Pay Attention Now.
It appears my recent shot in the ribs towards the heath care system up in the frozen north got no small amount of traffic, due in part to being linked by Salon, and a few dozen bloggers. As such, it generated no small amount of inflammatory or otherwise silly comments (which I deleted), as well as a fair amount of reasonable email. Due to the volume, I figure it's best to answer the people who actually managed to compose a coherent statement with another post on the matter.
By far, the majority of Canucks emailing me had but one point to make: The poor get shafted in the US when it comes to health care, while in Canada, they just get shitty care. But at least they can "afford" it.
To address this properly, I really need to start off with a fairly macroscopic view of the issue. It's one that many, many Americans understand, and just about all Canadians, Europeans, and Liberals in general do not: It is not okay to be poor. Shocking, I know, but at least read a few more paragraphs before you fire up your email clients.
See, the United States were founded on the principle that, given broad and protected freedoms, a citizenry could achieve unparalleled economic, industrial and moreover personal success. That principle was correct, which is why we have the largest GDP on the planet, the highest standard of living by any meaningful metric, and the best health care.
That freedom to succeed is why this country was, is, and always shall be populated by immigrants and the generations of natural-born Americans who follow. The people who came here off the boats in the 1700's share one common ideal with the people who came off them in the 1800's, or the 1900's, or even today: If I bust my ass hard enough, I can be Donald Trump. And y'know what? That ideal is 100% correct. That's why we have more millionaires in the US than any other country, and more wealth than any other country, and more nuclear families with two $60,000 SUV's in the driveway than any other country.
People came here, they busted their asses, and they succeeded. They built families, and thanks to the sacrifice and ass-busting of their parents, their kids succeeded even more, and so on, and so forth. The point here is: There is no excuse for being poor in America, nor most other countries that are relatively free-market friendly and democratic to some degree.
A lot of liberals, europeans, and pseudo-europeans (this means you, Canucks) whine and moan about the poor people who, as they would imply, were hand-selected by the ruling elite to specifically BE poor. This is an unmitigated load of crap. Anyone-- say it with me now: Anyone-- can get a job in this country. Anyone can flip burgers. Anyone can tend bar. Anyone can dig ditches. Anyone can stock shelves. Anyone can bust their asses and earn a living, and use the proceeds of their ass-busting to better their lives. I don't care how deep in the ditch someone is, there's absolutely nothing stopping them from making enough money to put a roof over their heads, food in their gut, and a few night classes at the local community college on the side. Nothing. Not one damn thing.
Except laziness. Oh, we have no shortage of people who would rather be bums, or social assistance leaches (read: kid factories). Because, after all, it's easier to sit on your ass, drink beer and watch television on the government dime than it is to actually go out and make something of yourself. So, fine, if that's how someone wants to live their life, then so be it. Live in squalor. Be poor. More power to you. But their decision to live that way is not a failing of American Culture, nor Capitalism, nor the US medical system. It is their failure. Their choice. Their laziness.
Bottom line here: There is no excuse to be poor. There is no excuse not to be able to shell out a hundred bucks or so a month for decent health care, even if you're flipping burgers for minimum wage, and regardless of the fact that even some of the most menial jobs provide health care or financial assistance of some sort in that way.
Now, I know the argument that is already peculating in some of your heads. Well, what about the families? What about the people who have three kids to feed and clothe, who can't afford insurance? Well, here's the answer, albeit in the form of a question: What the hell are people making minimum wage doing raising families? Last I checked, the concept of personal responsibility wasn't unconstitutional. Quite the opposite, in fact. You want to have kids? Fine. You want to have kids when you know you can't support them, then suck off the government tit? Great. But do not whine to me about people who made the choice to have children knowing full well that they could not support them. I have no sympathy for such people, and if they can't be bothered to get off their ass and make something of their lives, boo-effing-hoo.
Cold? Cruel? Tough tittie. It's not my responsibility to band-aid someone else's lack of character. It's not the government's obligation to steal money from people who do work their asses off and give it to those who don't, even though they do already do so to an alarming degree. It is not society's responsibility to make up for the laziness of others. Finally, it absolutely, positively is not the responsibility of doctors, hospitals, or other health care professionals who are working their asses off to provide free care to these people.
That's the bottom line. Work for a living, or don't, but live with your damn choice and don't expect others to buy you lunch and wipe your ass when you're done.
Now, another common theme in some of the alphabet-soup-on-a-wall comments and email I received, is that if you're poor in America, or without insurance, you get no health care. This is false. I can understand the misconception among a people who a) have no experience with said health care system, b) have a chip on their shoulder about living in the shadow of a greatly more successful country, and c) think that acting european makes them somehow superior to our sawdust and cowboy boots ways. I'll snicker at it, ignore it, and generally make fun of it, but I'll understand it.
So, in the hopes of enlightening a few, I'll address a few of those misconceptions.
Misconception 1: If you do not have health insurance, you will not receive care.
This is false. I once was in a position in which I was injured shortly after changing jobs. My old health care coverage was no longer in effect, and my new coverage had not yet taken effect. So, when I was asked for my insurance card, I told the hospital that my new plan had not taken effect yet, and I was effectively without insurance. No problem, they said, and I received the treatment I needed post haste by some of the best doctors in the world.
