Shocked, Shocked to Find Socialism in America

Article excerpt

The less some Americans know, the more strident and voluble they become. Take socialism. The wailing about it over healthcare reform proves my proposition.

Shrill critics menacingly brandish "socialism" to terrify the unthinking, forgetting - or willfully ignoring - that while the United States is capitalist, it's also hip deep in various modes of socialism.

Republicans apparently don't know that it was their beloved President Theodore Roosevelt who in 1912 proposed national health insurance for all.

Some American critics of socialized medicine cite nightmarish accounts of bungled medical treatment abroad, boasting that America has the best medical system in the world.

As a foreign correspondent, I lived in Britain, Germany, Israel, and the Soviet Union and did not discover any sapping of a nation's vital essences because the public enjoyed publicly funded national health insurance.

As a US citizen who lived more than two decades abroad, I found socialized national health insurance programs are often more compassionate and charitable than what I have seen with profit- driven, private insurance companies in the United States.

Some years ago my former wife took my sons on a driving tour of Britain and became involved in an accident. My elder son had a badly broken leg and was taken to a hospital for six weeks until his leg healed. Although I didn't live in Britain at the time, the British National Insurance system paid all his hospital and doctor bills. When I offered to reimburse the hospital, the British charitably declined and only charged me $35 for a crutch my son used to hobble aboard a plane home to America.

A decade ago, a federal report shocked the nation by suggesting that our modern medical system was one of the leading causes of death in America. It called for cutting the rates of medical mistakes in half within five years. But it's only gotten worse. Today, preventable medical injuries kill some 200,000 Americans each year.

Earlier this year, a friend entered a suburban Chicago hospital to have a gall bladder removed. The surgeon was scheduled to go on vacation immediately after finishing the operation. In the process of making a large incision, the doctor unknowingly nicked the lower intestine and punctured the aorta. My friend nearly bled to death before the surgeon discovered his error.

Where is the statistical evidence that private healthcare outperforms national health insurance programs? The United States ranks 37th on health outcomes, according to the World Health Organization, and it has one of the highest infant mortality rates among developed countries, suggesting that socialized medicine may afford better patient care in some situations. …