Oil Changes and Twinkies

One of my very best friends recently shared his feelings about universal health care with me. His position was clear and succinct. He agreed that the current system was less than perfect, but felt that it was better than anything that the government could offer. As an example, offered up the Veteran’s Health Administration and it’s many failures.

He’s absolutely right about the VHA. My dad spent his last days in that quagmire of poor care and dismal support and died as a result. But that’s only one example of government involvement in American heath care. Having been intimately involved with my mother’s health for her last five years, I can say with certainty that Medicare is a much better run program than the VHA. While it has its problems too, when I compare the amount of frustration I’ve had with private carriers (Blue Cross, Met Life, United Heath Care) with the issues that my mom (read that as me) had with Medicare, the private carriers lose.

There’s a big difference between government run and government mandated and directed. The VHA is a single payer, government run system that is falling apart. Medicare is a single payer government MANDATED system that marries our existing private medical facilities with a government paid, private industry managed program. Despite cries of poverty by doctors and other medical providers, Medicare works well and could be duplicated to cover our uninsured friends and neighbors.

If we continue to allow the facilities to be run under the current management, continue to allow the current insurance carriers to service their existing customers but add to the system mechanisms which pull uninsured people under the same protective umbrella, then the job can be done. Currently, most of the uninsured wait until there is no option but the emergency room before they get care. That’s an expensive option that you and I pay for every time we use a medical facility or our medical insurance. TANSTAAFL (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch). If we can change that by making care available early, while it’s less expensive and more effective, then substantial savings can be realized. Those savings would go a long way towards funding the cost to insure those that need it.

I’m not naive enough to think that this is a no cost issue, but I think that enough of the cost can be mitigated to make the remainder bearable. The United States has the largest GNP of any single country in the world by a factor of three. The only consortium GNP that exceeds us is the TWENTY-SEVEN nation European Union. Despite that, we are the ONLY industrialized country that has 16% of the population with limited or no access to adequate medical care. That’s 45 million people at risk and constitutes a travesty. If we can afford to sink eighty billion dollars a year plus into a dismally executed war, then we can afford to put together a universal health system. Then, the roofer who just re-shingled my house, the guy who just changed my oil and the store clerk who just sold me a Twinkie can go to the doctor when they get the flu, see blood in their urine, need a mammogram or have a squeezing pressure in their chest.

When I was twenty-five years old, rode a bicycle thirty miles a day and was immortal, I felt differently. I’m older now, could bend a bike frame by leaning on it in the wrong spot and am acutely aware of my mortality. I also have friends at the same stage of life. Some of them have insurance, some don’t. All of them should have it and can if we have the will.

I like the guy who changes my oil and the young lady down at the convenience store. If they’re willing to share just a little of the cost, I’m willing to kick in to get them the same chance to stay healthy that I have. That’s not social entitlement; that’s being a good neighbor.

So, my friend was right and maybe a little wrong. The track record does say that our government can’t successfully operate a medical system. But, the book’s still open on whether it can specify and fund one that closes the holes in what we have now. We have to try. The option is to avoid making eye contact every time I stop in for an oil change. Been doing that for a while and I’m getting tired of looking at the floor.

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One Comment on “Oil Changes and Twinkies”

  1. Tom Says:

    Well said, as usual!


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