Question of American health care
The Supreme Court’s decision on health care is a big deal. We didn’t have much time to talk about the landmark decision, but one of my conservative friends trotted out the specious argument that the government cannot force people to buy medical insurance, just as the government can’t force citizens to purchase broccoli.
I sighed, because this broccoli argument is, with very little effort, easily disassembled. No one has to buy broccoli to live. But, well over 99 percent of us will have to see a doctor at some point in the course of our lives. The cost of covering the uninsured when they are hospitalized or seek medical treatment, most who cannot afford it, some who choose not to buy it, adds, literally billions of dollars to America’s health care premiums.
If you choose to buy a car, you have to get insurance. If you choose to live in a country, you must then pay some of the burden for your medical care. It’s ``personal responsibility,” something conservatives love to talk about.
“Obamacare,” as dubbed by the conservatives, doesn’t do enough, but it goes a good distance in trying to insure the uninsured, the poor, the very young, those who are already sick, and young adults.
The conservatives say this is socialism. Yet, this was their idea. Magically, once Obama espoused it, the personal mandate (at the center of the Supreme Court health care ruling), wherein citizens have to get insurance or be fined/taxed for not doing so, became an un-American evil.
Conservatives have no shame, but they ought to. As much as they go on and on about America being exceptional, they don’t do very much to make it so: a crumbling infrastructure, poor education, high levels of poverty and crime, and, perhaps most damningly, a health care system that’s twice as expensive as any other industrialized democracy (and with worse health outcomes, such as higher infant mortality, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and lower life expectancy rates) and leaves tens of millions uninsured or under-insured.
The U.S. Army actually sets up clinics in under-served areas of America to treat droves of the uninsured, saying the free health care clinics prepares military medical personnel in the practice of dispensing medical treatment in disaster areas and developing countries. In America, this is happening.
How does Korea, a country colonized by the Japanese for over a generation, brutalized by presidents who ruled by fiat in a quasi-dictatorial fashion, buffeted by an existential threat in the form of North Korea, and mired in decades of poverty, have better infrastructure, a better educational system, and a better health care system than America, the richest, most powerful nation in all of human history?
Simple, you have conservative Republicans as president, and an increasingly illogical conservative movement that sees any progression of the country, in faster rail, in better gas mileage for vehicles, and yes, in universal health care, as somehow ``European” or socialist.
It wasn’t always this way. President Richard Nixon, a Republican president I particularly dislike, first thought of mandating employers to offer health care insurance, and his policy solutions for medical care were actually much more to the left of President Barack Obama’s.
But again, conservatives have no shame. Many Americans die of treatable illnesses every year. Millions go into bankruptcy because of a chronic medical condition. Millions of children go without dental care, eye care, and basic health screenings.
The Republicans, and their base, and the conservative intelligentsia, don’t have a clear set of policies for these solutions, and when they held the presidency for eight awful years under George Bush, did not move to implement anything close to addressing America’s very expensive and inefficient health care system.
The writer holds a master's degree in English literature and literary theory and is currently an English professor outside of Seoul. He can be reached at email@example.com.