The twentieth century had some very powerful propaganda indeed. The prevalence of the despicable Gulag labor camps and the shocking acquiesce regarding them by the Russian public while, at the same time, revering Stalin as a heroic figure must rank as one of the most successful propaganda campaigns in history. Almost side by side, an even more significant and brutal propaganda campaign was unfolding in Germany with Hitler as the protagonist in the propaganda that made the Holocaust not only possible but also justifiable to the German people. It is unlikely that there will be deception to such a scale or with such devastating consequences in the twenty-first century, mostly because of the Internet and the connection it provides with the rest of the world. However, despite the burgeoning presence of the Internet in our lives, propaganda still exists, although in a much more subtle and cunning way than before.
The propaganda I am referring to is the debacle that is the health care system in the United States of America. It is being perpetrated not by the State, as was the case in the aforementioned campaigns, but by profit-hungry corporations. But as was the case with Russia and Germany in mid-twentieth-century, the entire world is watching the propaganda unfold with awe and disbelief (not to the same degree, of course) while the majority of the people in the USA dig in their heels in the belief that they are doing the right thing by repelling ‘socialist’ universal health care.
I happen to have worked as a health insurance agent in the great city of Chicago just after I graduated from college in 2007. As part of my job, I had to visit the notorious ghettos of ‘South Side Chicago’ to meet hardworking African-Americans and the west side of Chicago to meet Latinos that were equally as diligent in the way they went about work in order to put food on the table for their families. They were as American as any of the Hollywood stars that grace the silver screens around the world, or the relationship-problems-engulfed teen stars of TV shows such as ‘The Hills’ or ‘Gossip Girl’, or even the business tycoons such as Bill Gates and Donald Trump that epitomize the American Dream. Yet, these less glamorous working class Americans lacked one thing their celebrity counterparts did not even have to think about: health insurance.
It was a harrowing experience for me to constantly hear their stories about how they were still paying for an accident or illness they or their loved ones suffered a few years before, and as a consequence, had to cut back on simple luxuries such as cell phones, cars, food other than the most basic, clothes other than the most basic, let alone every other luxury that comes with the package that is the American Dream. Plus, they had to work more hours to cover the medical costs. Moreover, some that were ill or injured had decided to forgo treatment altogether in the fear that they would not be able to pay for rent and other basic necessities if they chose to treat themselves. And we are talking about Americans here, the citizens of the richest country in the world.
And what is the argument against providing universal health care for these aforementioned Americans? The most popular argument is that providing universal health care to all would jeopardize the quality of the American health care system. It is claimed that the US has the best hospitals, medical staff, and equipment in the world and that only those that are willing to pay for quality health care should be the ones that get it. Moreover, hardworking Americans should not be paying out of their pockets for those who might not work at all. And where does this argument come from? Well, from politicians who clearly have to cater to the interests of health insurance corporations that contribute large chunks to their campaign funds for reelection and election. As political debates are nationally televised and tuned into by the majority of the population, everyday Americans hear the persuasive speeches delivered by the politicians, who are in that position because of their oratory abilities, and adopt the stance themselves. While the Republican or Democrat politicians’ reason for repelling universal health care is due to their proven money-driven connection to health insurance companies, the reason for most Americans to do the same is because most actually believe in the presented arguments.
First and foremost, while it could be true that the most advanced equipments exist in some of the best hospitals in America, these equipments are still so expensive and the specialists that operate them so highly paid, that no more than five percent of the American Population could realistically afford such treatment, and that is stretching it. The fact that some famous international celebrities and world leaders choose to go to America for treatment is often touted as evidence of the superiority of the health care there. But what is not given consideration is that average Americans are nowhere near as rich or influential as those celebrities or leaders to get access to such a level of health care.
That the top medical facilities in America could be the best in the world does not extend to all the hospitals and clinics in the country. In fact, while the top facilities could be the best, the average medical facilities could actually be worse than most industrialized nations. And this is exactly what the World Health Organization discovered. In its comprehensive study of health care systems around the world, published in 2000, the independent and respectable organization ranked the US as 37 in terms of the quality of health care. It clearly lagged far behind all developed nations, most of which actually adopted a universal health care system, which was feared to bring down the quality of health care by American politicians. Even Colombia, a developing nation plagued by an incessant guerrilla insurgence, ranked higher than the richest country in the world.
