Sometime before the next election we need to get rid of the "socialized medicine" bogeyman. Kevin Drum addresses the question and provides a good answer:
In any case, the basic answer to "Is national healthcare socialist?" should always be no, not yes. We are not in favor of command economies, ownership of the means of production, or state control of doctors, and that's what most people think of when you say "socialist."
But of course no one ever asks the thoughtful question Kevin posed, "Is national healthcare socialist?" It might be more helpful to practice the more likely dialogue you'll have with, say, your brother-in-law at your Fourth of July cookout:
I'm don't want any of that "socialized medicine" they've got over in Europe!
Answer: I don't care what you call it—socialized medicine, universal healthcare, single-payer, etc., what it means is that everyone gets treated for what ails them. Period. Every other industrialized nation has it, and in not a single one do the citizens want to get rid of it.
But what about the problems? I hear there are long waiting lists in Britain.
Answer: For some elective procedures, yes. And there are scary stories about bad service from the NHS. But no one, no one, would rather scrap it than improve it. And in most other countries in Europe and elsewhere, there are no waiting lists and everyone is treated promptly. But they spend more than Britain is willing to.
Well, there you go! It costs too much, and would raise our taxes.
Answer: You are already paying for someone else's health care, with your taxes, with your consumer dollars, and with your exorbitant medical bills. In fact, health care in the U.S. costs much more per person than in any other country (while at the same time covering fewer people) precisely because we don't have "socialized medicine."
I won't be able to choose my doctor.
Answer: Millions of Americans now don't exactly choose their doctor. And no one is talking about limiting doctor choice any more than it is already. No two systems of "socialized medicine" are alike, and our system would be uniquely American. We'd be able to choose our provider, and not wait an inordinate amount of time for an appointment.
But poor people have medical care now. They just go to the emergency room!
Answer: When someone goes to the emergency room for flu symptoms, it's like firing up a 747 to take a trip across town.* Thousands of dollars of resources come to bear, resources that are necessary if you have a knife sticking out of your heart. For the flu, or any other non-emergency ailment, you need to go to a family doctor, and the uninsured do not have access to general practitioners who will keep their flu symptoms from becoming pneumonia at much less expense.
I'm still not going to vote for anyone who's in favor of "socialized medicine".
Answer: What about "socialized pensions"? We call it Social Security, but it works very well, as does "socialized medicine for retirees", which we call Medicare. All these government programs cover everyone, work well, have low overhead costs, and are by no means the hallmark of a socialized country. National healthcare would work the same way.
But we don't owe everyone health care when they get sick!
Why is it accepted that we "owe" children an education, but not health care? Either we're a civilized society that takes care of its citizens' basic needs or we're not. And employers—even big ones like GM—are getting tired of shouldering the administrative costs and responsibility of insuring Americans when other countries do that, at much lower costs, for them.
Okay, maybe we do need "socialized medicine" or whatever you call it. But it's a slippery slope, and next thing you know you're going to make me eat those tofu hotdogs!
They're actually quite good, and will keep your cholesterol levels down, but you're free to eat what you want. And to vote for who you want. Just don't lose your job, and then have a heart attack, because then you might go bankrupt trying to pay your medical bills. And Congress just made it harder to file for bankruptcy when your exorbitant medical bills have made it necessary to pick and choose which bills you will pay.
When's the next election? And where do I buy those tofu dogs anyway?
The next election is November 7. And you can get them at just about any supermarket now.
*(Analogy courtesy of Dr. Miles Nelson, former candidate for U.S. Congress and ER physician.)