This is a test: State loudly and clearly the following two words: "Socialized Medicine!" Take your pulse. Slighted elevated?
Next, state loudly and clearly the words: "Corporatized Medicine!" Again, take your pulse. Returned to normal? Feel better? Good.
See how malleable the human psyche is? Now, try again. This time state loudly and clearly the following two words: "Universal Coverage!" Elevated pulse? Hint of anger? Images of collectivism, socialism?
Now, recite in a chant-like rhythm: "Long live Aetna, United Healthcare, Cigna, Blue Cross-Blue Shield, and My Favorite Group Health Plan!" Feel better? Good.
So, if you believe "socialized medicine" is bad and "corporatized medicine" is good, you are among the vast majority of Americans who remain confident that despite its clinical excesses, fiscal exploitation, and iatrogenic death toll, ours is the best healthcare system in the world. You are one of us; a product of our culture; a person who feels better about sending money to a corporation than to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
But in the end, does it make any difference? A caller to my senior legal helpline says it doesn't. Both, he asserts, funnel premiums through a wasteful bureaucracy en route to hospitals and physicians that overprescribe, overcut and overcharge. The caller, a 72-year-old Arizonan, called on behalf of his grandson, a recent college graduate who is 5-feet-eleven and weighs 360 pounds. He can't buy health insurance. "He is entering the workforce and plans to marry," said the grandfather. "You mean to tell me they can refuse to insure people simply because they are overweight. Is being fat a pre-existing condition?"
I advised that "obesity," standing alone, is not a legitimate "pre-existing condition" that justifies exclusion from the insurance market. However, increasingly, insurance companies exclude obese applicants because of their risk for diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. Corporatized medicine is profit-driven. Socialized medicine is democratized and safety-net driven. Americans prefer for-profit medicine.
I told the caller to have his grandson obtain three denials and seek coverage in the Arizona catastrophic health insurance group plan. Premiums will be two to three times greater than for a non-obese 25-year-old. Corporatized medicine is expensive; especially if you are on the heavy side of the health charts. Lose weight, save money.
(Pro bono legal information and advice is available to persons 55 and older through the USD Senior Legal Helpline, 1-800-747-1895; firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions solely the author's and not the University of South Dakota).