Sunday, October 4, 2009

Every Country You Wouldn't Mind Moving To

Proponents of the public option often point out that nearly every industrialized country has created a government-based policy to address the basic health needs of their population. This is hard to visualize -- which may be a reason that detractors of public option legislation barely ever mention the fact. But look at this:

(from this blog, which is the weirdest place I've ever been in my life, via reddit)

Knowing just a little bit about which countries are rich and which are poor, the map above basically shows that nations who have resources guarantee their citizens health insurance. Even some nations that don't necessarily have the resources -- India and Mexico, for example -- are working on a way to provide basic universal care. Now, not all these health care systems are top notch -- Japan's has had some problems during their long recession, and Russian hospitals are famously corrupt -- but none of these nations are seriously considering or have seriously considered giving up their universal health insurance.

I believe this is because the people in the blue countries above -- over a billion people, by my count -- understand that health insurance and the profit motive do not mix. Insurers who are responsible to their stockholders will always try to take more in premiums and give less in care -- exactly opposite to our interests as a nation and our individual benefit. This is why simple regulation of insurers won't decrease their ability to refuse insurance and care to the sick or needy -- if a company like GradMed has the resources and motivation to monitor the entire web looking for mentions of their brand, then they have plenty of resources and motivation to discover ways to get around government regulation. We end up in an arms race: a well-funded industry trying to outwit a less well-funded government agency. The insurers have been winning that fight for generations.

A public option would, for a small part of the population, change that equation. It would create an insurer whose responsibility was first to the people, and only to the people -- the voters that create and shape it are the same people that it is intended to serve. This is no big secret to the countries on the map above -- they all know this -- those who haven't created a system of universal health insurance haven't because they lack the resources to put such a system in place.

We've got those resources. What's stopping us? Industry lobbyists? Partisan bickering? Lack of political will among those who support real change?

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