Health 101: Myth and Socialized Medicine

Health 101: Myth and Socialized Medicine

image_of_godI’d like to talk about mythology. Not Greek mythology or Norse mythology, but American Healthcare mythology. In his book, The Healing of America, TR Reid listed a number of healthcare myths he had busted in the course of researching his book. Some of these I knew about (because I have friends who are living or have lived in countries with universal healthcare) and some I didn’t.

Myth #1: “Universal healthcare is socialized medicine!”

(sound of game show buzzer) Wrong. Apparently even Michael Moore got this one wrong in “Sicko” when he dealt with the conviction of many Americans that “socialized” systems won’t work in our ferciely individualistic and capitalist country.

Bust #1: Most wealthy countries have privatized mechanisms to provide and in some cases pay for healthcare. 

That’s part of the myth—that healthcare provision and insurance are synonymous. (There’s that buzzer again.) There are two parties involved in healthcare: providers and payers. Not all universal care countries handle this in the same way.

In England and Spain, the government pays for coverage and owns the facilities, but private physicians provide the services. Canada and Taiwan have private-sector hospitals, clinics and doctors and the government pays the bills. In Germany, France and the Netherlands, both care and payment are privatized, but since everyone is covered and, again, the government negotiates prices, insurance providers (sick funds) compete to enroll more people and to keep them as healthy as possible. Costs are kept lower because, among other things, malpractice insurance is inexpensive and the government bargains collectively with the funds and physicians on the price structure.

MD000613Here’s the kicker: so many people seem to get real charged up about “socialized” healthcare (though probably couldn’t really tell you why), but American healthcare—even before the ACA—was already more socialized in some aspects than most countries with universal coverage. Our veterans, government employees and elderly, for example, are covered under socialized programs. The VA is a far more socialized program than just about anything you can find in other countries. All these different programs are part of why we have problems containing costs. In Germany, people stick to their private insurance plans no matter how old they are. Of course, they can always choose a new provider if they’re not happy with the one they have.

How many of us have that option, especially if we’re covered by a policy offered by our work?

“Yeah, okay,” some of you might be thinking, “but those other countries control costs by rationing healthcare and offering limited choice.”

That’s something worth exploring …

Care for the stranger as for one of your own; show to alien souls the same loving kindness ye bestow upon your faithful friends. — Abdu’l-Bahá

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3 thoughts on “Health 101: Myth and Socialized Medicine

  1. From what I have read, in those other countries, the patient usually does not pay a lot. While here in America, health costs are still the most common reason for bankruptcy. Obamacare has not helped much. I wish we had a system similar like what they have in countries like Germany or France, it is not socialized, but still is universal. But no, we had to go for Obamacare instead. Sad.

    1. Obamacare has helped millions of people get health coverage that they didn’t have before, so it’s a step in the right direction, but it is not as robust as health care systems in countries like Japan, Canada, Germany, France, or the UK. Unfortunately, there is a lot of pushback among some Americans and the people who represent them in government against the idea of healthy people of means paying into a system that covers poor, sick people.

      The original conception that the President had was for a public option that would have created a truly universal healthcare system, but legislators with more conservative viewpoints insisted that there must be a strong element of individual responsibility—hence the individual mandate to purchase insurance. Even with that, some folks still balk at subsidizing the poor.

      It is sad that a nation that many people believe is founded on Christian principles, we seem to have lost the lesson of the Good Samaritan.

      1. Wouldn’t a public option just move us closer to a single payer system, like they have in the UK and Canada, with long waits? That is why I have advocated the universal multi-payer system, like they have for example in Japan, Germany and France.
        And it is crazy that some folks still balk at subsidizing the poor. When you become ill, it is usually not your fault. But these ultraconservatives just want the poor to go bankrupt, due to illnesses. Such a system just helps the rich and hurts everyone else.

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