BERNARD COLUMN: Selfishness blocking progress

Published 11:30 am Thursday, December 15, 2022

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By Jack Bernard
Bernard is a retired  corporate executive

Yes, selfish. That is the only way to describe the continuing resistance to healthcare reforms, especially among our seniors.  

A decade ago, I was a County Commissioner in a middle Georgia county. I remember having breakfast with my congressman (a moderate Democrat) and a very vocal elderly man who was a decorated retired vet. This man said national health care insurance was socialist, unconstitutional and violated the “right to free commerce” (his words, not mine). He went on to say that government could not operate anything effectively and therefore could not run health care. He also stated he did not object to the truly needy getting health care so long as it did not affect his Medicare or his taxes. 

This veteran served his country. At some point, he was a true patriot. But is he now? Is he putting the needs of his fellow countrymen before his own? 

First of all, this veteran ignored the fact that our military is by definition “socialist.” It’s owned and operated by that ineffective Federal government that he complained about. Is our military ineffective? 

This man’s views would be laughable if they were not so pervasive in our society, especially among the elderly. How can anyone on Medicare, operated and funded by the federal government, believe the Constitution prohibits a national health insurance program?  Obviously, our current Medicare is national health insurance. But it is woefully incomplete and breaking down due to Medicare Advantage, run by self-interested for-profit insurance companies.   Plus, currently Medicare only covers those 65 and older. There is no magic in that number. About one-third of Americans retire earlier. Social Security begins at 62, if you choose, so it has no relevance there. It was simply a political choice to start Medicare coverage at 65. Whether we extend it to those younger than 65 is, likewise, a political choice. The correct moral answer to the health care reform question is obviously universal traditional Medicare, which has overhead expenses of 2% versus 12% marketing/administration expenses for private firms. The money saved would go to insure all Americans. 

We would have total freedom, choosing our doctors and hospitals (as opposed to Medicare Advantage, a PPO/HMO scheme). Physicians still would be independent. Our congressmen would get the same care that we do, which would assure that our care would be top-notch. 

How can any veteran believe our government cannot operate anything effectively? Would he rather we turn our armed forces over to Blackwater or another private contractor? Is our complex national defense less complicated than our health care insurance? In reality, the issue is not government taking over things. 

People like this man are simply selfish. Others can suffer, so long as you do not touch my national health insurance program. I deserve it, but you do not. You can have any program you want, so long as I do not have to pay for it. Otherwise, let the rabble suffer. Sounds like a modern day “let them eat cake.”