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Friday, August 29, 2014

'Socialize' New York's health system? Hmmm.

The Working Families Party is working overtime to bring “socialized medicine” to New York, arguing that we need a single-payer insurance system in which the government pays medical claims through “progressive taxes.”

I agree, in large part, with the WFP.

Before I get to that, though, I want to respectfully disagree with its use of the term “socialized medicine.” In a Jan. 12 fundraising letter, Bill Lipton, New York’s WFP director, described “actual socialized medicine” as “a Medicare-for-all-style, single-payer, everybody-in, nobody-out healthcare plan, with no premiums, no insurance company red tape, no big CEO pay and no profit.”

The trouble I have with the term “socialized medicine” is two-fold. One, socialized medicine conjures images of draconian, Soviet-era micromanagement from afar, brought to you by Big Brother, which is often the furthest thing from the truth when you look at so-called socialized medicine as it is practiced around the world.

Two, “socialized medicine” is an imprecise term. Paul Krugman, the 2008 Nobel Prize winner in economics and a Princeton University professor and New York Times columnist, points out in his best-selling book “The Conscience of a Liberal” (W.W. Norton & Company, 2009) that “socialized medicine” is cavalierly applied to Canada and countries across Western Europe, when none except Great Britain practices “actual socialized medicine.”

Canada and much of Western Europe, Krugman notes, have socialized insurance systems. That is, the government provides health insurance, while private doctors and nurses operate hospitals and clinics. Only in Great Britain does the government run the entire health care system, which it has since World War II, according to Krugman.

It’s not as though we don’t have socialized insurance in the U.S. It’s called Medicare and Medicaid. Sadly, however, it’s only available to those over age 65 and those who are extremely poor. If you’re in the middle –– age-wise or income-wise –– you’re out of luck.

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