In the same publication, what the US did rank number one in was the expenditure per capita for health care services. What this translates as is that Americans are paying the most for health care but in return getting care that is worse than all developed nations and even some developing nations. Yet, it seems, most Americans are still willing to pay more and more every year just to maintain an illusion that they are capable of receiving the kind of health care that only celebrities, multi-millionaire businessmen, and powerful politicians actually get. It does not make sense that a majority of Americans are willing to pay an exorbitant amount out of their pockets to preserve a system that might benefit the richest of the rich (and even that is not clear) but that makes them worse off than the rest of the developing nations, and yet, they will not even consider paying less than what they already are for a system that would not only help the desperately helpless hardworking blue-collar Americans but also make it much more affordable and less stressful to get medical treatment when they themselves need it.
This has to be the greatest propaganda of the twenty-first century thus far. Even a majority of ardent Christians, who believe passionately in the Bible and its request to ‘love thy neighbor’, have been made to believe that one should not help fellow hardworking Americans by consenting to universal health care in the belief that they will lose out a great privilege they have of quality health care, which has clearly been revealed to be an illusion.
After living in America for about seven years, I am now living in Australia, which is similar in many ways to America in terms of the cultural values its people possess and their tastes and preferences. The need to be independent and enterprising is as equally valued. The people of Australia also believe that they deserve the best in everything and could, perhaps, be even more patriotic than their American counterparts. Yet, there is a glaring difference between the two countries: one has a universal health care system, for both the poor and the rich, while the other relies solely on private health insurance for its people, or no health insurance at all in some cases. I do not mean to imply a superiority of one country over another by any means, but what I do wish to point out is that while two countries can be similar in so many ways, a simple dogma, pushed by profit-seeking corporations, can prevent one country from adopting an altruistic policy towards perhaps the most important aspect of human life, health.
It is unanimously agreed in the world (except America) that health care should be a right for all, and not a privilege for some, yet the American government is bent on stubbornly refusing to accept it, with a multi-billion-dollar industry of private health insurance set to lose if they do. In other words, profit-seeking corporations are preventing the American people from having what is widely considered to be a human right, in a country that was founded on the principals of liberty and justice for all. It just goes to show how dangerously powerful corporations can be and attention swiftly needs to shift to how to prevent powerful corporations from existing, not universal health care.
As much as universal health care is made out to be a monster in America, from my experience in Australia so far, I have never met anyone, rich or poor, who has complained about having to pay for it. Furthermore, I have not heard any major complaints about the quality of the health care they receive either, even from people who desire the best health care they can afford. The reason for this satisfaction with their health care system is that the health care system is paid for through the tax system and most barely even notice it. The general rate an Australian resident has to pay for universal health care (called medicare) is 1.5% of their taxable income. This is already significantly less than the proportion of the income of an average American that is dedicated to health insurance. And what the government has done to avoid overcrowding in public hospitals is that they have added a further condition that if an individual earns more than A$77,000 (approximately the same in USD) then they have to pay a surcharge of a further 1% of their taxable income, only if they do not have their own private health insurance. Therefore, it is a win-win situation for all as the poor and the majority of the population receive medical treatment without having to pay anything extra (those that earn less than about A$18,000 do not have to pay the medicare levy) and the rich will often choose to have private health insurance and can get the most expensive treatment if they choose to do so without any overcrowding problems.
As it can be seen, universal health care is not the monster that American politicians have made it out to be, and from what I can see having known both kinds of systems, the health care system is not only more effective under universal health care but everyone is much more satisfied with it, and of course it is the morally superior system. It is time for Americans to wake up and see the scam for what it really is: a propaganda by multi-billion-earning health insurance companies using politicians as puppets to keep earning those profits and even increase them every year. How much longer will you be fooled?