For many years now, I've advocated free universal health care for every American citizen, because I believe health care should be a fundamental right, and not a fanciful privilege. While polls show that a majority of Americans agree with me on this subject, there are some who unsurprisingly and vehemently oppose this notion. Most of the time, they'll avoid saying what's really on their mind here; they'll cite the Constitution, or mention the words of some long-dead philosopher who never saw the system as it is today, or point to the fringes of abuse to paint true universal health care as demon legislation. It's quite rare to find someone who will openly and honestly admit to you, simply put, that they don't want to pay for someone else's illness. I mean, hey, it's not like it would benefit them, right? Or would it?
First, let me clearly define my concept of ideal health care. Every American citizen who earns less than six figures per year gets free, full-featured health and dental care, along with pharmaceutical coverage for necessary illness-fighting/ life-sustaining medication. They can, at their own discretion, pay for supplemental insurance to cover psychiatric care, plastic surgury, "luxury pharmaceuticals" (sleeping pills, erection pills, etc.), and coverage for other such non-essential medical services. American citizens earning six-figure-plus salaries get basic coverage free (check-ups, emergency room visits, etc.), but would need to pay for advanced coverage (for medical scanning, surgery, etc.). Businesses that offer advanced employer-paid health care to their workers will get reasonable tax breaks for doing so. This would be coupled with a medical insurance law that strictly locks insurance rates and fees to a margin within the inflation rate and prohibits denying coverage once it has been paid for. And to combat bloating and bureaucratic sloth, a yearly panel of American citizens made up of doctors, lawyers, and accountants in each State will convene to review the health care system and write up an "Efficiency Proposal," with tax benefits for their efforts, and Congress will be expected to act on the cumulative agenda of those fifty individual proposals. Taxes would be increased to pay for this new system, but with Medicaid/ Medicare eradicated in the process (as there would be no need for either), and with Americans no longer paying an arm and a leg for health coverage, it would all end up balancing out, if done properly.
Newsviner BK1492 today published an article where he went after liberals who advocate free health care, and seeing as how he named me in his article, and referenced an article I wrote yesterday, I don't think I'll get any complaints for bringing him up in this article today. In his piece, he criticizes liberals for not going the full monty and advocating mandatory fitness and nutrition programs. Well, BK, you might be on to something. You see, BK states in his article that he doesn't think we should need to pay for the health care of others unless they're willing to get physically fit and minimize the costs. While I'm taking a far more moderate approach here than he recommended (which he did largely for shock value, of course), I'll fully credit him for the amendment of this idea, even though I've offered a more watered down version of the same thing in an article I wrote last year. I would get behind a national fitness program that would grant American citizens free access to private sector gyms twice each week, and one meeting with a nutritionist each month, with tax breaks for businesses that participate. And if a Doctor declares that a person has gone from being overweight to healthy, they could get a tax rebate for their efforts. This, coupled with a national government-sponsored "fight the fat" campaign would go a long way toward lowering health care costs, improving preventative health measures, and improving our work force, too, which I'll be talking more about shortly.
Some people believe that my ideas on health care sound (GASP!) European, to which I always respond that the Nation that put men on the Moon, won independence from the most powerful Empire of the day (not once, but twice, as people often forget about the War of 1812), invented the Internet, and defeated the Third Reich doesn't need to base anything on someone else's system. My idea isn't perfect, but no single individual can solely be responsible for greatness. Liberals, conservatives, Libertarians, and moderates, working together toward this goal and refusing to lose sight of it, could make the idea a thousand times better and could logically adjust it to suit everyone's best interests. Of course, finding conservatives and Libertarians who are willing to give up some of their ground in pursuit of genuine compromise is, in today's political climate anyway, more of a fantasy than anything I'm presenting in this article.
So, who would these ideas benefit the most? Everyone. You, me, that neighbor of yours with one too many pets... the lot of us. Let's start with who this program wouldn't benefit... illegal immigrants. I can't help it; it's the Democrat in me that is always willing to make a compromise before my opponents are even asking for anything, but to make this program more efficient, and to help make it appeal to more people, it would need to strictly block illegal citizens from gaining health care access. This could be achieved by requiring proof of citizenship for all doctor and dentist visits, with a birth certificate, Social Security card, and/ or photo ID being required for care. I fully support the Dream act and an easier path to citizenship, but Liberals, we all need to be realistic on this... illegal immigrants would undoubtedly raise costs in a program like this unless we take preventative measures to stop that from happening, so while I'll join you in questioning the humanitarianism of my own suggestion, I feel it's imperative to this concept's functionality.
The benefits to the poor, the unemployed, and the homeless should be obvious to everyone, but what about the middle class? Well, first and foremost, it would mean more money is ending up in their pocket out of each paycheck. The increase in taxes would end up costing the middle class less than they pay now for health insurance, taken out of their paychecks or billed to them. Without an insurance company jacking up prices to several times the rate of inflation and denying many of their customers the coverage they've been over-paying for, and without the government having a profit motive in this, costs would be drastically reduced and evened out through taxes. Of course, this depends almost entirely on how effective the bureaucracy oversight panel worked, but the money saved would be enormous. And there's the obvious health benefits, too; no longer being told you can't access the health care that you paid for. No more limits on what your insurance will and will not cover. No more corporate jerks telling you that you don't need all ten fingers or all ten toes as much as they need new silverware for their third vacation home.
How would a program like this help the wealthy, though? I mean, they'd be required to pay for more health care than anyone else, so doesn't it discriminate against them? Not at all. First, they'd have restricted access to free health care because they can afford to pay for it, and with programs in place to make sure they aren't getting ripped off by the insurance industry, it's reasonable to assume their added costs would be minimal. More to the point, however, most of the wealthy in the world profit from the labor of others. Try as you might to deny that fact, it's a fact nevertheless. The CEO of an oil company isn't pumping your gas for you at your local gas station, and in most cases, neither is the owner of that gas station. You aren't going to find the executives of Wal-Mart working the registers or stocking the shelves. A healthier work force that is less stressed about their own health and/ or finances will be far more productive, which in turn would increase the profits of the wealthy beyond what they're paying for health care for themselves, and far beyond their tax contributions to the new health care system. I guess you could call it "trickle up economics." Strain as you might to disprove the assertion, your time spent grasping for straws in defiance of this idea would be better spent trying to figure out how to improve upon it for everyone's benefit. Just figured I'd throw that in right there at the end.
The reason so many countries are surpassing us in so many different fields right now has a great deal to do with health care. Improving health, fitness, and nutrition will vastly benefit our work force, making them more productive and more creative. I defy you to name a more effective method of improving our gross domestic product by leaps and bounds than to give the people free access to health care. And if you'll allow me to extrapolate to the point of fantasy, all of this increased production would in turn translate into increased tax revenue, which, coupled with stripping away the government programs and agencies made redundant by the new health care system, would make government smaller, would help us pay down the deficit more quickly, and would eventually lead to decreased taxes at every bracket. A business person opting for short-term profit over long-term growth is considered ill-suited for their work, right? Well then, why doesn't that same rule apply to our political ideologies? Free health care, if done cautiously and properly, passes over short-term profit for long-term growth. That, my friends, is real fiscal responsibility.