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Universal Health Care

August, 2009; Boca News; Universal Health Care; by Barry Silver.

When I proposed universal health care twelve years ago as a freshman legislator, the idea seemed outlandish to many people, even though all other advanced industrialized societies have adopted this humanitarian measure. While conservatives decry socialized medicine, they have readily accepted socialism in other areas, such as socialized education for children, socialized medicine for seniors, socialized fire and police protection, and the most socialist-sounding of all, social security. Many conservatives lack the intellectual honesty required to admit that they embrace socialism in these other areas, and demonize those who promote universal health care as un-American.

To the contrary, universal health care is as American as apple pie. It is based on the principle, eloquently expressed in our Declaration of Independence, that all people are endowed with certain inalienable rights. Without access to health care due to poverty or other circumstances, a person has no chance to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the American dream is merely an illusion and for some, a nightmare.

In the past, conservatives opposed social security, medicare, child labor laws, protection of our air and drinking water, public education, and other progressive ideas that make our country the envy of the world. As our nation matures, we will also adopt universal health care, and once this has been achieved, the conservatives will claim it as their birthright, as they do with social security, medicare and public education.

Do conservatives really believe that if a child’s parents are too poor to afford health insurance, which is increasingly common in today’s economy, or if the child’s parents simply did not have the foresight to obtain health insurance, that the child should be permitted to die, or suffer from debilitating illness without medical care? And do they believe that if a person who has fought for this country and paid his taxes all his life, and is then afflicted with cancer, and can’t afford the large deductibles from chemotherapy or radiation treatments, that we should just let him die, or require him to sell everything he has and become homeless in order to pay for his medical bills, until his money runs out and then he should die? I would hope not. Most American conservatives claim to believe in Jesus, who would be appalled to hear the selfishness, greed, and lack of compassion for the poor that is hypocritically preached in his name.

Like President Obama’s personal physician, I oppose the President’s health care plan not because it is too liberal, but because it is not liberal enough. Other industrialized countries pay less per capita for their health care than we do, and get more for their money, with a single payer system. Seeking compromise, President Obama has backed off such a plan, and still proposes allowing health insurance companies to siphon off much of the health care budget, which would defeat the purpose of health care reform and eliminate its cost saving measures. They say that politics, like making sausage is not a pretty process. In the politics of health care, as with sausage, it is not only the process, but the end result as well, is unpleasant, often fatal and is definitely not kosher.

The conservative talk shows constantly discuss the people who will supposedly get less care under a universal system. Just once I would like to hear them interview just one of the millions of poor, or hard-working middle class people, who have worked hard and paid taxes all their lives, but have been wiped out financially under our present health care system, or who are unable to obtain critically needed medical attention for themselves or their children. By failing to mention such people, we are getting a very unfair and unbalanced view of this issue. If some in the media want to be partisan, that’s fine, but they should say so, rather than insulting our intelligence by claiming to be fair and balanced, while ignoring the plight of millions of uninsured Americans.

I am also saddened and amazed to see conservatives praise those who disrupt town hall meetings and shout down their opponents. These are the tactics of thugs and demagogues who seek to seize power by intimidation and force. The strength of our democracy comes from our ability to rationally discuss ideas, not to shout down our opposition. Let us hope that both sides of this debate will seek the truth, and not try to prevent the other side from being heard, as our country seeks solutions to the vexing problems which confront our nation.

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