One Small Lesson From The Socialist Who Won In Virginia About Healthcare

I’ll have more to say about this next week hopefully (kinda busy), and, no, the lesson isn’t Democrats should become socialists (though, as best as I can tell, socialism circa 2017 is slightly to the right of Hubert Humphrey on economic issues*). But Lee Carter, the Democratic candidate and unabashed socialist who beat the second most powerful Republican in the Virginia House of Delegates, makes an interesting point about what propelled him into politics in the first place (boldface mine):

It’s kind of a tale of two injuries. In the summer of 2009, while I was on active duty [in the Marines], I had a crate full of radios dropped on my leg. I went to medical, they stitched me up, I showed them my ID card, and that was the extent of the process. Then in the civilian workforce, in the summer of 2015, I got shocked and blew my back out pulling away from the lighting control panel I was working in. The experience was completely different.

I ended up fighting to get a doctor that would actually try to find out what the problem was, rather than just giving me pills and a bill. If you wonder why we have an opioid crisis in this country, that’s part of it. So it took me three months to find a doctor who wanted to do the hard work to diagnose me, and they ended up treating the problem with a ten-day course of cortisol. It was a very simple fix that got me back up on my feet after not being able to walk more than fifty feet at a time. Of course I had to pay out of pocket for it.

When I was able to work again, I called my former employer. They told me point blank, we have work but we don’t have any for you. The company was not comfortable with me on their job sites. Of course I had been trying to get workers’ compensation for nine months, eventually acting as my own attorney. And it shouldn’t be any surprise to Jacobin readers that companies don’t like workers who stand up for their rights. They cut me down to zero hours in retaliation against me for filing a claim.

Nothing makes workers more favorable to unions than realizing a union could have protected you. But the key point is about healthcare. What too often gets lost in the healthcare debate (which is really a health insurance debate) is this blog’s nostrum, “people have to like this crap.” We spend too much time arguing about the API, and not enough time arguing about the GUI.

When Carter had socialized medicine–that’s what military healthcare is–there was no muss, no fuss. No arguing with claims, no trying to figure out what he needed. But in the U.S. healthcare system, it’s a pain to use, and can deliver bad outcomes to boot. Just think how pissed off you have to be to run for office over this.

Regardless of whether the system we ultimately wind up with (hopefully, not after too much additional American Carnage) is single-payer or some hybrid, a critical point is that it has to be easy to use. Democrats forget that at their peril.

*Professed socialists could probably make far more headway in the Democratic Party if they tapped into lefty Democratic history, instead of portraying themselves as in opposition to it. Just saying.

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2 Responses to One Small Lesson From The Socialist Who Won In Virginia About Healthcare

  1. Humbert Humphrey? Damn… have not heard about him for a long time.

    Tom Leher:

  2. A. U. Contraire says:

    Generally agree. As someone who actually uses the individual insurance market, I’m starting to get annoyed with the Democrats for proclaiming how great Obamacare is working. My choice this year is to accept a 50% increase in premium from one provider or go without insurance. That’s it, literally. I’m paying a fortune for a policy that thankfully I almost never use, but, when I do, I find it difficult to find providers that accept it because it is changing on a yearly basis.

    It will cost me over $8000 this year to be completely healthy, and, if I can’t pay the premium next year, I will get zero credit for having paid in hundreds of thousands of dollars to insurance companies while I was relatively young and healthy. I’m just screwed. Obamacare is only working at present for those who are old and sick. Of course, the primary problem with Obamacare is that the Republicans will not let the mandate have any teeth. Hence, all their solutions are ass backwards to return to a system that only works for the healthy, which makes health insurance a pointless giveaway to insurance executives.

    I was surprised to learn that the true costs of most employer provided insurance isn’t any more favorable. Those costs are just hidden from the user, and it siphons revenue that could be used for salary and investment. HIding those costs has all sorts of bad externalities, one of which is that it allows providers to gouge their customers without much protest.

    Health insurance needs to be divorced from employer benefits. Most of the benefits of a single payer might be realized by forcing everyone to the exchanges with teeth in the mandate. I’m fine with a single payer but wonder how long that will take politically. This whole debate on getting useless insurance with ridiculous deductibles ignores the root problems of medical access and costs. Some of us don’t have decades to wait for something that actually works.

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