An Open Letter To Representative Ted Yoho (R-FL)

How can we afford privatized medicine? Where's the money come from?

Dear Representative Yoho:

I'm not one of your constituents. I don't live in Florida. So I'm not sending this to your office, as it's not your job to represent my interests in particular. I'm instead making a public appeal to you, as a public figure, in the hopes that it might reach you or any of your like-minded colleagues who may have had their perspectives on the role of government in healthcare broadened by current world events. 

I read with interest on Twitter that common sense has overcome your suspicion of anything "socialist" in order to recognize the overwhelming public interest in public funding for Coronavirus testing and treatment.

I'm very pleased that you've come to this point.

 Now, you said "You can look at it as socialized medicine, but in the face of an outbreak, a pandemic, what’s your options?” Let me ask you, though: what if there were could be a way that we didn't have to face an outbreak of these proportions in the first place? 

What if there was a way we could have avoided the worst of what's happened and even more, what is yet to come? You can look at it as socialized medicine, but the best way to prevent a pandemic or at least blunt its impact is to spend public funding to ensure that everybody has access to regular check-ups, diagnostic screenings, immunizations, and treatment.

Now, I know what you're thinking. "How will we pay for it?" Let me ask you this, though: how do we pay for not having it? Even before the advent of COVID-19, the United States of America — the wealthiest and most powerful nation on the face of the earth — has been trapped in an ongoing health crisis, and the biggest factor is we don't know how to pay for it. We don't know how to pay for non-socialized medicine. 

We spend and we spend our own money for premiums and co-pays and prescriptions and out-of-pocket costs, and we spend tax money for inefficient piecemeal subsidies and administratively burdensome means-testing. When we go to the hospital we spend extra to pay the unpaid emergency room bills of the indigent who couldn't afford preventative care until they were forced to seek more expensive and less effective emergency measures. 

We pay in lost productivity and lost jobs and lost cars and lost homes because people don't have sick time and they work through pain and infection until they collapse and they get sent home and they lose their jobs and then they lose everything else. We pay in the drain on our economy caused by medical bankruptcies and the spiral of foreclosed homes and repossessed cars. We pay in the toll of anxiety and uncertainty that comes from people knowing they are one doctor's bill away from disaster. We pay in the fact that we all have to work a de facto second job of figuring out our coverage and our responsibilities.

We pay so much, and what do we get? The worst health care in the industrialized world. We have worse outcomes than our neighbors and rivals. We wait months to see doctors. We ration life-saving medicine, if we can get it all. 

What do you fear from socialized medicine, Representative? Lines? Wait times? Shortages? Death panels? 

We have them. We have all of them.

You might not have to deal with them, but your constituents do. 

"But do you want an un-elected bureaucrat getting between you and your doctor?" you might ask.

We have that, too. Those un-elected bureaucrats work for health insurance companies whose highest fiduciary duty is to their shareholders. Their mission under the current system is to take as much of our money as they can extract from us and pay out as little as they can get away with. It's a perfect example of the vaunted free market efficiency we hear so much about: they are terribly efficient about generating profits with very little waste.

Except from their point of view, health care is waste. The service we're paying them for is the friction that they're trying to grease away.

If we replaced that with a public agency, the new un-elected bureaucrats would work for us. Their highest aim would be to promote the common welfare. The lack of a profit motive would mean the care would be more efficient: the money we put in would go towards providing medical services, not shareholder value.

"But the money simply isn't there," you might say.

Except it is. We are all of us, collectively, paying more per capita for health care than any other country on the face of this planet, and we're getting less in return. Socialized medicine would cost us less than what we're doing now, which by definition means the money is there.

Now, I'm sure you know more about free market economics than I do, but if you find you can't support socialized medicine I think perhaps you should explain why on earth we the people of these United States would continue to take a deal where we pay more and get less and turn up our nose at one where we pay less and get more? I think the invisible hand of the free market dictates that we should be moving to socialized medicine. It will make us a healthier nation, a stronger nation, and a more prosperous nation.

"But what about the socialism? Bread lines and gulags and Stailnism and so forth?"

Other countries have socialized medicine and still have capitalistic free market economies. I haven't heard of any gulags in Denmark or Canada or Japan or the United Kingdom, for instance. Have you?

If anything, the market becomes more free when we use public money to take care of public goods. Do you know how deformed the job market is by our private insurance system? In a free market, people would be free to take jobs or leave them based on the conditions they're being offered, creating a sort of negotiation where the best employers are rewarded with the best people. That's the way it's supposed to work, right? 

But under our current system one of the conditions on the table is life-saving healthcare. We need it. We can't afford to live without it (even if we can frequently barely afford to live with it.) Imagine how much weight that gives to the employers in any kind of negotiation.

People need employment and they need healthcare. The fact that the two are tied together in our current system means we the people can't afford to negotiate strenuously on our own behalf when it comes to either employment or healthcare. So people get stuck in dead-end jobs because we can't afford to lose our insurance and they get stuck with cut-throat insurance because they get it through their jobs. The Affordable Care Act has mitigated that slightly, but it's another piecemeal solution, and some people (I'm not naming names or pointing fingers here) have been taking pieces out of it since before it was even passed.

What we are doing now isn't working. We can't afford it. The money isn't there. Individuals and families are going bankrupt, there's a massive ongoing drain on the economy, the free market is being bent way out of shape by a bunch of artificial structures we've grafted onto it in order to support an "industry" that doesn't actually produce anything. We have the most expensive health care in the world and we're still dying of preventable illnesses, going into work while sick with communicable diseases, and working ourselves to death to avoid medical debt and bankruptcy.

I submit to you that it's not fiscally responsible nor is it sustainable for things to continue this way. It's just not possible. The money's not there, and we're all paying the price. 

The time is ripe for someone on the right to step forward and support universal healthcare. You can look at it as socialized medicine, but it's the medicine the people of this country need and the treatment the free market needs. 

Just imagine if all of the time and energy we pour into complicated and punitive healthcare financing were freed up to pursue more profitable enterprises. Just imagine if the money that goes into the wasteful system were instead freed up to be spent buying goods and services, things of value that we want and need .Just imagine if people weren't tied down to working in specific jobs or living in specific states because that's the only way to get the exact coverage that they need. Think how much freer we could all be!

It could happen. You could be a part of it.

With your leadership on this issue, we could one day catch the an outbreak before it spreads, stop the next pandemic in its tracks. I know that seems impossible given the scope and spread of this one, but the United States is not a leader in healthcare technology for nothing. We're just paying too much to get too little from it, and it means we're punching below our weight on the world stage.

I know you believe in the greatness of this country.

Wouldn't you like to see it be great?


Alexandra Erin.