A few weeks later, I got a call from the hospital asking me how I'd like to pay the several thousand dollar bill that was outstanding. I offered to pay them a few hundred dollars a month until the debt was settled. They said sure. So I did. And in a little over a year, the debt was paid, and I wasn't still waiting to see a doctor.
Misconception 2: If you're old, unable to work, or just all around poor, you get no medical coverage at all.
This, also, is false. I would suggest anyone that wants the full details to read up on Title XVIII of the Social Security Act. In a nutshell: Medicare and Medicaid. These things are effectively socialized medicine lite. If you can't, or are unwilling to work, the government steals money from those who are and gives it to you in the form of exceptionally good health care, providing you meet certain (minimalistic) requirements.
Medicare applies to old farts, much as social security does. It means that, if you're old, and were not smart enough to actually save a few bucks prior to retirement, the government will bail your ass out by stealing money from people like me and giving it to you. Aside from the fact that if you work for 45 years and can't manage to put together enough money to live for another 20-30, you deserve what you get, this is how it works. There are two aspects of Medicare: Hospital Insurance and Supplementary Medical Insurance. (Yes, it's still insurance, it's just paid for by someone other than yourself).
Hospital Insurance more or less covers your ass if you get a ride in the meat wagon and a group of interns have to pump enough chemicals into you to embalm a hippo. You're covered for a certain number of in-patient days, under certain periods, and so on and so forth: Long and sort of it is: You either pay very little (co-pay), or nothing, for shitloads of very expensive, and as a result very good health care.
Supplementary Medical Insurance covers things like physician services (private practices, etc), clinical tests, medical equipment, drugs, vaccinations, and so on and so forth.
So, if you're an old fart who couldn't have been bothered to save a few bucks in, oh, half a century, you can drive the new Cadillac you bought with your social security money down to the doctor and have him deal with your absolutely critical life threatening case of the sniffles.
Medicaid, on the other hand, is covered in Title XIX of the Social Security Act, also known as the steal more hard working dollars act. Instead of bailing out old farts, this one bails out low income families, primarily. This means that if you think nirvana can be found by sitting in a trailer, drinking beer, watching Jerry Springer, and cranking out two kids a year: Fear not. The American Taxpayers will provide you the best medical care on the planet.
Fortunately, although Medicaid does end up shoveling bucketloads of cash towards "the needy", there are certain requirements to meet in order to receive assistance. Just being lazy and preferring to sit on your ass won't cut it. But, if you're in the process of cranking out a kid, or have cranked one out within the last six years, you're on easy street.
So, in summary: Unless you have chosen to live in a gutter, because flipping burgers at McD's is just too demeaning a job for a person of your stature, you can afford the best health care on the planet.
In other systems, such as the one implemented in Canada, Britain and elsewhere, the government simply steals more money from the people who do work, and shovels it into a bureaucratic nightmare of "management" and "administration" process, which at some point in time doles about a third of it back into the health care industry. However, as nobody is really given any incentive to achieve (C$70k a year versus US$250k+ a year, which would you choose?), most health care providers working in such systems either don't give a damn (poor quality), or leave (and come here).
Combine that with the "hey, it doesn't cost me anything" mindset, and you have everyone and their sister running to the doctor the second they get a paper cut or a case of the sniffles. Hence the year long wait for major medical procedures.
In conclusion then: I pay around $250 a month for the best health care that is to be had. I can walk into any doctor's office, any specialist, any hospital, and get any type of care I ask for immediately. CT scan? Right this way. MRI? No problem. X-rays? Dime a dozen. Surgery? Might have to wait a day or two, at most. And moreover, I only have to pay for my needs (excluding what social security steals). I'm not pre-paying my health care. I'm not paying for anyone else. I'm being responsible for my needs because they are my needs.
In Canada, I'd pay around $150 a month for complete crap that I'd have to wait months on end to get, assuming I was not simply told "sorry, they only do that in the US". (And yes, I have lived in Canada, and I have been told exactly that on many occasions.)
The morally superior, pedantic whining some Canucks spew at me about how they're taking care of the poor and oh so much better people because of it never ceases to raise my bile. First, I realize that not all Canucks are complete idiots. I know several people who live in that unfortunate land of socialism and corruption, and consider them all good friends. However, for every one who isn't a complete twit, there's a few dozen who are, and to those people I have but one thing to say: Get over it. Our way works better. You can hash numbers and try to influence fact with feeling all you want, but at the end of the day, it's bigger, better, faster and brighter on this side of the border, and whining about it isn't going to change it.
UPDATE: To address the continued stream of nittering: This is my blog. Whether or not I decide to approve comments has nothing to do with censorship or freedom of speach. That applies to government action related to public speach by Americans. It most certainly doesn't apply to whining nitwits who think they have a god given right to use my resources to whine.
If you have something intelligent to say that isn't a cut and paste argument from some socialist web site or fabricated poll, I'll probably approve it. If you don't, I won't. Simple enough, right?
UPDATE: Brian has a great example of the exact mindset of the people sending me nasty emails.
posted by Mr. Lion | 04/25/05 @ 11:55 | comments (9)