July 21, 2009

The doctor is out to lunch

So Dr. Howard Dean tells us that we can't have the efficient and fair system of health care Europeans enjoy because the European system was "essentially destroyed during World War II" ("Doctor's Note," New York Times Magazine, July 9).

Ahem. World War II is long over, as is the post-war American boom when employers provided expanding benefits to their employees. After decades of seeing those benefits taken away and the cost of private health care skyrocket, it is not "crazy," as Dean asserts, to change to a public plan.

Canada's system was not destroyed during World War II, and they implemented a totally public plan. And in the U.S., private health care and insurance are not our only experience. Medicare is a successful single-payer insurance system, and the Veterans Administration is a successful government-run (socialized) health care system. Furthermore, the SCHIP program is a successful example of state-federal partnership -- much like what Canada's current system developed from -- to provide single-payer care to the children of working families.

It is crazy to pretend that these public plans don't already exist and to ignore not only the inefficiencies but also the horrors, even crimes, as many people experience it, of our private for-profit employment-based system. It is crazier still to dismiss out of hand the solution that every other civilized country in the world has established: a public health system by which we fairly share the costs of what we are all subject to.

Are American health needs somehow exceptional? Have we not "hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means ...? if you prick us, do we not bleed? ... if you poison us, do we not die?"