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Prophet 451

Prophet 451's Journal
Prophet 451's Journal
April 7, 2012

These Things I Believe

- I BELIEVE that everyone has a right to decent healthcare, regardless of their income or social class.

- I BELIEVE that everyone deserves the right to a decent education, up to and including college. I BELIEVE in equality of opportunity, including the opportunity to return to education later in life.

- I BELIEVE that money brings power and with great power comes great responsibility. I BELIEVE that if you achieve great wealth, you have a responsibility to pay out some of it so someone else gets the chance to do the same. I BELIEVE that taxes are the price we pay for civilization.

- I BELIEVE that being gay is just one more variation in the human condition and as morally neutral as having green eyes or blonde hair. I BELIEVE that love is the joining of two souls and none of us have the right to get in the way of that.

- I BELIEVE that putting human rights to a vote sets a bloody dangerous precedent.

- I BELIEVE that no-one, not begger or king, president or pauper, is above being called to account for their wrongdoings. Fiat justitia, ruat caelum.

- I BELIEVE in a deity but my beliefs do not require you to believe them. I BELIEVE that life would be significantly easier if we just kept our beliefs between ourselves and our chosen deities. I also hope that your chosen faith (or lack thereof) brings you happiness and/or peace.

- I BELIEVE that something is wrong when the democratic republic jails more people than the communist dictatorship.

- I BELIEVE that once you have paid your debt to society, society should give you the chance to turn your life around.

- I BELIEVE that if you cannot work or cannot find work, society has a duty to provide for you. I BELIEVE that a humane society does not let it's citizens starve because of their misfortune.

- I BELIEVE that a just society would execute it's citizens only rarely for the most heinous of crimes and with absolute proof of guilt.

- I BELIEVE that justices should, well, administer justice.

- I BELIEVE that the law should be a protector of the weak, not a tool of the powerful.

- I BELIEVE that it is possible to be both a democracy and a republic.

- I DON'T BELIEVE in evolution. It would be like believing in the milkman. I just accept it.

- I BELIEVE that conservatism, as it currently stands, is detrimental to the USA.

- I BELIEVE that our planet is warming and human activity is the main cause. I BELIEVE we can overcome this obstacle.

- I BELIEVE in the capacity of human imagination and ingenuity to overcome any obstacle.

- I BELIEVE that the liklihood of failure is no excuse for giving up the fight.

- I BELIEVE that the search for truth is it's own justification.

- I BELIEVE in the power of one human spirit to change the world.

April 7, 2012

Here's a few numbers

Amount spent on the combination of Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance: aprox. $2.3 trillion annually and leaves 30-45 million uninsured.

NHS budget (in US dollars): Slightly over $2000 per citizen, per year. 0 uninsured.

Cost to cover entire US population under NHS model (disounting start-up costs): aprox. $600 billion.

Cost to cover entire US population under French model (accepted as world's best and disounting start-up costs): aprox. $900 billion.

Administrative overhead, private insurance: anything up to 30%

Administrative overhead, NHS: 6.8% (unionised staff with pensions and benefits)

There's also the fact that the insurance company is incentivised to reject your claim while the civil servant doesn't care either way, he gets paid the same regardless. Now, setting up a true, single-payer national healthcare program is a huge expense. But that expense means building hospitals and roads to connect them, buying ambulances and medical equipment with the knock-on effect in those industries, staffing those hospitals with not just doctors but nurses, receptionists, janitors, groundskeepers, maintenence staff, canteen staff and someone to run the newsstand. Yes, it's a lot of money but it satisfies Keynesian principles in that it actively creates jobs and puts money in people's pockets (construction at first, obviously). Those people then go out and spend that money, increasing demand and getting the whole system moving again. Plus, you get a shiney new healthcare system that you only have to pay the (quite modest) upkeep from then on. And the whole bloody mess of patchwork coverage and the drag on employers just disappears.

Now, don't misunderstand me. The NHS is by no means perfect and could be improved in several areas (although I don't trust our current government to do anything other than try and kill the old dear). But this is one area where the US coming to the game late could actually work to your advantage. Different nations have different ways of organising, administering and funding their healthcare systems. If the US is serious about true, universal, single-payer healthcare, it would be relatively easy to establish a commission to study the existing systems around the globe, taking the funding mechanism from this one and the drug approval mechanism from that one; mix-and-matching the best parts while avoiding those that don't work so well until you end up with something quite special and uniquely American.

