OK, here’s my theory: People will support health care reform when they can think of a way to work the system so they get more back than they pay in.
In fact, what they really want is a way to not pay anything in, but get lots back. That’s the ideal.
Which is why a public option in Congress has very little chance. The use of the word “public” makes people worried that they will be asked to pay for something. They don’t want to do that. They want all their medical care paid for, but they don’t want to pay anything for it.
Seriously, we have that system now, although it is not perfect because we do pay insurance “premiums,” which are taxes. But we kid ourselves into thinking that our premiums are less than what we can collect, so we pay them. This is a subpart of my theory that most Americans have no idea who really pays for medical care in this country (hint: it’s really all the American people) and they think that what the insurance they have now works out to is really a kind of bet against the insurance company.
No, seriously, they do. Look at all the people who brag about how little their premiums are under the current system. They get heart operations for $50,000, or joint replacements for $30,000, but brag that “all I had to pay was a $20 co-pay. My insurance is great!”
Then those people turn right around and say “Don’t put any damn public option in. I don’t want my money going to pay for someone else!” Usually they also say something about leaving their Medicare alone as well, but let’s not confuse the issue with facts. Really, they’re so untidy.
So, to summarize, the nation’s attitude toward health care can be summarized in two sentences: “It is OK if i can rig it so someone else’s money pays for my medical care — is this a great country or what?” and “There’s no way I’m going to pay for someone else’s medical care. What are you a socialist?”
What’s fascinating is that nobody, especially in Congress but also seemingly educated people in govenrment and industry, see any contradictionin those two statement. This makes one wonder if someone slipped LSD into the water supply, but more likely it is an indication, as I said at the start, that we are a country of people looking for ways to game the system so we get what we want and someone else pays.
There’s an old Russian proverb that was tossed around during the Soviet period that went “Russia must be the richest country on the planet because we’ve all been stealing from it for 70 years and there’s still something left to steal.”
The horrible truth is, of course, that we do all pay in the end, either in lost productivity or in higher insurance premiums as all those other costs are passed onto us anyway, or higher taxes or lost hospital care when the hospital we depended on went bust because so many people who used it really did find a way to game the system without paying enough in.
Health care reform will happen only if the nation decides to start paying for what it gets.
That means mandatory enrollment of everyone in the country into a single payer system that doesn’t have greedy corporate CEOs taking out huge hunks for their supposed efforts. Everyone pays in, everyone pays all the bills, end of story.
It won’t happen. Rather than be responsible, people would much rather think that they’re winning a bet with the insurance company when they get their $50,000 heart operation paid for by insurance. Where does the insurance company get the money? They don’t want to know, and they don’t care as long as it’s not from them.
It’s the American way.