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Guest column | James Pettican

In health care, America is a fumbling follower

America is generally acknowledged to be the leader of the Free World. When it comes to health care though, we've become a fumbling follower.

We are still regarded as the world's No. 1 super power while, at the same time, millions of our citizens are without health care insurance. Our friends and allies must be raising their eyebrows now and then as time goes by.

How can this be, my cousins in England are wondering. They love their national health service. Friends in Canada have told us of the husband's hip replacement surgery not long ago. He waited only three weeks to have it and his only charge was for his room TV.

In our country, powerful foes are arrayed against us on the road to a single-payer system, duplicates of which are working and working well around the globe.

Insurance companies and the politicians in their thrall are our major enemies. Highly paid spreaders of misinformation play a big part, too.

In a sense, we are an information society. So much of it is coming at us all day long via TV, radio, print media, etc., that many of us turn it off and form opinions from the attack ads, which will reach their crescendo just before Election Day. We all dislike attack ads and say they are unfair but statistics show we still watch them and are influenced by them.

So-called government-run health care is denounced as socialism. Yet who should run the system, the government or profit-fixated insurance companies? We are told to bar the door against evil socialism; yet the facts are that socialism is already inside and working just fine. Our monthly Social Security payments are made on time, our mail is delivered, our food is government-inspected and Medicare works. So, maybe socialism isn't so evil after all.

Critics of socialism should spend some time in the Scandinavian countries. They are showcases of modern-day socialism in action. Yes, their taxes are on the high side, but our national debt is high because our taxes have always been too low. Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized, caring society, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once put it.

The health care reform law passed two years ago and now being scrutinized by the U.S. Supreme Court is not perfect. Compromises never are.

Eventually, we will quit compromising and dancing around the subject and enact universal health care. We will make it even better if we stop paying doctors on the basis of the procedures they order but instead, pay them for keeping us well.

In a few days, I will be 92 so I may not get to see the Promised Land. At least I already know what it will be like.

Retired journalist James Pettican lives in Palm Harbor.

In health care, America is a fumbling follower 04/07/12 [Last modified: Saturday, April 7, 2012 11:16am]

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