April 1, 2012

I'm British and we love our NHS

The NHS isn't "free" because we pay taxes to support it (well, I did before I became disabled) and we bitch and moan about it because we're British. Bitching and moaning is what we do, it's virtually a national sport. But whenever someone proposes getting rid of the old dear, we shout them down and boot them out of office. We're furious right now because, having campaigned on the NHS being safe with them, the bastard scum Tories are introducing which may, many years from now, lead to privatisation (we're furious with the Tories for many other reasons as well, we are having a national nightmare of buyer's remorse). We had a mini-hate for Americans a few years back when your right-wing started lying about our NHS.

You can still buy private insurance here and some do. Sometimes, they want to skip the availability lists (which means they're often seen by an NHS doctor moonlighting in his free time), some want luxurious hospitals and brand-name drugs (the NHS tends toward functionally spartan and generics to keep costs down), some just want the status symbol. Some large companies offer it as a perk for their high-level employees. But my point is that the NHS provides a "backstop", a ground-floor of service for price and to compete with that, private insurance has to offer a better service for a decent price. Which I always thought was the essence of capitalism. There's a small fee to have a prescription filled (currently about $15) but the young, old and poor are exempt from that and it's main purpose is to stop you bugging your doctor with crap that only needs a couple of asprin.

Proper single-payer universal healthcare in the USA would also mean building things. Hospitals, roads to connect them, ambulances for them to use, medical equipment to fill the hospitals with. And then all those hospitals need staffing. Yes, that means doctors but it also means paramedics, janitors, groundskeepers, canteen staff, someone to staff the newstand, receptionists, maintenence staff and I'm sure I'm missing out loads of people there. Yes, it would cost a fortune to set up an American single-payer universal system but that money only needs to be spent once (you just have to pay the comparatively small upkeep), creates stacks of new jobs and you get a shiny new health system out of it.

I deal with the NHS every week. Because I'm disabled (for reasons of both physical and mental health), I see my doctor all the time. I chose my own doctor, the same guy I've seen since I was a student. I can usually get an appointment within a couple of days with my own doctor who knows me and knows my history and knows the massive amounts of drugs I'm on. I know him quite well and he's not making millionaire money but he has a nice upper-middle-class life. New car every few years, couple of holidays a year, that kind of life.

Finally, here's a few figures for you (all either from Wiki or the CIA World Sourcebook):
Amount spent by Americans on Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance: aprox. $2.3 trillion, aprox. 45 million uninsured

NHS budget per citizen (in dollars): aprox. $2000 per citizen, per year. 0 uninsured.

Amount it would take to cover entire US population under NHS model (discounting start-up costs): aprox. $600 billion.

Amount to cover entire US population under French model (rated as world's best): aprox. $900 billion

Average tax paid by an average Briton: 22% + aprox. 9% National Insurance (our version of Social Security)

Average NHS administration overhead: aprox. 6.8% (unionised staff with pensions and benefits)

March 20, 2012

It is 2012 and the Republicans are arguing about contraception

Maybe it's because I'm British but doesn't this blow anyone else's mind? We are twelve years into the twenty-first century and one of only two major political parties will nominate, for the most powerful position on earth, someone who has spent at least part of their campaign saying that women don't have a right to contraception.

We're down the rabbit hole now, folks. If they're arguing this, all formerly settled questions, everything, is now up for being debated again.

January 25, 2012

European-style welfare states are lovely!

Can someone explain to me why so many Americans seem to think a "European-style welfare state" is such a terrible thing? They seem to think that it's somehow cheating if there's no chance of someone starving. I live in a European-style welfare state here in England (at least, until the ConDems dismantle it but that's a seperate rant) and here's a couple of noteworthy things about it. Now, different European nations do things slightly differently but I'm English so I'm doing this about England.

- Healthcare is free at point of delivery. It's funded through general taxation. There is no such thing as a medical bankruptcy here. No-one ever has to skip healthcare for the sake of cost. There's a small fee for filling a prescription (about $15) that's mainly designed to stop you bugging your doctor with stupid stuff that only needs a couple of asprin but the poor, old and disabled are exempt from that. Is the NHS perfect? Hell no but it is better than the US system. We still have private insurers here and people still use them for all kinds of reasons. Some like luxury hospitals, some want to skip waiting lists (or, as they should be called, availability lists), some just want the status symbol but because the NHS provides a bottom level of service, private insurers have to offer a better service at a decent price. I always thought that was the essence of capitalism.

- Very few people starve or become homeless because they can't find a job. The system we have set up here keeps paying you unemployment benefits for as long as you're honestly looking for a job. Doesn't matter if it takes six months or five years, if you're making an honest effort to find work, you get unemployment benefits (which aren't much but enough to keep body and soul together). If the only work you can find pays a pittance, the system will make up the difference between that and unemployment benefits.

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About Prophet 451

Opinionated Englishman.
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