The Invisible Hand needs some emergency room care.

free market needs a docThe “invisible hand” to which I refer is the famous metaphor for the free market economy. The supposed magic hand that makes everything cheaper and more efficient. Feh! But more on that general topic later. Right now, here is some excellent information on how the free market health care system is f—d up.

Here’s an article by Harvard cell biology post-grad Alex Palazzo in which he uses various sources of information, including the New England Journal of Medicine, to illustrate how in our lovely free market system, health care (and education) costs continue to rise over and beyond most other costs of living:

“Results: In 1999, health administration costs totaled at least $294.3 billion in the United States, or $1,059 per capita, as compared with $307 per capita in Canada. After exclusions, administration accounted for 31.0 percent of health care expenditures in the United States and 16.7 percent of health care expenditures in Canada. Canada’s national health insurance program had overhead of 1.3 percent; the overhead among Canada’s private insurers was higher than that in the United States (13.2 percent vs. 11.7 percent). Providers’ administrative costs were far lower in Canada.”

Meanwhile, John Goodman, close friend to John McCain and a policy advisor, and likely someone who will have influence in a McCain administration, recently stated that no one in America is uninsured because everyone has access to an emergency room. (McCain adviser: Everyone in U.S. has some health coverage)

Yes, of course! Because that’s exactly what parents of infants with a worrying cough do, they go to the emergency room! Need a child wellness visit or a preventative care treatment, that’s what emergency rooms are for! Gynecological and prostate exams? Emergency room! I bet they diagnose and treat cancer and immuno-diseases in emergency rooms! Hey, my wife’s chronic illness doesn’t have to bankrupt us from medical bills–we just have to go to the emergency room!

And the GOP condemns liberals for being “elitists.”

The proof of the GOP’s hatred for the middle class is all around. Having ready access to health care and quality public education are the two things which can make for a strong democracy! If the people of a nation can be healthy and not driven into poverty by health care, and have access to education, the people can be powerful and vital and strong. But that’s not what the GOP wants. They are the party of the capitalists and they want oligarchy. They want the richest 1 to 5% to run the country and everyone else to be subject to their rule as nothing more than mass consumers. What did Bush say after 9/11? Go out and buy stuff. What’s his solution for a recession? Give us money so you can buy stuff. Meanwhile they’re systematically undermining the education system by underfunding it and disincentive-ing (let’s say that’s a word for now) good teachers and promoting private and paid charter schools, and their official health care plan is to encourage insurance companies to raise rates and let the poor see a doctor only when it’s life threatening. For the seventh straight year capital gains is up while the average wage has gone down and the number in poverty is up. (Meaning: corporations are making more profit while the workers are seeing less money.)

Of course I say that’s the GOP plan, and it is, but they’re the biggest villains because they’re unabashedly the party of protecting the rich. The Democrats have a larger number of progressives and people who want to empower the poor and middle class (two classes coming increasingly closer), though they’re not off the hook. For example, Senator Clinton’s grand “universal” health care plan is to force everyone to buy health insurance like we do car insurance. Hey, increase the profits of the private health insurance companies, put a greater strain on the family budget, and make it a mandatory burden on the people… that’s about as evil a plan as any Republican could come up with! While the Dems have more people in political office who have come up from poor and modest families and didn’t inherit money, they’re all products of capitalist ideology and will always be tools of the hegemony regardless of where their hearts lie in helping or hindering the other 95% of the population. The only consolation is that more Dems do have their hearts in the right place and at least that’s something.

A recent interview with author and technology writer Cory Doctorow really exemplifies the necessity for real universal health care in a democracy. (Interview with Free Talk Live) I think Cory Doctorow can be branded as anything but a fascist socialist! He’s on the front lines of fighting for civil liberties and against the encroaching police state in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and…the world if possible. But he made a comment on that libertarian radio show that resonated with me like a puzzle piece falling into place or the last square sticker on a Rubik’s Cube being put on the proper side: he said (and I’m paraphrasing) that socialized health care is as vital a component of society’s infrastructure as roads or the sewer system. It was a reasonable and realistic comment that I, and I think so many other people in the U.S., subliminally understand but have not been able to put into words.

Libertarians and objectivists live in a world 100 years gone–a world where people could live and thrive making minimal contact with other people and where health care was basically eating right and seeing a doctor if you have TB. We don’t live in that world. We live in a society in which people live virtually right on top of each other. We have no choice but to interact with masses of people every day and the people they dealt with on and on. Your ability to have access to good health care and the freedom to use it without fear of bankruptcy affects me directly in many ways beyond just contagious illnesses. My child’s ability to get good, consistent education from her teacher depends on her teacher’s access to health care. My job at work depends on my coworkers being healthy and in good shape. By boss depends on that from his workers. Our daily lives are so intertwined with each other, our productivity, education, entertainment, lifestyle, security, depends on each of us being healthy and not preoccupied with going broke because of ridiculously high medical bills.

Doctorow stated on the radio interview that as a writer he’d never want to live anywhere that didn’t have socialized health care. He told a couple of stories of how he and his infant daughter got wonderful medical and dental care from socialized facilities, completely counter to the horror stories the conservatives and libertarians dredge up. (And I concur. My brother, who moved to Montreal, and his mother-in-law, have experienced fantastic Canadian health care “free” of charge, and their taxes aren’t much higher than ours–negligible difference in fact. Meanwhile, I’m paying ridiculous amounts in insurance deductibles and out of pocket in addition to the taxes I pay to fund an illegal and immoral war, and I still have to wait to see a specialist. For example, I had a repetitive stress injury in a hand that could seriously affect my work performance, and in addition to my insurance I still had to pay nearly a grand for an MRI that I also had to wait three painful and reduced productivity weeks for.)

And his comment that he could be a writer and not worry about his and his family’s health while living in Canada or the U.K. has kind of pissed me off (not at him). We in the U.S. are increasingly working for insurance (and our gas). We’re forced to whither away our pathetically short lives as worker drones unable to follow dreams of life and pursuit of happiness–unless it’s to be a worker drone for literally most of our lives. I can’t be the writer I want to be because I have to work for insurance. Because, unlike a lot of successful writers, I’m not brilliant, writing any kind of quality fiction or non-fiction takes a lot of fresh and wakeful brainpower on my part (blogging doesn’t count–it’s an utterly mindless and quick expulsion of words for me, as anyone reading this can attest to). If I want to be successful, I have to write as a full-time job. As it is, I can’t do that because I have to work 40+ hours a day at a mind and energy sapping job so I can have a chance at keeping us from going bankrupt from medical expenses. Otherwise I could easily have a mindless part-time job for other bills and be able to put all the time and energy I want into writing good stuff. I have no chance of doing that under free market private health care. And it makes me so angry!

Well, enough mindless ranting for now.