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What in the world?

Published 8:37pm Thursday, October 3, 2013

It has been interesting to see the rest of the world react to the federal government shutdown.

On the BBC World Service, one insightful segment was a correspondent’s personal take on the central issue in the shutdown, the American health care system, whose reform House Republicans are seeking to dismantle in return for granting the country permission to pay its bills.

Of visiting the doctor here, the reporter concluded that for the country with the world’s highest cost of health care, the décor was a little nicer, but — in his personal experience — the level of care worse than in his publicly funded native Britain.

Whilst living in New York, he said that while the doctor did not detect his dislocated knee, a freelance journalist friend died because she had no insurance so couldn’t afford the luxury of a misdiagnosis.

That is the fundamental reality of health care in America, and why it needs to be fixed. Facilities may be better appointed and the choice between providers greater, but the level of service — in my experience as well — is not better than in countries with public systems.

Having moved here from Australia, I have been asked frequently: “Australia has socialized health care, doesn’t it?”

Whilst I have always deflected the question out of courtesy, I’ll answer it now: If by socialism you mean a centralized government providing for citizens by taxing them, then yes.

But by the same logic, America also practices socialism: education, law enforcement, national security, sending satellites into space, collecting the trash, and ad infinitum. Why are folks happy to accept “socialism” after an intruder breaks into their home, but won’t abide it in the form of universal health care?

You can build yourself a Doomsday castle in the woods if you like, but I prefer civilization.

According to PBS Newshour, America spends $8,233 on health care per person every year, more than two-and-a-half times most other developed nations.

Market forces at work for the greater good, I suppose.

The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect, but it’s an improvement. In the eyes of the world, not just voters here, Republicans are acting like spoilt politicians who just lost an election and need to take their displeasure out on something.

They think that something is “Obamacare,” but in actual fact it’s America’s reputation as a sensible nation that pays its bills.

They blame Senate Democrats, but can you blame them for standing by legislation Congress passed and the Supreme Court ratified?

Did House Republicans seriously think they wouldn’t, or are they just out to vouchsafe their reelection with a populist act of sabotage? Either would be a serious miscalculation.

Even after the Affordable Care Act, health care here still requires fixing. But let’s be grownups about it.

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