Friday, January 27, 2017

Universal healthcare and slavery?

I saw this graphic on social media that incorporated a photo of Bernie Sanders smiling at a podium and next to it was written, “I’ve been criticized for saying this so let me say it again: I believe healthcare should be a right, not a privilege.” Below the image of Sanders was a photo of Rainn Wilson in his role as Dwight Schrute from the U.S. version of “The Office” and the words: “Wrong, healthcare is a service[.] No one has a ‘right’ to the labors or services of another person[.]”

The Sanders quote is accurate. He wrote it on Twitter in February of 2016.

The text accompanying the image of Wilson was never written for—and thus never spoken—by Dwight or any other character on “The Office.” I’m sure that it was never intended to imply that Dwight said this, only to prompt the reader to use the same inflections that Wilson used for his character as they read it to themselves.

There was an affirmative comment on this social media post that read—with obvious sarcasm,
“what? but sometimes there's a lot of good intentions behind slavery….” (sic)

I've heard this slavery argument against universal healthcare before and it’s never made sense to me. The reasoning in the graphic doesn’t really support it because it's always been my understanding that slaves are not personally compensated for their work (food and shelter doesn't count, since it's the equivalent of fueling a vehicle or paying for electricity to power a machine—yes, it’s a cold, inhumane description but slavery is a cold, inhumane practice).

In all of the advanced countries that offer universal healthcare, name one that provides it with enslaved doctors and nurses. Considering the acumen, effort and expense—to say nothing of the desire—required to become a medical professional, where exactly is the incentive to become a doctor or a nurse in a universal healthcare system if it means becoming a slave? How many aspiring doctors have there been in the world who changed their mind at the last minute because they just didn’t want become enslaved and have to do all that work for zero compensation? I suppose if one already owned a slave—again, in which advanced countries is this still permitted?—one could just force a slave to become a doctor. Which would mean a lot of expensive and time-consuming education and training of a lot of candidates just to find out which ones would actually be able to do the job—not all MDs are cut out for patient care, after all—their actual desire to do such demanding work would be irrelevant because, well, slavery. It would be a lot less expensive and much quicker to just hire existing doctors and nurses to do the work. They’d be much better at it, since they would be more likely to have chosen to work in the medical field and voluntarily invested their own time and resources into the required schooling and training for those jobs.

The U.S. doesn’t have a single healthcare system. It has a strange mishmash of different systems similar to others that can be found all around the world. These American systems overlap in some areas and leave gaps in others but not a single one of them involves enslaving doctors and nurses.

As a veteran, I make use of the Veterans Administration for my healthcare. The VA system is funded and administered by the government. This is similar to the NHS system in the U.K. which provides healthcare to all its citizens. The doctors, nurses and other medical professionals that I interact with are not slaves. They’re government employees.

Many senior Americans make use of Medicare which is a “single-payer” system, not a “single-enslaver” system. Doctors, nurses, etc. are all paid for the services they provide. Again, “payer” is right there in the describing term.

The Affordable Care Act (i.e. “Obamacare”) implements several different mechanisms to enable people to get healthcare. Again, no slavery is involved. Some people complain about the health insurance mandate—yet remain silent on the requirement to have insurance if one drives a car—despite the fact that it’s been among the preferred means of conservatives for increasing healthcare coverage… Until Obama embraced it and then it became anathema to their core American values somehow; this idea that Americans should be required to pay for their own health insurance as if we function is some sort of market-based economy.

I think I’ve made my point pretty clear that universal healthcare does not equal the enslavement of doctors and nurses. Of course, there are going to be a lot of people who will continue to ring that bell because they won’t allow any amount of evidence, logic, reason or common sense to conflict with their ideology.

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