Is health care socialism?

Many people are upset because they think of national health care as socialism.  They can’t understand why everyone should be able to receive care when they need it, from a regular provider, instead of the Emergency Room.  To them, capitalism means treating the workers as a resource, to be exploited as much as possible.  The fact that the workers make it possible to create wealth seems irrelevant, not part of the equation.

These same people can understand spending money to keep plant and equipment in operating condition, investing in repairing something so that it will keep working.  When the line breaks down, getting it fixed as soon as possible is worth whatever it costs, because until it is fixed, no one can work.  But if the workers are sick, or injured so that they cannot work, taking care of them is different somehow.  It used to be that people who were injured on the job and could no longer work were fired, without any benefits or pay, to fend for themselves.  There were always more workers to replace them.

But today, most workers must be trained, sometimes for months, as well as being educated by the school system.  So there is an investment needed to bring new workers into the production system.  Keeping the workers who have been trained healthy is a worthwhile investment, which makes sense in terms of the capitalist viewpoint.  This is one of the reasons that health care packages were included as benefits of employment with many companies.

But the cost of providing those health care packages is rising rapidly, and health care benefits are one of the biggest cuts that employers seek when bargaining with unions, and new hires are often receiving less health care benefits than those of senior workers.  But companies in the United States are competing with companies in countries that provide national health insurance, so they have costs that those foreign companies do not.

Until we can view the population of the US as part and parcel to the production of wealth, we are likely to be less and less competitive, as health care costs hobble the profitability of American corporations.  We have to view taking care of the workers as keeping the methods of wealth production in good order, not as giving away wealth.  What we are doing right now is tantamount to letting our production lines crumble, our warehouses fall down.

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