There has been a push in the US for quite some time now toward ‘privatization.’ This idea goes along with many American’s distaste for ‘large government.’ As most of you know, the government is often portrayed in our culture as inefficient, bloated, untrustworthy, inept, and more.
The push toward privatization is driven by the idea that the private sector can do just about everything better than the government. And so the healthcare system in this country is within the private sector. What this means is that many healthcare providers are for-profit organizations whose main job is to make money for their owners. Here’s a quote from the podcast above “When you think about hospitals (in the US), you have to remember they’re businesses.”
As I mentioned yesterday, I don’t believe we have real leadership in this country partly because the system we have set up for picking leaders is essentially a popularity contest. We get the most popular person, but not necessarily the best leader. Occasionally we get a leader who is also popular. But often we end up with someone popular, knows how to stay popular, but who is not a good leader.
So I feel we should ask ourselves, is it a system that is driven by maximizing profits going to deliver the best healthcare, both individually and collectively? Or is there something unique about the healthcare industry that makes it unique because the goods and services it provides are almost essential. Is there a reason that the rest of the industrialized world has public healthcare? Are we so sure that our system is the best?
So lets first ask what could be wrong with having our healthcare system run privately? Well, I’m not going to paint a black and white picture here as I tend to believe that there is truly good and bad in everything. While I think there must be some advantages to having a private healthcare system in this country, there may be some huge disadvantages that perhaps many have not considered until now. To look at this, we could ask about the one service that our government has never suggested privatizing, the military.
So, why don’t we privatize the military? If the private sector can do everything better, why not have an army made of mercenaries? I think it is because most of us recognize you can’t ask a private company to put out 748 billion annually in the hope that a war will break out that year, and they can get paid. No, the government must pay for the military every year in the chance that we may need to use it.
I think this is because the military’s roll in keeping us safe and happy is seen as too vital to farm-out to private industry. We also cannot wait for a war to break out and then build and train a military. Instead, the government must anticipate that there will occasionally be a need for the military and maintain military preparedness at all times, just in case. How much military preparedness, how much should we spend for it, etc. are all open to debate. But as far as I am aware, no one worth listening to is seriously suggesting getting rid of the military altogether.
Can you think of another area where the incentives to make money would prevent the private industry from doing what is best for the collective good without government oversight? Bingo, the environment. There is no real incentive for the private sector to refrain from doing things that may be harmful collectively other than governments creating ways to de-incentivize those behaviors.
Well, what about public health preparedness? Here’s another quote from the podcast I’ve linked to above “The public health threats are just as real as the military ones, and it takes a lot of planning and a lot of money to be prepared for them.”
So, private healthcare, public healthcare. Each likely come with some advantages and disadvantages. Yes, the government maybe all of the negative things it is accused of being, but we trust it with our military for a reason. And perhaps for the same reason, we should trust it with our healthcare system too? Food for thought.
-Douglas Johnson E-RYT 500, YACEP