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Millions of Americans With Socialized Medicine: We Call Them Soldiers

Most of my posts about the latest political goings-on have simply happened in my head, while I worked on some personal writing, taught myself more DocBook XML (really, every librarian should learn some XML schema; it’s quite pleasant, like tatting or needlepoint), etc.

But the  conversation about  health care has so far  ignored a highly successful experiment in socialized medicine, and I don’t mean Medicare or Medicaid: I mean health care for active-duty military. (Health care for veterans is a travesty, but that’s another story, if one that needs discussion even by the strongest advocates of health care reform.)

If socialized medicine is good enough for our men and women in the armed forces and their family members — and not as an option, but as a way of life — surely it’s good enough for us. And  something as mild as a “public option” isn’t going to turn us into a fascist state.

(While we’re on that subject, the other folks I’ve crossed off my Christmas fruitcake list are those who are  trivializing the Holocaust by comparing Obama’s administration to Nazi Germany.)

Health care in the armed forces allows military members and their families to do their jobs and live their lives — and be mobile and available for any job — without fear that they will lose coverage. For ANY reason.

Plus the public option will put much-needed pressure on the health-care corporations who can currently pull such stunts as denying people health coverage (even on “company plans”), charging usurious premiums, or arbitrarily  jacking up co-pays and deductibles for categories of the “insured.” (How I hate the phrase “health insurance”! Health CARE is what we all need — the more preventative care, the better.)

Our current health care system (if you can call it a system)  has its ripple effects. As a self-employed contractor in California in a distance-worker job, I enjoyed excellent coverage from Kaiser, with premiums that were at least survivable. When we moved to Florida, where I couldn’t be covered by Kaiser any longer, my options were few and horribly expensive — triple what I was paying, even as a single payer with no pre-existing conditions.  The absurdly high cost of health care premiums was the final death blow for keeping a job I really liked, and it has had a profound effect on my career decisions since then.

Of the few self-employed people I know in this area, most are not covered. One recently had basically a drive-through lumpectomy for her breast cancer. I hope she stays healthy, because she’ll never get coverage now, even if she could afford it.

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7 Comments

  1. Looking at this from outside the US, the discussion seems pretty skewed towards the extremist views from the wacky right. Here’s one example from National Review blogger Mark Steyn:

    “Sarah Palin got it right on the “death panel” business, and finnicky conservative critics missed the point: Governmentalization of health care leads to rationing, and rationing leads to death panels — very literally.”

    Ok, so how does the current private marketplace deal with “rationing” — I guess 47 million Americans without health insurance and the ‘hidden hand’ of the marketplace isn’t supposed to qualify as an efficient “death panel” mechanism?

    Also worthy of note: most of the public systems around the world incorporate significant private sector participation.

    It is very sad to watch how health care reform is getting so watered down and bashed around…

    Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at 9:41 am | Permalink
  2. raspberry seed wrote:

    I would be interested to see how — and if — labor in this country would change, if people didn’t have to be “full-time, regular” administrative assistants or engineers or middle management, for IBM or Honeywell or General Mills, in order to have health coverage for their families. Shouldn’t the full-time staff of my dentist’s office have the same access to health-care coverage that I do as a librarian? They perform valuable services for many, and spend fully 1/3 of their lives on their feet, under fluorescent lights, with their hands in people’s mouths. Yet, as part of a staff of fewer than 20, their employer can’t afford a group plan to cover them. How about the people who work at the little yarn shop in town? Or artisan cheese makers? Or your accountant’s receptionist? Why does one half of every married/committed couple have to be indentured to some huge entity, if they don’t want to be at risk of losing *everything and more* in the event of a catastrophic illness in the family? This country *needs* a huge variety of people doing a huge variety of things for a living. We can’t all be administrative assistants and middle managers. How could that possibly map to “life, liberty *and the pursuit of happiness*”? Given the current health care situation in the U.S., our claim to being ‘a free country’ really is kind of nonsense.

    Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at 11:54 am | Permalink
  3. Gordon Flagg wrote:

    If you ask me, the Godwin’s Law violators constitute the “fruitcake list.”

    Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at 12:11 pm | Permalink
  4. David wrote:

    If only the “fruitcake list” was getting the amount of news coverage that one expects fruitcakes to get, and not what they are getting: all of the news coverage. See also, last Sunday’s Doonesbury.

    Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at 1:20 pm | Permalink
  5. Ellie Dworak wrote:

    Hi Karen –

    This is a really hard one to have a conversation about without getting emotional. As a token conservative librarian, here are my concerns:

    * simply that it’s too expensive. Just because something is a nice idea doesn’t mean that we can afford it as a nation. Now, this one is arguable, I’m not sure if it’s the case.

    * that the Obama administration is not being forthright about their plans. I worry that the regulations they are passing are in place to put private insurance out of business so that we only have a public option.

    * that if we only have a public option, our medical system will no longer be the most innovative in the world. While it’s true that we are not a particularly healthy nation, this is the country where you want to live if you have the misfortune of getting very ill. My son died (and yes, the bills were terrible, even with insurance) and I was comforted by the fact that he has incredible, amazing, cutting edge care by a team of neurosurgeons, respiratory therapists, etc.

    * that it isn’t morally right to require people (who may not believe in our western medical system) to purchase medical coverage.

    I also want to say that I think you are misinterpreting the people who “compare” Obama to Hitler. I think what people who bring this up are saying is that we need to be cautious to honor our constitution because even Hitler was elected. We do not live in a pure Democracy, and I do not want to (if so, the majority always rules, and that’s scary – what if the majority hates gay people?). We live in a Republic, and one that’s predicated on basic rights and freedoms. And even when that is problematic, it is important, crucial even.

    That said, all of the problems you bring up are indeed problems, and I would like to see solutions. I would like to be able to discuss solutions without being called out as a right wing nut. And I want to be respectful and kind.

    Friday, September 11, 2009 at 2:02 pm | Permalink
  6. Just a reader wrote:

    I’m a military wife and a veteran, so I’ve had care as a military person and as a family member. In the US, spouses and families don’t use the base services for everything anymore – we have Tricare insurance and pay for it (it’s a nominal cost and coverage is really good).

    I think the military and Tricare systems are great, but there are some things to remember:

    - Active duty military people are all relatively young and healthy. If you have pre-existing conditions, the military won’t take you. So they’re saving money there.

    - You as a patient can’t sue if something goes wrong. So they’re saving money there.

    - Doctors and staff are mostly military people too. They don’t make $100k+ per year.

    - Funding for active duty care comes out the defense budget, AFAIK, and there is a LOT of cash for this.

    So yes, it works very well, and I would love all Americans to have the same care I do, but there are circumstances which a lot of people don’t take into account.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 3:16 pm | Permalink
  7. Kathy Whalen wrote:

    I have been on the move and not really reading your blog–having been elbowed out of librarianship, I’m feeling a bit ambivalent about all things library–but then I check back in and there you go again–brilliant post!! I have mixed feelings about being an American expat in the UK, but the NHS is fabulous, really amazing. To someone who struggled to afford health insurance at home, it feels like a gift to have health care “at the point of need” for free.

    Thursday, September 17, 2009 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

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  1. Free Range Librarian › Health Care: A Response to Ellie on Saturday, September 19, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    [...] Ellie Dworak posted about healthcare, noting that for her, “This is a really hard one to have a conversation about without getting [...]

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