The federal government is once again considering instituting a national health care plan, something first proposed by President Teddy Roosevelt more than a century ago. The problem is that many Americans are scared of getting dreaded “socialized medicine.” You know, like they have in Canada, where people have to wait for weeks to see a doctor, unless it’s an emergency. I can relate to that, having recently waited for four weeks to see a specialist for a knee injury and another two weeks for the MRI results. And that was under the current American health system!
So what’s going on here? When I was born in 1943, millions of Americans were in the armed services, subject to military health care. I don’t recall any complaints about how during World War II our soldiers and sailors, marines and air crews had to endure government-run “socialized medicine.” When I served in the Army in the early 1960s in Vietnam and stateside, I don’t recall any horror stories of soldiers being subjected to “socialized medicine.” For all the complaints about sometimes horrific problems at Veterans Administration hospitals, veterans’ groups have continually demanded that the government-run system be improved, not abolished.
I don’t recall anyone moaning that they dread Medicare, the government health care program that every American qualifies for when they retire and go on Social Security. Meanwhile, horror stories about families bankrupted by medical bills under the privately run HMO system have appeared in newspapers and magazines and TV reports for years.
No doubt Medicare, and any expanded national health care plan, will have glitches. But I’m dubious that it can top many of my nightmarish experiences with the non-governmental health care system. Besides recently waiting more than a month for treatment of a painful knee injury, I’ve previously waited in emergency rooms in utter agony—after dropping a filing cabinet on my foot, from kidney stones (twice)—so long to see a doctor that I wished I could have run to Canada for relief.
During a previous round in the long-running debate over health care, Bill Bradley, a senator from New Jersey at the time, suggested a simple, yet profound reform—give every American access to the same health care plan that members of Congress enjoy. Bet the naysayers in Congress don’t call what they’ve got “socialized medicine.”