Welcome to Buster's Blog

Irregular commentary on whatever's on my mind -- politics, sports, current events, and life in general. After twenty years of writing business and community newsletters, fifteen years of fantasy baseball newsletters, and two years of email "columns", this is, I suppose, the inevitable result: the awful conceit that someone might actually care to read what I have to say. Posts may be added often, rarely, or never again. As always, my mood and motivation are unpredictable.

Buster Gammons

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Fake Freedom Of American Health Care

With their horrendous health care proposal taking fire from all sides, Republicans are spinning like mad, working hard to rationalize the screw job in terms of "choice" and "freedom."  Trying to wrap this turd in shiny ribbons of faux patriotism is so GOP, and so despicable.

What follows are excerpts from a 3/19/17 New York Times article by Anu Partanen, a Finnish author who's now a U.S. citizen.  His points are excellent.  Please read it and think about it.

Full article link:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/18/opinion/the-fake-freedom-of-american-health-care.html?_r=0

The new Republican health plan would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 24 million.  Republican leaders seem unfazed by this, because in their minds deciding not to have health care because it's too expensive is an exercise of individual free will.  

The idea is that buying health care is like buying anything else.  Paul Ryan says, "Freedom is the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need."  Mike Pence says the GOP plan will "bring freedom and individual responsibility back to American health care."

In practice, though, this Republican notion is an awfully peculiar kind of freedom.  It requires most Americans to spend not just money, but also time and energy agonizing over the bewildering logistics of coverage and treatment -- as employers, insurers, doctors and pharmaceutical companies, not consumers, decide which plans are available, what those plans cover, which doctors patients can see and how much it will cost.

And I haven't even mentioned the millions of Americans who don't earn enough to pay for insurance.  If you can't afford it, not buying it is hardly a choice.

Like other Nordic countries, Finland has invested in a universal, taxpayer-funded and publicly managed health care system.  Finns constantly debate the shortcomings of their system and work to improve it, but in Finland I never worried about where my medical care came from or whether I could afford it.  All Finns are covered for for all essential medical care automatically, regardless of employment or income.

It is Americans who are getting a raw deal.  Americans pay much more than those in other countries but do not get significantly better results.

The trouble with a free-market approach is that health care is an immensely complicated and expensive industry in which the individual rarely has much actual market power.  It is not like buying a consumer product, where choosing not to buy will not endanger one's life.  It's also not like buying some service tailored to individual demands, because for the most part we can't predict our future health care needs.

The point of universal coverage is to pool risk, for the maximum benefit of the individual when he or she needs care.  And the point of having the government manage this complicated process is not to take freedom away from the individual.  The point is the opposite:  to give people more freedom.  Public health care management is just vastly more efficient than forcing everyone to go it alone.

I wish Americans could experience the freedom of knowing that our health care system will always be there for us regardless of our employment status.  I want the freedom to know that the system will automatically take me and my family in, without my having to battle for care in my moment of weakness and need.  That is real freedom.

So is the freedom of knowing that none of it will bankrupt us.

Republicans:  If you really want to free Americans and unburden American employers, why not try some form of government-managed health care, like almost every other capitalist democracy?

No health care system is perfect.  But in a nation that purports to champion freedom, the outdated disaster that is the U.S. health care system is taking that freedom away.

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