[First published in the Bisbee Observer September 12th, 2019-which happens to be my wife’s birthday and who didn’t appreciate it when I told her that the published article was her birthday present]
My late father was fond of saying that the government has three jobs: To build roads, fight wars, and stay the f#!@ out of my life. I loved my father very much, but I think that government can and should do more than that. We are in election season. The Democrats are debating, the President is pontificating, and the media is profiting. The rest of us are shaking; shaking our heads wondering if the government that is supposed to represent us is going to make any progress to improve our lives, strengthen our liberty, and help us pursue happiness.
Hear me out on this one. I’m taking on healthcare and I’m going to argue for across the board, single payer, universal health care for all people in our country. Let’s start with the big question, how do we pay for it? We purchase it by paying more taxes. I don’t care how much some candidates say they are going after the richest gringos, universal health care will be so expensive that they everyone will see an increased tax bill. That’s just a given. If we go there, we will have less money to spend on other stuff.
Stay with me, please. The Police Beat [the Bisbee Observer’s hilarious weekly supply of real life police calls and complaints] will be there. Here’s what we get for the new health care system. We get life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I don’t exaggerate. When everyone in this country has adequate access to the advanced medical capacity of our land, then everyone is healthier, lives longer, gets sick less often; in short, has a better life. That is good for a democracy. Healthy people show up for work more often, treat their kids better, abuse abusables less, vote more; they just all around do better.
Liberty. It’s a paradox, I know. You spend more money for health care and you have more liberty. Here’s how it works. Right now, if you want good health care, you need to have a job that can pay for that health care. Not all jobs pay it. Not all jobs have great healthcare packages. My package, for instance, keeps raising my copays. In general, you need a good job to pay for your healthcare until you are eligible for Medicare at 65. It’s not liberty if you stay in a crap job so a trip to the ER doesn’t bankrupt you. It’s not liberty if you have to decide between your pharmacy bill and your grocery or your gas bill. It’s not liberty if you have health insurance from your employer but it’s too expensive to add your dependent children to your plan. I have a colleague in that situation. The way I see it, we are held hostage by the insane cost of heath care in this country. We don’t choose the paths are heart and souls long for because we-rightly so-have to be responsible to ourselves and to those who are dependent on us. The heavy millstone of healthcare weighs on us and stifles our innate ability to create and thrive.
I fear for our young people who make the important first steps of their careers based on their employer’s ability to pay for their health care. If health care was a given and independent of employment, young people could pursue passions and vocations as long as their youthful zeal allowed. That creative incubation could prove helpful to all of us in this land. The pursuit of our own happiness is inextricably linked to fomenting the pursuit of happiness in others. The future requires creative people with imagination to solve the dilemmas that the 21st century presents us. Universal access to medical care would, despite its increased cost, make us lighter on our feet. We could pursue work that satisfies and motivates rather than jobs that merely pay the bills
We do not have universal health care in this country because, even though we were essential participants in the conflict of WWII, we did not experience the ravages of other combatant countries. Much of Europe, with our assistance, rebuilt their societies with a commitment to health care for all and, though some of those systems-The UK for example- strain, Europe’s continued commitment to health care for all indicates that it is a viable (and more cost effective) health care solution.
Medical advance depends on the brainpower of highly-trained specialists, many of whom received a government funded educations. Most of our physicians, researchers, and other health care providers- they themselves burdened with inordinate student debt- trained at public, state-funded colleges and universities. The government is already very much in the health game. We need to push the country forward and understand that, in the case of health care, we are indeed our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper.