Although Denzel Washington and John Q have gone far in exposing many of the myths about health care, a majority of Congress, too many physicians and many Americans still believe that the U.S., despite being the only industrialized nation without a universal health care plan, does provide adequate health care for its people.
Not so. Not now, not ever. Despite popular belief and false pride, Medicare and Medicaid, two pillars of LBJ’s Great Society, just don’t cut the mustard. Let’s examine a half-dozen of those myths;
• Myth #1: That America’s impoverished have medical care when needed; that there are public hospitals, clinics and charity groups out there for everyone.
Not so: The bottom line is that over 40 million Americans go without coverage, 40 million more have inadequate access and both numbers are climbing.
• Myth #2: That emergency rooms, glamorized by TV dramas, are always available.
Not so: Emergency rooms can do no more than treat an acute symptom and then pass the problem to medical services that just do not exist.
• Myth #3: That even though a health care system providing universal access to a comprehensive system of benefits the federal government has not enacted a health care system full, the states will pick up the slack.
Wrong again: Local-level revenues just cannot provide the services needed. Sanitation, law enforcement, schools, protection against fire, etc., all demand federal matching funds for their existence. Health care is no exception.
• Myth #4: That privatization is the way to go.
Still wrong: One danger of this myth is that it relieves those responsible of the onus of providing health care. What we get handed as a “national health care plan” is a developing HMO system that put health into the hands of for-profit corporations and bottom-liners, and where non-medical “gatekeepers” make medical decisions based on frugality.
• Myth #5: That indigent patients get better care than “paying customers” because they get the benefits of university hospitals, with unlimited funds and resources and the most prestigious physician-teachers in the community.
Not always: Teaching hospitals, with their fledgling doctors-to-be, often use service patients for all sorts of experimental drugs and procedures. This care also lacks much in the empathy and communication needed for proper medical treatment.
• Myth # 6: That medical care is just too costly, even for a society such as that existing in the U.S.
Again not so: In practical terms, America’s wealth and resources are more than adequate to cover health care for all and then some. It is a question of priorities, of putting people before profit and butter before guns.
The Canadian experience has shown what a sensitive government can do, even under a capital-driven system. From them, we have borrowed the term “single payer,” which has become a euphemism for a comprehensive plan for all. “Single-payer” is only of value if the term means a system dedicated to health care delivery and not a profit-and-loss sheet.
Only the Feds can assume that role. The federal machinery has proven itself over and over, contrary to more myths. Social security, for one example, has been running smoothly for over 60 years, its monies secure, never having missed a payment, as long as the privateers are kept at bay.
Medical care, and all that goes with it, should be not a privilege for the few but a right for all. And as with all rights, once won, they must be given and protected by democratically elected governments. Health care must be declared a right for all of our people, and that right protected. For it is only then that it will take its rightful place in our society – number one.