As millions of Americans lose their jobs due to Covid-19 disruptions, they also lose their health care, which is tied to their jobs. Only in America is health care contingent on employment. Efforts to create a national, single-payer, health care system have failed since the Truman administration in the late 1940s. Americans have been sold on the idea that health care is best administered by “the free market,” which of course is neither free nor much of a market.
The American health care system puts profit over people; in short, it’s wealth care, not health care. This is simply fact. Health insurers, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, are motivated by money. Indeed, health insurers make money by denying you coverage, not providing it. They raise co-pays and deductibles to unbearable limits. Meanwhile, they spend liberally on lobbyists to keep Congress in their pockets, as well as on advertising to persuade Americans that health insurers are always on your side. Until you file a claim, that is, or need expensive treatment.
Health care should be about health, not wealth, and people, not profit. Back in 2013, I wrote the following article on health care for Huffington Post. Of course, the system has only grown worse. America faces a crisis today, driven by a deadly pandemic. Isn’t it time to embrace single-payer health care for all?
Americans generally, and politicians in particular, proudly proclaim that we live in “the greatest” country. But how should we measure the greatness of a country? I’d suggest that quality of life should be a vitally important measure.
And what is more fundamental to quality of life than ready access to health care? When you’re sick or suffering, you should be able to see a medical specialist. And those costs should be — wait for it — free to you. Because health care is a fundamental human right that transcends money. Put succinctly, the common health is the commonwealth. And we should use the common wealth to pay for the common health.
Here’s the truth: We all face the reality of confiscatory taxation. If you’re like me, you pay all sorts of taxes. Federal, state, and local income taxes. Property taxes. School taxes. Social security. State lotteries are a regressive tax aimed at the poor and the gullible. We pay these taxes, and of course some for health care as well (Medicare/Medicaid), amounting to roughly 30 percent of our income (or higher, depending on your tax bracket, unless you’re super-rich and your money comes from dividends and capital gains, then you pay 15 percent or lower: see Romney, Mitt).
Yet despite this tax burden, medical care for most of us remains costly and is usually connected somehow to employment (assuming you have a good job that provides health care benefits). Even if you have health care through your job, there’s usually a substantial deductible or percentage that you have to pay out-of-pocket.
America, land of the free! But not free health care. Pay up, you moocher! And if you should lose your job or if you’re one of the millions of so-called underinsured … bankruptcy.
Health care is a moral issue, but our leaders see it through a business/free market lens. And this lens leads to enormous moral blind spots. One example: Our colleges and universities are supposed to be enlightened centers of learning. They educate our youth and help to create our future. Higher Ed suggests a higher purpose, one that has a moral center — somewhere.
But can you guess the response of colleges and universities to Obamacare? They’re doing their level best to limit adjunct professors’ hours to fewer than thirty per week. Why? So they won’t be obligated by law to provide health care benefits to these adjuncts.
Adjuncts are already underpaid; some are lucky to make $3000 for each course they teach. Now colleges and universities are basically telling them, “Tough luck, Adjunct John Galt. If you want medical benefits, pay for health insurance yourself. And we’re limiting your hours to ensure that you have to.”
So, if Adjunct John Galt teaches 10 courses a year (probably at two or three institutions of “higher” learning) and makes $30,000, he then faces the sobering reality of dedicating one-third of this sum to purchasing private health insurance. If that isn’t a sign of American greatness, I don’t know what is.
I groan as much as the next guy when I pay my taxes. But I’d groan a lot less if I knew my money was funding free health care for all (including me and mine). Commonwealth for the common health. With no death panels in sight.
A healthy republic that prides itself on “greatness” should place the health of its citizens first. That we don’t is a cause for weeping — and it should be a cause for national soul-searching.