I understand that many people are horrified by the idea of “socialized medicine” where the government pays for our coverage instead of private health insurance companies. But here’s why I think healthcare is one area that should be provided by government and where the private sector solution is inappropriate.

The key reason is the nature of healthcare as an essential service. Let’s compare healthcare to the auto industry as an example. General Motors makes Cadillacs. Let’s say I want one but cannot afford to buy one. GM doesn’t care – they’ll sell the car to someone who can afford it and, while I may be disappointed, I can live with my old used car just fine. In the case of private run healthcare, one element of the car scenario is the same: the health insurance company is not in the least interested in my well being other than how it affects their profits. If I cannot afford their healthcare premiums or have a “pre-existing condition,” too bad for me. The difference, of course, is that while I don’t need a Cadillac, I might very well need healthcare coverage and not having it might bankrupt me, and that is an outcome that is good for nobody.

Essential services such as water, roads, land management, oversight and regulation, defense and so on are provided by government and paid for by taxes. I contend that healthcare is every bit as essential and that treating it as an essential utility makes sense. The government is one way to assure that everyone has access in an affordable way. Taxes would be higher but it would be essentially insurance – shared risk spread over everyone and thus probably much less expensive in total than the current proliferation of private insurance providers.

Our society tolerates vast discrepancies in wealth from the very poor (2007 poverty rate was about 12.5 percent that translates to somewhat over 37 million people) to the very rich. Were that not the case, private health insurance might be tolerable, but the wealth discrepancy means too many people cannot afford health insurance, medical services or medicine. This is something the other Western democracies have figured out and I hope we get the message soon and are not swayed by the barrage of self-serving propaganda that is bound to start coming from the health insurance industry and others who hate the idea of anyone being helped by the government.

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