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?
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