Monday, June 28, 2010

Why Don't We Have Universal Healthcare?

I'm teaching a course this summer entitled "Law, Politics, and Inequality" and one of the main points I'm trying to get across to my students is that we could solve many crime, poverty, and various other issues surrounding inequality pretty easily, we just choose not to.

For example, we know that addiction treatment is pretty effective at reducing the number of drug users and we know that arresting people for possession is completely ineffective at reducing the number of drug users in our society. Yet we do a bunch of one of those things and pretty much ignore one of those things...

Or take poverty -- about 40% of all people living in poverty are children (a good fact to remember the next time you hear someone tell you poor people are poor because they're too lazy to get a job). Yet we spend preciously little on social services for children, and yet we outspend the rest of the world combined (and then some) on our military.

I could go on, but the point is we could solve a great deal of our social ills, we just choose not to for various reasons. But our failure to solve them is most assuredly not because we don't have any idea how to and definitely not because we don't have the resources.

With universal healthcare, the conservative response is always "How can we afford this?!?" as if guaranteeing all people healthcare will bankrupt our nation. Well, today the strib released its Minnesota 100 list of the top paid CEOs in the state.

Check out who's number one -- Stephen Hemsley of UnitedHealth Group Inc. This poor fellow only took home $101,959,866 in compensation this year (yes, that would be over 101 million dollars).

This is a perfect example of what I'm talking about -- we as a society could choose to spend 101 million dollars on healthcare for thousands of people or we could choose to give 101 millions dollars to one guy. This was not pre-ordained nor inevitable, it is a choice we as a society have made. A choice to keep millions of people without healthcare and keep a very, very small number of people in embarrassing riches.

But on the bright side, we could also theoretically choose to do something else someday...

1 comment:

Dad said...

Good post. Another point the wealthy like to make is that if we did not allow him to make 100 million our health care would not be the fine service it is today. If he were only to be allowed to make say 10 million, health care would just be a shambles.