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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
The state of Vermont has taken the first step towards bringing the United States back on par with the rest of the developed world:
“We gather here today to launch the first single-payer health care system in America,” began Shumlin, a Democrat who has been governor barely four months. “To do in Vermont what has taken too long: have a health care system, the best in the world, that treats health care as a right, and not a privilege.”
Moments later, the governor made history, signing a law that sets Vermont on a course to provide health care for all of its 620,000 citizens through a European-style single payer system called Green Mountain Care. Key components include containing costs by setting reimbursement rates for health care providers and streamlining administration into a single, state-managed system.
The necessity and practicality of creating a single-payer universal health care system is a common theme here, and it is wonderful to see the people of Vermont taking the initiative here. It may seem a small step, but it is an important and historic one; after all, we must begin somewhere.
The issue of universal health care is relatively straightforward, but a person’s stance on it speaks volumes about one’s character. The fact that, in our society, it is considered acceptable to obtain profit from the illness and suffering of another human being says perhaps all one needs to know about American-style capitalism: no matter what the consequences, if I can make a dollar everything is a-okay.
This past summer I was visiting my family after several years of being away. We had rented a small house in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire, and were playing a game which involved asking each other how we would respond to different morally complex situations. One such situation involved the creation of the cure for a notoriously lethal disease, and the question posited was thus: If you had created a medicine which provided the cure for, say, pancreatic cancer, would you distribute it at minimum cost to save as many people as possible, or would you set an artificially inflated price in order to maximize profits?
Now, think for a moment what this question actually entails. It asks more or less explicitly if you believe it is acceptable to make money at the cost of human lives. Under other circumstances, most people would likely say no. For instance, if I offered you $1,000 to look away while I shot someone in the face, most people would likely decline. But for some unfathomable reason, many – perhaps even most – Americans think it is perfectly acceptable to horde life-saving medicines in order to realize a profit of little scraps of paper that carry no real inherent value. What does that say about us as a nation? What kind of a society are we?
Something is absolutely wrong with America when such a state of affairs is not only acceptable, but openly encouraged. It is an open secret that the insurance and pharmaceutical industries invest millions – billions – of dollars in lobbying in Washington, in an overt attempt to influence the legislative process to ensure maximum profits. Those profits come at the very real cost of actual human lives, but no one seems to care. Practically everyone I know complains of extortionate insurance premiums and inconsistent coverage, yet very little people actually begrudge the industry for exercising their sacred “right” to earn a dollar. After all, if there were no financial reward to be had in healing the sick, why would anyone bother in the first place?
It seems Vermont alone has the right answer to this question.