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Randy Alcorn: Setting Aside the ‘Ism,’ America Needs Health Care Rooted in Medicare-for-All System

One of the many regrettable consequences of our country’s ideological civil war is an obstinate refusal among many to dispassionately examine facts and ideas that conflict with a chosen belief system.

Too many people prefer to consult their ideological catechisms rather than think things through. Believing that their particular “ism” is the remedy for all of society’s ills, they summarily condemn all other “isms” as dangerously errant.

It is unfortunate that potential solutions to pressing problems affecting the vast majority of Americans are limited to the narrow confines of some particular sociopolitical or economic belief system. Ideas and proposals are rejected or accepted not on their merits but whether they are ascribed to some “ism.”

Caught in this phenomenon is the ongoing issue of health care in America.

Health care is essential. Eventually every American needs it. America’s health-care system is the costliest in the world. Yet it yields patient outcomes that, while good, are not the world’s best. Health care is extraordinarily expensive in America because it is a market-based system focused on profit rather than on providing affordable health care for all who need it.

Whether they believe it is a human right, it is a safe bet that the vast majority of Americans want affordable health care. Indeed, polling continues to find that a majority Americans favor a Medicare-for-all system.

But, because such a system would eliminate certain parasitic corporate interests and would restrain free-market gluttony, the forces of greed entrenched in the current health-care system resist any attempt to derail the gravy train.

Their arguments against a Medicare-for-all system are more predictable than persuasive, and ultimately resort to “isms.”

“It would be impossibly expensive for the nation to maintain,” they chide. Yet, somehow nations less wealthy than America, which is the richest nation in human history, afford universal health care. Virtually all of the world’s advanced nations, and even Cuba, provide universal health care.

The recent study by the conservative think tank, Mercatus Center, funded by the uber Libertarian Koch brothers, found, with some prudent caveats, that a Medicare-for-all system would be less costly than the current private insurance, market-based system America endures.

“Who would go into medicine if they couldn’t get rich doing so?” Well, do people follow their heart’s desire, their calling in life, only if they are certain of getting rich?

European doctors who are practicing in universal health-care systems earn roughly half the income of their American counterparts, yet there is no critical shortage of doctors in these European countries. Nor is their endemic rationing of health care and lethally long delays for treatment, as is so often alleged by opponents of universal health care.

Of course, the longest delays are incurred when there is no access to health care — as can happen in the American system. Emergency room health care is often “too late” health care, and typically accompanied with overcrowded conditions and triage measures.

The grand finale argument made against a Medicare-for-all system is that it is socialism. Oooh, socialism, so scary!

The fireworks of fear here is the canard that socialism, even Democratic Socialism, inevitably descends into the oppressive autocracy and economic deficiencies of the old Soviet Union, Mao Zedong’s China and today’s Venezuela.

Equating any form of socialism with oppressive communism and pervasive economic failure ignores the many enduringly successful democratic socialist nations such as Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark, Great Britain, Japan, Australia, Italy, Canada, Norway, Spain, Finland, Ireland, Belgium, New Zealand, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

All of these countries have achieved a successful working balance between capitalism and socialism, and all provide socialized solutions to critical societal needs, typically health care and higher education. None is an oppressive police state. Indeed, none has incarceration rates or incidents of police power abuse approaching those of the United States.

Capitalism, socialism or whatever “ism” never works as flawlessly in the field as it does in the lab. There is no sure-fire sociopolitical or economic philosophy that once employed guarantees an enduring “great society.” Conditions are always changing and require sensible adjustments.

When Great Britain realized its version of democratic socialism was threatening economic vitality, it adjusted the balance between socialism and free-market capitalism. Under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Britain denationalized some industries and introduced reasonable economic reforms to revitalize its economy. It did not give up all its socialized programs — especially national health care — it made well-considered changes.

Unquestioning, immutable devotion to some “ism” is not making America great. It is fomenting a divisive political distraction that benefits a privileged sliver of society — the entrenched economic elites — whose main focus is on exploiting markets, not fostering the general welfare.

In practice, free-market capitalism moves toward monopoly and predatory pricing. As soon as AT&T was allowed to swallow up Time-Warner, it reneged on its pledge not to raise cable prices. Not long ago, there were 12 major airlines, now there are only four. Has air travel gotten any less unpleasant and expensive?

The same greedy consolidation is fueling the health-care industry. Cannibal capitalists call this “ultimate efficiency.”

Call it whatever you like, but America’s economic system, to the increasing detriment of most Americans, is out of balance. You can categorize ideas and proposal as any kind of “ism” you like, but what matters is what works for the benefit of the vast majority of citizens, not what “ism” someone calls it.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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