Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Why We Will Never Have “Socialized Medicine” in the U.S.A.

By “socialized medicine,” I mean, of course, systems like those in the United Kingdom or Spain where all hospitals (clinics, etc.) are government owned, private insurance can only be supplementary, and doctors, nurses,  and other healthcare workers are all government employees. It’s simple: That system may have its strengths (the Spanish and the British seem to like it), but it would violate the  U.S. Constitution–specifically the “takings” clause which forbids  nationalizing private firms without just compensation.  So, if you fear socialized medicine –don’t worry.  If you  long for it–move to Spain or the U.K.  It ain’t happening here.

What COULD happen here (although not with this current legislative session on healthcare reform) is socialized health INSURANCE similar to systems in Canada, Australia,  New Zealand, France, and almost every other industrialized, capitalist, democracy.  The doctors, nurses, etc.  do not work for the govt. They just BILL the govt. for fee for service.  This is usually called a “single payer” system.  Instead of thousands of rival health insurance plans (all looking over doctors’ shoulders authorizing or forbidding procedures),  the doctors, patients, and families make all the medical decisions and the govt. foots the bill through taxes.  It is possible, and certainly legal, that such a system could be put in place here: Simply expand Medicare (which ALREADY IS socialized health insurance) from covering everyone 65 and up to covering all U.S. citizens, PERIOD.

However, that option is NOT being considered currently in Congress. It was removed from discussion at the very beginning of the year. In my mind, that was a mistake, but there it is. What could happen, is that we could get a “public option” of govt. health insurance that COMPETES with private insurance. We also might get permission for the states that want to do so to experiment with single payer healthcare in their states (Canada’s plan began in one Province). If the public option proves popular, Americans could turn it into a single payer system.  So, what is being considered is NOT socialized medicine (no matter what Glenn Beck says) or even single-payer (no matter what all of Fox News says), but a centrist reform that, IF DESIRED BY THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, could one day become a Canadian style system.

It simply gives the American public more choices–something Republicans usually claim to want. If the private companies are superior, then they will beat the public option in the competition of the marketplace. If the govt. option is superior, it will win out.  Insurance companies and Republicans seem to be afraid that they cannot compete–or cannot without lowering their  prices. But isn’t that capitalism?


August 16, 2009 - Posted by | economic justice, healthcare


  1. It is definitely capitalism, but the insurance companies and the Republicans do not want competition that might lower prices. The real issue here is that President Obama has proposed this program. The Republicans that were in favor of at least part of the bill, Sen Johnny Isakson of GA for instance, suddenly turned against it after the “death panel” stupidity started. They have centered upon health care as the turning point in their battle to bring down the President. They would rather do that than help the people of this country.

    Comment by Ralph | August 16, 2009

  2. I agree, Ralph, and I am trying to expose their duplicity. But it is not just Obama: The Republicans (and Southern Democratic senators) blocked Harry S. Truman from getting us Canadian-style universal health insurance in 1948. They blocked Bill Clinton from getting us a public option very similar to the Obama plan in ’93.

    I do not expect a single GOP vote for this bill–even if they keep watering it down in negotiation. No Republican voted for Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. Not one.
    So, we only get a tronger social safety net when we have very large Democratic majorities who are not aftraid to just pass the thing already!

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | August 16, 2009

  3. Obama opponents know that by using the
    “S word” they can stir a lot of Americans up. That is the ones who are ignorant or just hate Obama. The real bugaboo here isn’t socialism but rather insurance companies who are doing anything that they can to derail health care reform. The bottom line is DOLLARS ! A lot of the resistance to health care reform comes from the insurance industry.

    Comment by Paul | August 16, 2009

  4. New to your website. Followed link from DelawareLiberal.Net. Thanks for keeping the arguements above the shrill chaos. Your arguements are logical and easy to follow and informed. I appreciate your website and shall monitor from here on out.

    Comment by Eric VanOver | August 16, 2009

  5. Who cares about facts when you’re trying to get re-elected next year!

    I keep hearing the term “government run health care.” That’s a canard because there is no proposal for government run health care. It’s government subsidized.

    But I hear the Dems are going to forget about Republican input now, so there’s a start.

    Oh yeah, I also hear “Why should I pay for their health care? (Again, not proposed in a plan.) But that’s exactly what insurance is. Everyone pays in, some people pay out. That’s a risk pool.

    Comment by Steven Kippel | August 19, 2009

  6. Michael,

    You should learn a little more history before spouting off. The law that created Medicare and Medicaid was co-written by a Republican (John Byrnes.)

    Furthermore, no it is not “capitalism” or at least not a “free market” when one of the players is the same party that controls the regulations of the industry that player is competing in – and is subsidized by taxpayers regardless of whether or not those taxpayer use the service offered.

    Obama used the USPS as an example of a government entity that “competes” with private businesses (i.e., FedEx and UPS) but failed to point out that it is only legal for FedEx and UPS to deliver parcels. They are prohibited by law from delivering first class mail. A health insurance equivalent of the USPS would also have the market distorted in its favor in order to maintain its legitimacy.

    Comment by Lance Jonn Romanoff | August 27, 2009

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