Sunday, October 4, 2009

The dream of socialized medicine

One of my few commenters wrote:

"OMG. next you're going to say you're in favor of SOCIALIST medicine!"

Yes. I'm also a utopian dreamer.

One of my fantasies is that the U.S. would adopt some type of public health care system. I urge policy makers to draw on the last decades of ideas about health care that have been worked out in the other advanced democracies -- Canada, Japan, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Italy, Israel and and so on. (this wikipedia article has a good overview of the publically-funded health care systems in developed countries).

Socialized medicine typically means that "the government owns the means of providing medicine" as in the VA hospitals in the U.S. Rather than focusing on the definition of "government ownership" I focus on the idea that we the people own the government and thus we the people own the means of providing medicine. The VA and other publicly owned health care systems such as the UK system have many flaws, and these need to be worked on.

In my view, the health care system should be a non-profit organization supported by taxes. We need more preventative medicine, which is neglected in fee-for-service programs, but could be a big part of a health care system which is like public education -- free for all.

Health care should not be a for-profit business, because the profit motive is incompatible with caring about people's well-being. Two exceptions to this statement:

1. In the immediate future, I do accept that elective medicine, like lasik surgery and in vitro fertilisation, can be run on a pay-for-service model, such as what I purchased in Turkey this last August 2009.

2. In the far future, I dream of a society in which working for financial profit has diminished or disappeared for most people. People will work for intellectual and social rewards, as do many people in creative endeavours (bloggers, writers, artists, poets) and in fields like education.

I would also be in favor, as a good starting point, of Obama's initial plan that the same health care system that currently provides for congressman and senators be available to all Americans.

Even some non-advanced countries and non-democracies have free for all medical systems. I was very impressed by my experience with walk-in health care in Beijing in spring 2008: no appt necessary, no waiting. I walked in and saw a doctor after a 5 wait, and paid nothing for what was essentially an emergency room visit (I did pay for pharmceuticals needed to treat a rapidly worsening staph infection). Free, even though I was a foreigner. I marveled.

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