Socialized Medicine: An Outdated Pejorative

William T. Choctaw MD, JD | Health Musings

The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not provide universal health care!

The U.S. healthcare system is broken and needs to be fixed. Approximately 47 million Americans have no health insurance for themselves and their families. Lack of health insurance when illnesses arise is a common reason for families filing for bankruptcy.

The solution appears to be a single payer system that provides universal coverage. Universal healthcare can be defined as a single payer system with the government as either sole payer or payer and provider.

Government controlled healthcare already exists in our country. In the Veteran Administration hospitals, the government is both the payer and provider and in the Medicare and Medicaid programs the government is only the payer and private individuals are the providers. Nevertheless, those opposed to universal health insurance never call this care socialized medicine.

Yet, when political leaders discuss this option, the expression “socialized medicine” frequently enters the conversation. The term socialized medicine first appeared in the United States in the 1900's and at that time it had no negative connotation. However, by the 1930's as President Roosevelt proposed publicly operated health care, it was routinely used negatively by opponents of government sponsored medicine as a scare tactic or a pejorative so that the idea would be rejected without careful evaluation of its benefits.

However there appears to be a new approach in Washington. At a recent White House health summit, President Obama pledged to pass comprehensive health care this year. Obama said "There is always a reason not to do it. Now is exactly the time to deal with this problem".

If we are ever going to repair our broken health care system we need to clearly focus on the issues and move beyond outdated pejoratives. 

William T. Choctaw MD, JD  is a healthcare leadership expert, He lectures nationally on many medical legal issues for hospital medical staffs, hospital executives, and managers. He recently authored the book, “Avoiding Medical Malpractice: A Physician’s Guide to the Law.” Dr. Choctaw continues to practice general surgery in Southern California.

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