Thursday, March 6, 2014


Virtually all industrialized nations use a national health insurance system.  In the United States we followed (decades later) most European countries in adopting Social Security for our elderly population so they could have an income in their remaining years.  All working Americans pay for Social Security, which is a separate tax from income tax or sales taxes.  I am grateful I have both Social Security and Medicare.  The cost of health services not covered by Medicare can be substantial—try getting implants instead of false teeth (upper or lower plates) and four or five implants can run up to $20,000 (as it did for me because I do not have a dental insurance plan covering them). If we each had to pay for our major medical expenses the death rate would go up because poor people would die.  Physicians and other health providers would have to cut back on their standard of living to serve the poor and most people who could afford it rarely make charity meet the needs of all those who are needy.  I am a biologist, so here are a few facts to consider.  We live longer than we did in the 1900s. Most people born in the early 21st century (2001 on) will live to be in their mid 80s.  If they retire at 65 they will likely require Social Security for 20 years and Medicare for their health needs. The bulk of cancers, strokes, heart failures, diabetes, senility, and arthritic conditions occur in people who are 50 or over.  Younger people feel resentful that they are paying for older people.  I can understand that, and some want to gamble that at age 20 they will have another 65 years of life without a stay at a hospital for sickness, without a major accident, without mental or physical impairments that limit their work or change their life activities.  But the odds are overwhelming that most of those young people, when they are old, will have cancer, strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, arthritis, or other illnesses that cost a lot.  The odds are also overwhelming that most people will not have 100,000 dollars or more set aside for medical emergencies in their old age.  The odds are overwhelming too, that a young person who is 20 or 30 years old who has an illness or accident will lack the money to pay for medical expenses.  We have a government and a civilization because we believe that collective responsibility makes all citizens better off than having a world where there are a few healthy winners and a massive majority of humanity dying prematurely or suffering pain and limited activities because they cannot afford the sky-high costs of their health needs.

              I much prefer extending Medicare to all working people so all can pay into a national health insurance that is non-profit.  Private health insurance is by definition set up to make a profit.  A significant portion of those premiums paid each month go to corporate stock holders or the families that own and manage these private health companies. They will try (as they did before being regulated) to purge from health insurance those with preexisting conditions, those who are in risky categories (let us say based on race or socio-economic status), and offer their insurance to the healthiest payers. President Roosevelt and President Johnson both tried to get a national health insurance for all working adults to pay into.  President Obama had to compromise and choose Governor Romney’s Massachusetts plan for his Affordable Health Care Plan. They failed because of the tactic that opponents used describing national health insurance as “socialized medicine.”  So is a standing army where our government owns everything down to the shoelaces of the persons wearing a uniform.  I don’t see red flags flying over Scandinavia, Great Britain, and other industrialized capitalist countries that have nationalized health insurance for all their citizens.  I have yet to hear a workable plan from opponents of national health insurance that covers the health needs of those who are poor, lower middle class, or middle class with competing needs of education for their children, a mortgage to pay, and companies doing their best to freeze their wages and dump their coverage for health insurance and retirement. 

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