By F. Douglas Stephenson, LCSW, BCD
The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun, March 3, 2015
Using manufactured scare tactics, the U.S. health insurance industry successfully lobbied Congress to enact a requirement that most non-elderly Americans become compulsory customers of the insurance industry and approve taxpayer financing of massive subsidies for the private insurance industry.
With establishment of the Affordable Care Act, Americans have been forced to purchase the product of a particular private industry plus the tax-financed subsidies for the insurance industry in the amount of a half-trillion dollars per decade.
U.S. health insurance companies continue to protect their high profits using scare tactics. One very effective tactic is to deliberately confuse the public by conflating the “socialized medicine” label with single-payer, “socialized (public) health insurance”.
Whatever the pros/cons of socialized medicine, national, single-payer health insurance is not socialized medicine. Socialized medicine is a system in which doctors and hospitals work for and draw salaries from the government. Health-care professionals in the U.S.Veterans Administration and the armed services are paid this way. The good health systems in Great Britain and in Spain are other examples.
Most European countries, Canada, Australia and Japan have socialized health insurance, not socialized medicine. The government pays for care that is delivered in the private (mostly not-for-profit) sector. This is similar to how Medicare works in this country. Doctors are in private practice and are paid on a fee-for-service basis from government funds. The government does not own or manage medical, mental health practices or hospitals.
The term “socialized medicine” is often used by the private insurance industry and politicians to manufacture frightening images of government bureaucratic interference in medical care. In countries with socialized health insurance, health and mental health professionals and patients often have more clinical freedom. This is in sharp contrast to the U.S., where private health insurance bureaucrats attempt to direct/interfere with care .
Manufactured confusion by the health insurance industry and their political spokesmen impede the public’s ability to differentiate, and so far have allowed the private health industry to successfully maintain control of the U.S. health care system for its own purposes.
F. Douglas Stephenson lives in Inglis and is former president of the Florida Society for Clinical Social Work.