It's Universal Healthcare, Not Socialism

Can we please get over ourselves about “socialism” and stop calling people “socialists,” unless they are Bernie Sanders who proudly claims the label and good for him. It bespeaks an ideology which has little or nothing to do with our lives in a liberal democracy.

Universal healthcare does not grow from an ideology which demands that we provide it. It grows from a very real need among our people. Providing it does not demand that we embrace socialism as a governing principle. It just asks that we understand that universal healthcare is as much of a necessity as education for a thriving population.

The framers had no way of visualizing universal health care – not with wooden teeth, leeches, and hack saws. Modern medicine consisted of smallpox parties, and you took your life in your hands going to one of those.

As late as my early teens, doctors were still making house calls. One such saved my youngest brother’s life, when a doctor didn’t like the way he looked and we took him to the hospital where it was discovered that he had meningitis. My father owned his own small business, but I don’t think we had health insurance. I wish my parents were alive now to ask them. I am the oldest of six, and we all went to the doctor and the dentist and we did not go bankrupt.

I didn’t have insurance when I gave birth to my two children, one in 1966 and one in 1975, and somehow we paid both bills.

I don’t remember when that changed, but I do remember Marcus Welby, M.D., who made house calls on TV, and how that seemed normal at first but by the time MW went off the air, only seven years later, people were finding it entirely too unrealistic. Who made house calls anymore?

I remember getting insurance for the first time in my early 50’s – a Washington State run program – for about $200/month. I was getting older and assumed something bad like lung cancer or a heart attack (I smoked until 2002) was coming my way. I used it for an ultrasound and a stress test. Both clear. I turned 55 in 1998 and got a letter from the state. My insurance had jumped to $510/month, because (a) I was 55 and (b) a lot of people my age were getting the insurance for a certain condition and then dropping it after the surgery or whatever. My take: I could no longer afford insurance.

Since then it has gotten worse. Much worse. I opted for an ambulance for one of my first serious panic attacks, and when I got the bills for the ambulance + emergency room, I taped them over my bed to remind myself that if it happened again, it was cheaper and likely easier to just die already.

Everybody now depends on insurance, health care providers demand it of us, and more often than not, with or without, serious illness results in bankruptcy and sometimes unnecessary death. I don’t know how it happened or who is at fault – and trying to find out would only give me a headache (which is covered now, because Medicare) – but it has become obvious over the last quarter century, at least, that some kind of universal healthcare has become a necessity.

The Founding Fathers recognized certain socially supported necessities: police, firemen, even the damn post office, all paid for by all of us one way or another. Eventually there were even schools and libraries. Health care was very likely needed even more then than now, given conditions on the ground, but they hadn’t even learned to wash their hands before sawing your leg off, so what could anybody do about it?

The world is changing, and we are going to need all of our intelligence, creativity, and ability to innovate to make a life for ourselves in the face of technology, climate change, and globalization. None of this will be possible without universal access to healthcare.

We are not a socialist country just because we have public schools, libraries, and police departments. We will not be a socialist country if we adopt a universal health care system. JP Morgan Chase will still be capitalizing away as if nothing had changed. We’ll deal with them later.