There is a creeping, stealthy (some might say sinister) movement that just might change the face of health insurance in the United States. It will continue as long as we do not say its name aloud, like Lord What’s-His-Name at Hogwarts.
The not-so-well-hidden health policy revolution is the concept of opening Medicare or Medicaid to all people. A recent Atlantic article, “A Political Opening for Universal Health Care?” makes the scandalous assertion that the time may be ripe for this idea. Even Republicans might be supportive, as they make good on their promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
We dare not call this “universal health care” or “single payer system” because that will raise fears of socialism. One of my favorite bloggers summed it up well, “a single payer system is American as apple pie if you’re 65, but communism if you’re 64.”
Socialized medicine has long been painted as the enemy of innovation and improvement in medical care. Politicians and, perhaps a few lobbyists, stoke fears of socialized medicine by saying, “If no one can earn a profit on medical care, we will be shutting down research and development of new treatments and drugs! What if the drug that will save your grandmother’s life is being developed right now in a lab? You want your grandmother to die????” Thus, being a fan of equal, reasonable access to medical care makes you an ungrateful, cold-hearted person who would kill a close relative – one who gave you life itself, along with some lousy blueberry pies and weird birthday gifts too.
Since very few people will admit in public that they never really liked their grandmother, this redirection has the effect of ending all debate. If we want to keep these topic-terminators at bay, we need a new name for offering publicly funded health insurance to people. Here are a few ideas:
- Patriot Health
- Liberty For All Insurance
- Medicare Goes Wide
Even with a clever alias, the idea will meet strong resistance from several quarters – private insurers being a strong, well-funded one. (Remember the Harry and Louise ads?) The savvy lobbying efforts are likely to cloud the debate, so that we (still!) do not get to the heart of the issues. Rather, we shy away fearful of the socialist and communist labels.
One could argue that the health insurance financing models from other countries are more compassionate, more respectful of the ill, old, and frail than our capitalist version. But we will never get to this level of debate if naming the model’s name shuts down the discussion. Long live Lord What’s-His-Name!