Who’s Afraid of Universal Healthcare?
Scott CarrollScott Carroll is a writer in Baltimore City. He is a published ghost writer of narrative nonfiction. His op-ed articles have also appeared in the Baltimore Sun and on The Health Care Blog. Following a several-year stint as business/technology consultant in the Los Angeles office of the world’s largest consulting firm, he returned home to Baltimore where he continued his comprehensive tour of the non-administrative side of the American education system, this time as a teacher, while pursuing his development into a writer. The child’s experience was both the Baltimore City public elementary schools and the premier private schools of Baltimore County, his secondary education a product of the city’s prestigious public engineering high school. The young man was Ivy League and HBCU educated at the engineering schools of Columbia University and Morgan State University, respectively, the latter of which bestowed his B.S. in Industrial Engineering. As a teacher he was a substitute for two years in one of Baltimore’s underperforming neighborhood high schools that was concurrently featured in an HBO documentary about the country’s failing schools. His experience teaching algebra and pre-calculus at one of the city’s lower-performing magnate schools rounds out the comprehensive tour.
The glaring illogicality just ruining the great theater that is Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), to its apparent imposition of a communal healthcare system upon the storied, once truly free and independent American man (Sorry ladies, I do believe this is stated correctly.), is that this dreaded communal calamity is already the state of healthcare in the United States; it is a communal, universal system of the most ineffective and expensive sort. Whether or not the United States will adopt a universal healthcare system is a non-debate,that decision was made in the affirmative long ago when Congress passed the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act of 1986.
Said Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012, somehow in opposition to the Affordable Care Act: “Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance…If someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care.”
The obvious bears stating: while the care for this hypothetical uninsured heart attack sufferer may end up entirely free to him, notwithstanding his ruined credit and peace of mind when he cannot pay the humorously astronomical bill he receives, it certainly is not free to the healthcare system and country that end up eating the loss, a loss estimated at $73 billion in 2008 in a Families USA report from the following year.
In the current way that we do healthcare everyone is a loser. Hospitals and doctors lose out mightily, absorbing much of the estimated fifty-five percent of emergency care that goes unpaid annually according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Of course as much of this loss as possible is then passed along to the next great losers, all insured Americans and all of the businesses that provide the vast majority of their coverage. The above mentioned Families USA report estimates that in 2008 the average insured US family paid an extra $1,017 in healthcare premiums; the average insured individual paid an extra $368. Insured Americans are double losers when their tax dollars in government programs, along with other third party sources such as charities, cover 26% of the care given to the uninsured. And then there are the 40 to 50 million uninsured Americans who routinely ignore developing ailments until they find themselves ultimately in an emergency room.
A word about the Young Invincibles—a group of young conservatives advocating for young people to pay the penalty instead of a significantly higher premium for one of the comprehensive coverage options under the law–unless this group can draft a legally binding document whereby their adherents strictly forbid any emergency hospital treatment that will outstrip the limits of their less expensive plans that they argue are more suited to young people, they haven’t a leg on which to stand ideologically. And it bears mentioning that young people do in fact get cancer, diabetes, leukemia, heart failure, etc., on occasion. The odds well-more often than not will bear out the Young Invincibles in their argument, but their righteous indignation is worth nothing to the percentage so afflicted. It is only when a young person finds himself so afflicted, or in an horrific car accident, in which he is air-lifted to the local trauma center and afforded the most advanced and expensive care in the world that the Young Invicibles’ argument no longer makes all the sense in the world.
What the average citizen must understand is that today’s debate over healthcare is truly a question of whether or not we will maintain the current happenstance system of de facto universal coverage–whereby millions of uninsured sick and injured individuals receive expensive hospital care against the cost of which maybe they contribute $0–or will we proactively embrace a more efficient and effective approach that mandates everyone’s involvement in the system from the beginning, whereby everyone is both paying into the system and receiving the great benefit of regular contact with a doctor throughout their lives. Given the still fresh example of Wall Street’s conduct under deregulation, its simple pilfering of working-America’s life savings, it should be clear the vital role that government has to play, drafting intelligent legislation to proactively prevent the temptation to profiteer in this new day of near universal payment into the healthcare system.
For decades the American people have absorbed the ever-exploding costs of an unintelligent non-system of de facto universal coverage. Unless the opposing voices to the Affordable Care Act–those voices shouting “Repeal!”–unless these voices propose to do away with the current universal coverage and embrace an America in which Mitt Romney’s hypothetical heart attack sufferer is asked by the 911 operator for his health insurance information before any ambulance is dispatched, there is truly no good argument against the Affordable Care Act, but only, rather, how to make it better.