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by Peter Moskos

March 11, 2011

Our Socialized Health Care

From Tom Scocca at Slate. The column is actually about the debt and David Brooks. Scocca questions whether the debt is really "the" central moral challenge of our time: "Maybe I was distracted and missed the day we let all the young black men back out of prison. (How are they doing? They must feel great now.)"

But I particularly like his part about socialized health care in America.
The awkward, mainly unspoken fact of our time is that America is a socialist country, or that Americans operate under the assumption that it is a socialist country. American socialism works the same way that our system of universal health care does--and we do have universal health care.

Here is how universal health care operates, as we currently practice it: if you are sick and dying in the street, and someone sees you and calls an ambulance, the ambulance is required by law to pick you up. The ambulance will take you to the hospital, which is required by law to treat you. (These procedures are not always followed, but--at present--the failure to follow them is still mostly seen as an outrage.)

The treatment may use up all the money you have, but even when the money is gone, treatment will continue. This approach to handling the illness of poor people is incoherent and irrationally expensive--the amount spent on ambulances alone is staggering--but it comes from a series of moral decisions. We do not believe people should be left to die without medical care.


[thanks to Alan I.]

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