Saturday, August 15, 2009

Health Care debate USA: the barbaric ideology of Individualism

The hysteria of the American individualist "Christian" right over Obama's health care plans is mind-boggling. By which I mean that it literally boggles the mind, overwhelming its capacity for a rational response, specifically because they dare to criticise the NHS when the USA has no health care for 46 million of its citizens - 15% of the total. This is barbaric, a scandal, and a negation of the claim of the USA to be a civilised, democratic country.

By "hysteria" I man the neurotic tendency to absolutise a debate. Sarah Palin calls the health proposals "evil". Rick Joyner, a "christian" minister, extends the necessary rationing implications in any healthcare system as being about euthanasia, and then extends this concept to a comparison with Hitler and Stalin - always ignoring the fact that the present US insurance based system condemns the uninsured to untreated illness and early death. Others describe universal healthcare plans as diabolical, that is, things of the Devil.

Is there any point in trying to reason with these people? In their totalist, black and white frame of reference, anything that does not fit in with their ideology is demonic, a threat, something to be resisted totaly. In this the American Right is at one with Osama bin Laden and his cohorts: anyone who deviates from their beliefs is absolutely anathema ("Christian" term) or Haram (Islamic term).

Individualism is the foundation of this species of thought. It is a term which is rarely used, possibly because it has seven syllables, as opposed to the four syllables of socialism, but individualism is the ideology of the Americans who are screaming at the town meetings on healthcare. The Wikipedia article is a good example of their approach, and a bad example of Wikipedia, since it is an expression of a dedicated Point of View, without the Criticism section which is normal for a Wikipedia article. Several times I have put in a line to the effect that the problem with Individualism is that humans are a social animal, and each time it has been removed bythe ideologues of individualism.

Individualists claim to be giving rights and freedom to the individual, but the healthcare debate shows that their definition of individual does not include all human beings, or even all citizens; it refers really to economically successful individuals who are able to prosper in a divergent economic system where the tendency is always for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer.

I find it difficult to write about the politics of health, partly because it is myday job, and partly because I spent a year writing a book about what makes people ill, showing that about one fifth of healthcare spending is devoted to treating illness caused by unnecessary conditions caused bybad political decisions, such as unemployment, povery, poor housing and pollution. That is another undiscussed elephant in the room.

As for Daniel Hannan, MEP for South East England, arguing that the NHS should not exist, I hope that the voters in the South East feel proud that they have elected such a man. The simplest way of assessing the depth and robustness of Hannan's thought is to ruminate on his endorsement of Iceland's economy, writing in the Spectator in 2004: "Icelanders are rolling in it, says Daniel Hannan". The "it" to which he refers is not a pile of dogshit, but money, in case there is any misunderstanding. Readers with a short attention span may need to be reminded that Iceland's banks were among the first to need to be bailed out by the people.

Cameron calls Hannan "eccentric", but in fact, Hannan is mainstream, but outspoken. People should be aware that the whole underlying trend of thinking by politicians and officials in Westminter is for the NHS to be restructured along the lines of the American model.

The best way I know of to deal with the sheer magnitude of the irrationality of the so-called public "debate" about US healthcare, not to mention the banks, is to place the palms of the hand on each side of the skull, sit down and utter low moaning sounds for about five minutes or until bored, and then to go and do something practical.


Hamster said...

My wife and I are in our 60’s
We are self employed
My wife has a pacemaker
I am in good health
We have Blue Shield
The most affordable policy we could find at our age was their PPO 4000/8000 plan
Our monthly premiums are $915 per month..
Our deductible is $4000 per year per person.
So basically we are “self insured” since we pay at least $15,000 per person per year for insurance premiums and health care before we can get a dime of help from Blue Shield.
I’ve tried everything I can think of to get our premiums down. Even looked into a small group plan.

It’s gotten to the point that we’ve started going abroad for medical care
For the past 4 years we’ve been saving up all our medical and dental problems and making a 3 week visit to a Thai hospital where the care is excellent and the cost…just a fraction of what I would have to pay out of pocket in the US. For example, last November I had an Endoscopic balloon dilation for a condition known as dysphagia. The specialist in the US said the operation would cost me $2500. (His bill for the 15 minute consultation was $250.) I decided to wait until I got to Thailand and had it done in at Chulalonkorn public hospital…cost $100 including biopsy, (all I needed for ID was my US passport. No questions asked!!)

Of course, to maximize our dollars we also had complete physicals…a battery of test that, I am told, would cost $2500 in the US (Thailand price $300) and had my teeth cleaned and a cavity filled

So, after the $800 airfare…I came out well ahead.

8 months later I am back home in America…a little less poor…and in great health.

If Obama’s health care plan doesn’t pass, most Americans like myself will be back at square one…no better off than before.

But you need not feel like a victim without options. There are many great foreign hospitals eager to take your money and provide the same medical care you get in the US…at a fraction of the cost.

My advice. If you can’t afford to pay what they charge at US hospitals, google “medical toursim”. India, Thailand, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand are all gearing up to provide great medical care at great prices

Anonymous said...

In the United States, wherever there is human suffering or human need, there is a profit to be made, and the corporations who make that profit are very proficient at purchasing politicians who will ensure that their profit remains sacrosanct. Those politicians are quite adept at manipulating public opinion, and the media machine of those politicians, Fox News, is one of the most successful propaganda outlets that has ever existed. Where else can people be manipulated into screaming against something that is ultimately in their best interest? We are the only industrialized nation where one illness could financially destroy you. Why do we allow this to happen, and why are those who have been bought by the Fox News machine shouting loudest and not being confronted?

Anonymous said...

The USA does need a fair healthcare programme to care for all sick people. And this will have to be done through taxes and contributions. But, dont copy anything that comes from the UK. With its own failing healthcare system, rising violent crime, rising unemployment, awful state pensions, poverty etc. Why did the last two Prime Ministers move asap to the USA, why would the majority of the population emigrate to the USA if it could get visas and afford the move. They dont want to live here and the USA is a better place, that is the only reason. The UK is in a mess, dont let them export it to the USA.

Anonymous said...

What happened to all the Flower Children of the 60s that were going to make a better world. They got greedy. In the 70s, 80s and 90s they voted for lower taxes, dog eat dog. Now they are getting older, they need the healthcare and the pensions they said they would pay for themselves, but not through taxes. You cant have a capitalistic tax system and socialist benefits.

DocRichard said...

Where do I start?
Best is where we agree: "The USA does need a fair healthcare programme to care for all sick people. And this will have to be done through taxes and contributions".

Agreed. "Don't copy anything that comes from the UK. With its own failing healthcare system, rising violent crime, rising unemployment, awful state pensions, poverty etc".

This kind of total, blanket dismissal is not helpful. Yes, there is plenty of things going on in the UK which are untoward, but we could make the case that a lot of them are imports from the USA. And we can point to failings in the USA also - like gun crime, and - er - your barbaric health care system.

Ironically, ideologues in the UK are trying to push us into a US-style health system (for ideological reasons) at the same time as sentient beings in the US are trying to transform their system into a humane and civilised system.

"Why did the last two Prime Ministers move asap to the USA"

If you are referring to Blair and Thatcher, (a) I was not aware thay they have moved to the USA, (b) if they have, it is probably because they are so disliked that they would be unable to walk the streets of their home towns without and escort, and (c) you are therefore more than welcome to them.

"Why would the majority of the population emigrate to the USA if it could get visas and afford the move".

Citation needed.

Thanks for commenting anyway