At what point does that baby’s right to life end and the right to not ever have to pay a dime a tax begin?
Americans are vastly uninformed to the amount that they are feeding from the public trough. Every trip to the grocery store you take involves food made cheap by heavy farm and ranch subsidies (and most of it is tax free for the consumer to boot). That’s because the government, and until the age of libertarianism the public, understood that food is a right to be fulfilled by the social contract. Transportation is a right, as is water and the ability to communicate by mail and phone, which is why we have laws making sure you can’t build a housing development and not provide those things.
Does this count as compelling a service against the will of the provider? Possibly, but that is not an absolute negative. There’s a line in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, where all the mafia bosses are at a meeting. They accuse Don Corleone of hogging access to judges needed to ensure henchmen would get light sentences. Corleone defers that he does not have a monopoly, but another boss pushes back with this quote.
“Don Corleone controls all the apparatus. His refusal to let us use it is not the act of a friend. He takes bread out of the mouths of our families. Times have changed, it’s not like the old days when everyone can go his own way. If Corleone has all the judges in New York, then he must share them or let others use them. Certainly he can present a bill for such services, we’re not communists, after all. But he has to let us draw water from the well. It’s that simple.”
Asking someone making less than $20,000 a year to contribute 7 percent of his income from working for medical care for all seems, which no one can afford out of pocket in America any more (more on that in a minute), seems a reasonable fee. Asking someone making more than $125,000 to contribute maybe twice that also seems a reasonable fee. Because none of us “buy” healthcare. We are driven to it, and we have no control over the price. I can buy a nice shelf somewhere and a less nice shelf somewhere else, but I can’t do that to fix a broken arm. Healthcare must be a right because healthcare is already not a choice.
One final note. It may seem unfair that the man who makes $125,000 should be asked to pay more. Let me tell you about my uncle. My uncle was a millionaire, a man generous and kind to a fault, and also a man who battled cancer the whole time I knew him. He had the best insurance money could possibly buy (this was pre-ACA), and still, before he died, she spent millions of dollars on care. Far more than he ever put into the systems he paid into.
Healthcare is a right priced as a luxury, and we’ve mistakenly started to think of it like we’d think of a car. Even the rich, though, can, and on a long enough lifescale will, take more than they gave unless we are all compelled to make healthcare a universal obligation. The alternative is pain and death, and even money cannot save you. If you don’t start thinking about healthcare as a right, especially if you have enjoyed constant insurance and affordable doctors, you just might find out some day that your access to it will be revoked by others who don’t respect your right. Privilege can be fleeting, but chronic pain and misery?
Those things can last the rest of your life.