As we did with the high court’s decision on the Arizona immigration law a couple of days ago, we have to work our way past the political aspects of today's health care ruling to consider the effect it will have on real people.
There was a story in this morning’s Washington Post about the circus of onlookers that had assembled in front of the Supreme Court building, waiting for the tablets to be handed down from the mountaintop. Among them were a Scottish couple, here on vacation. They weren’t even sure they were in front of the right building, but they wanted to witness the pageant.
When interviewed, they indicated how strange all this was to them, because back home, health care was a given. Sure, they paid Scottish and UK taxes, and sometimes they had to wait a little while for a procedure, but their medical expenses were covered top to bottom and never cost them a penny. What about all those taxes? They, too, were a given. You earned your salary, you paid the piper, and you moved on. No worries. It was the accepted price for peace of mind.
They had just visited their son, who lived in New York, and he’d had to be hospitalized for something. The cost was staggering. Never would have happened back in Scotland.
Now, take your pick: If you’re lucky enough to have a job, you can pay ever-increasing premiums for your employer-provided insurance, and get less-than-total coverage. Or if you’re self-employed, you can pay some astronomical amount for your health coverage. If you’re unemployed and broke, fuggedaboudit.
Or, you can blow off those premiums, pay a tax and have a huge psychological burden lifted off your shoulders forever. Now, there are some rugged individualists who say that that just isn’t the American Way, that the American Way requires a marketplace and a profit motive.
In this particular circumstance, I prefer the Scottish Way.
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