The bruising battle over health care

HEALTH CARE could be a pivotal issue in the 2020 presidential election (King Features).

It’s already begun. With the first serious discussion of “Medicare-for-all,” meaning government-financed health care, and with the introduction of the so-called Green New Deal, those on the right, and even those who get away with describing themselves as moderates, are flinging around the S-word like it’s the ultimate pejorative.

Oh F-word it, let’s be clear: They’re braying about – gasp – “SOCIALISM.” To borrow from the “The Music Man,” it starts with an “S” and that rhymes with “mess.” So, what is this scourge? My online dictionary defines “socialism” as, “A theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.”

In the U.S. of A., socialism is routinely conflated by demagogues with the C-word, “communism,” or the M-word, “Marxism.” They are used as nouns or turned into adjectives like “commie plot” or “commie perverts” (sometimes pronounced “preverts”). So a departure from economic Darwinism is tarred as the road to ruin. Less government, in this rendering, is always better. It’s the American way.

Any proposal to have the government participate in social services or economic regulation, such as would be the case in a “Medicare-for-all,” the Green New Deal or raising taxes on the super-rich, is immediately attacked as “class warfare.” It’s also vilified as incredibly expensive, a cost that would be borne by we the taxpaying people, all of us. Never mind that we pay private insurers exorbitant amounts for their unsatisfactory protections. Even if the charges are hidden as an employer benefit, part of our compensation in lieu of higher salaries.

Additionally, the opener proposals are just that: openers. There are a variety of revisions possible. For instance, the insurance companies could keep their hands in the pot in the same way that they do with Medicare for senior citizens. Another approach would be Medicare as an option, where the federal government would compete for coverage with private insurers. The customer could decide which choice to make.

The defenders of the dismal status quo sniff something like, “Do you want a bureaucrat to come between you and your doctor?” Folks, they already do. The bureaucrats in this case work for the profit-driven insurance companies. They’ll decide what they’ll pay for … or more often NOT pay for.

Getting to the fundamental question of government taking over private services, we already have such socialism. Law enforcement is handled by the government; highways and other transportation needs are too. Our public education system is paid for by taxes. Unfortunately, there are widespread problems with our public schools, partly because those who can afford to send their kids to private school, the ones who might have the most power due to their economic status, opt out.

So it is with the various climate and tax policies that are being proposed. The energy companies are quick to label any efforts to fix global warming “pie in the sky.” They’ll do so perhaps until our skies burn up. Same with higher taxes on the wealthy. “Ridiculous,” say the wealthy; “socialism,” say the politicians who get campaign contributions from them.

It’s just a word, actually an S-word is. It’s inaccurate, or worse, the BS-words, which stands for bovine-something.

Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN. (c) 2019 Bob Franken. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


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