Last night I watched Sicko, Michael Moore’s documentary about our health-care system. A guy at the grassroots Health Care Organizing Kickoff meeting last weekend referenced it a few times, and since I missed it when it was in theaters, I got it at the New York Public Library. This required asking for it, receiving an email when it arrived at my local branch, strolling over, showing my library card, and walking out without paying any money. This is because the public library is a government-funded social program, allowing even unemployed people like me access to free information. It seems to work awfully well.
A block up from my library is my local fire department. They are a government-funded social program that seems to work awfully well.
Last weekend, a guy on my block had a very loud party late at night. I dialed 311 and a courteous government-paid employee took my noise complaint and dispatched a member of our socialized law enforcement department to quell the din. It worked awfully well.
I’d thought Sicko was going to be a diatribe about our lousy heath-care-if-you-can-afford-it system, and I was quite surprised to see that the majority of the film showed compassionate doctors and satisfied patients in France and the UK and Canada. When asked how much money care cost, they either laughed or looked befuddled and then responded, with polite horror, that they wouldn’t want to work or live in a system that allowed people to die if they couldn’t afford to pay.
Although it seems like yesterday, many years ago my beloved hometown switched from subway tokens to Metrocards. Lots of New Yorkers said that the change was too big; it wouldn’t work. We survived it quite well.
Today our entire nation is switching from analog TV to digital. I’m guessing we’ll survive it.
Socialized medicine, a one-payer plan, compassion for all human beings — whatever you want to call it, I have a sneaking suspicion we could survive it very well.
P.S. What if the fire department asked for a credit card before they would come put out a fire?
What if we got a bill from the police department after we were rescued from a mugging, and when we protested the amount, we were told "Well, you didn't have pre-approval; had you notified us ahead of time, we would have covered half the fee."
Now in that context, consider that when we call for an ambulance, we are then presented with a bill, and if we protest it, the insurance company, which requires preapproval, says ...