The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Trouble In America

Posted by The Futility Monster on August 1, 2009 @ 17:21

ushealthcareIf there’s one thing I don’t understand about some Americans, it is their apparent desire to see the continuation of a healthcare system that costs more per capita than any other country in the world and delivers benefits only to the privileged few who can afford it.

They will defend their position as an insistence on the operation of a free market. Whatever gave them the crazy idea that a basic right to life before death for all citizens, not just the lucky ones, is something that should be left to the unfettered and frequently unfair powers of supply and demand is something that continues to baffle me.

To many of us on the left, we are looking, first and foremost, for a certain equality of outcome. It is my belief that people cannot be free and live their lives to the full if they are denied a) a good healthcare system; and b) a decent education. It is not possible to achieve your dreams in the modern era unless you have a free and equal access to these two things. Hence why the state ought to be the sole provider of these two facilities.

America: land of the free, however, would have many of its citizens believe that, while they really can achieve whatever they want through the American Dream, God help them if they become ill or stumble along the way. Because there’s no one there to help them. No basic safety net which will catch them if they fall and give them a help back on their feet.

No. They can just, in the immortal words of Tom Petty, keep Free Fallin’.

Maybe it’s better that we don’t understand their motives. After all, that would imply we’re many steps removed from this rather strange way of thinking. It might also suggest that we’re not quite so in hock to the pharmaceutical and health insurance lobbies that seem to dominate the American Congress, despite the fact that support for US healthcare reform, including a basic level of public sector provision, is quite significant.

Then again, if 72% of Americans support a “public option” perhaps there is some hope. It definitely seems that at least one part of the Congress, the House of Representatives, is more in tune with the public, and has at least a more decent idea of what level humanity should not sink below. But the House always has been the more populist side of the Congress.

It’s those old timers in the Senate that are going to be the big players in all this. And then that gets wrapped up in the old horse-trading of “I will only back this if you build a new… in my state”.  Which reduces what should be a goal worthy of its own celebration and passage without the hindrance of the pork-barrel and the logrolling to yet another grubby bit of politicking.

But if Obama can do this, twisting the necessary arms and sweetening the pill, and deliver a genuine public healthcare system in the process, maybe it’ll have to be a price worth paying.

Of course, such a system will far from resemble what we have here in the UK. After all, Americans will still have to pay for their public option, rather than fund it through general taxation.

But it is a step in the right direction, and will hopefully reduce the scandalous 65 million people who don’t have any health coverage at all. Talk about gambling with your life.

Watch this space, I guess.


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