Adam Serwer in Mother Jones magazine (MotherJones.com) mentioned that in just about every political debate Mitt Romney is in, he gets confronted by his part in the implementation of the Massachusetts healthcare reform. This last time was when Rick Santorum accused the former governor of supporting a top-down government-run health care system. Romney’s response was the following:
“For the 8 percent of people who didn’t have insurance, we said to them, if you can afford insurance, buy it yourself, and one of the plans out there, you can choose any plan. There is no government plan, and if you don’t want to buy insurance, then you have to help pay of the cost of the state picking up your bill, because under federal law if someone doesn’t have insurance, then we have to care for them in the hospitals, give them free care. So we said, no more, no more free riders. We are insisting on personal responsibility. Either get the insurance or help pay for your care.”
All of this is just as easily said about Obamacare. Mitt Romney is in a sticky place. Every time that he explains why Romneycare is not socialism — he also explains why Obamacare is not socialism.
The odd thing is that every time he has used his argument, he gets applause from his conservative audience.
In any case when the government steps in to do a task that is poorly or not at all done by private industry, there is someone that will say, “Socialism, socialism!” Well, it isn’t. Not according to any definition that I have ever read.
Things were simpler during the time of the Roman Empire, but even then both under Rome when it was a democracy and under Rome when it was ruled by an emperor, the government always did what the individuals could not do for themselves. They built roads, they provided an army to defend the empire, they created money, they created laws so that everyone played by the same rules and, yes, they even had an HMO!
Now, the HMO might be a little difficult to understand so let’s take a look. Just like today, there were people who believed in the gods of the time (Zeus, Apollo, etc.), and those who didn’t. There were doctors who did understand how to treat certain illnesses and understood the limits of their knowledge.
For example: Digitalis is a plant also known as Foxgloves. It has been used in ancient times to treat heart failure and atrial fibrillation, and is still used today for these purposes. It works. The ancient Romans used it. It is not my purpose to discuss cardiac problems, other than to let you know that, in some ways, we have not come as far as we would like to believe.
So, just as today, the drugs worked for some and not for others. What do a lot of people do when all treatments have failed? They went to the temple and prayed to their god of choice. They did it 4000 years ago, 2000 years ago, and they do it today (the success rate over the past 4000 years has been roughly the same). So, the Temple was the healthcare unit of last resort.
What did the Romans do? They built Temples. Whenever they conquered a new territory they told the locals that they (the Romans) would build whatever temples were desired. When you look at some of the Greek ruins today, if they were temples, and built at the time of the Roman occupation, then, in all likelihood they were financed by the Romans. The only requirement was that the Romans would appoint the leader.
In at least one case it didn’t serve them very well. The Romans appointed Caiaphas as the high priest of The Temple in Jerusalem. He never got along very well with his fellow Jews. Some of you probably know the story of the run-in between Caiaphas and a delusional Rabbi.
So, indeed even at that time, governments did feel that they had a duty to the ill. The Romans, and before them, the Greeks built special “Healing Hospitals” which were essentially Temples. They built public water supplies, and sanitation systems, roads, etc. So, it is not at all unusual for the government to take over when individuals can’t do it on their own. This practice goes back far before there were such words as “socialistic”, “communistic”, etc. It has worked well so civilized nations continue the practice.
Currently, we, who like to believe that we are a civilized nation spend lots and lots on medical care, and our outcomes are not as good as most of the civilized world. One would think that maybe we need to get together and try something as a nation.