|By Cem Hacioglu
Opinions expressed in these columns are the individual authors’ views and do not necessarily represent the Ten Thousand Turks Campaign’s positions.
Posted on January 30, 2021
Capitalism’s Unlikely Best Friend
While I wholeheartedly believe that providing basic healthcare to all Americans is a moral imperative for the richest nation in the history of mankind, it is also a practical necessity for the unbridled growth of the American economy and the preservation of its way of life. Many speak of providing healthcare to all Americans as a basic tenet of a decent and just society, a sentiment with which I fully agree, yet few appreciate and consider the negative implications of not doing so. I believe understanding the consequences of not offering a basic healthcare option to its most needy citizens is critically important for both Democrats and Republicans in formulating an optimal healthcare system for the nation.
A public option is a bundle of basic healthcare services that are provided at either very low cost or free of charge. These include basic healthcare services such as annual checkups, non-emergency doctor visits, and non-elective and medically necessary surgeries. These are, in essence, services you would want your friends or family members to have without which the quality, if not the existence of, their lives would be severely affected. No human being should be denied access to such basic care in America in 2021.
A public option is not a socialist idea or a communist ploy to redistribute wealth; it is not even “socialized medicine.” A well-designed and run public healthcare option actually represents the best of capitalism without its unintended negative consequences. Truly healthy capitalism flourishes when everyone feels that the system works for them. Every time America has taken a major step towards creating a more inclusive society, whether through the FDR’s New Deal or Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the results have been nothing sort of astounding!
A more affordable and widely accessible healthcare system is not an impediment to the success of private enterprise. Actual data suggests just the opposite. In the chart below, the purple line at the bottom of the chart shows the performance of the S&P 500 index while the others denote the performances of Anthem, United Healthcare and Humana, three of the largest private health insurance companies in the Unites States.
Considering that the Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010, it is impossible to argue that the private healthcare companies have been negatively affected by the ACA which was maligned as the worst thing that could have happened to the US healthcare system.
A public option supports the formation of a more efficient and effective healthcare system, one of the most critical catalysts for economic growth and prosperity and would result in much greater productivity gains for the US economy than it would cost. Human beings worrying about their own health and, more importantly, the health of their children simply cannot be as productive as those who feel secure in the knowledge that, if they or members of their family get sick or injured, they would receive basic healthcare care without going bankrupt.
Healthcare is a necessity, not a luxury good. As it is, most people don’t choose to go to a doctor even when they have perfectly good health insurance and seek medical care only when they really need it. Doing so usually implies taking time off from work and, often, missing a part of their paycheck. Those in lower income brackets feel this pain even more because they can ill-afford to give up even a portion of their income without which they simply can’t make ends meet. As a result, conditions that can be treated easily and cost-effectively with early detection turn into costly medical nightmares with tragic personal and systemic consequences.
Providing basic healthcare to everyone engenders a greater sense of loyalty and belonging among the members of a community who look after one another while creating an added incentive for adhering to law and order. A person’s propensity to follow societal rules and regulations decreases when they worry about the health and well-being of their family members, particularly their children. What would you not be willing to do to make your sick son feel better again? What law would you not be willing to break to save your daughter’s life?
Lack of basic healthcare stifles creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. The prospect of becoming ill scares countless bright minds from chasing their own American dream and prevents them from starting new businesses which could generate millions of well-paying jobs, cure deadly diseases, and enhance our lives in unimaginable ways. The true cost of curbing American ingenuity is tragically greater than any amount it would cost to create a reasonable public option.
A public option is not subtractive in a zero-sum game as it does not take anything away from the private healthcare that exists for those who are fortunate enough to afford it. The only impact a public option would have on the current private healthcare system is to provide much needed competition for healthcare providers and force them to reduce cost and increase care which would benefit everyone. Afterall, does a system that crumbles in the face of competition from a basic offering really deserve to continue as is?
The existence of a public option would also reduce the reliance by many on costly ER use as the primary healthcare disbursement mechanism which distorts the intended purpose and application of emergency medicine. By making available basic preventive care to everyone, we, as a society, can achieve a higher degree of inexpensive and effective healthcare versus the current system of expensive and suboptimal “sick-care.”
The nation that vociferates the ideals of democracy and human rights all over the world, and is willing to wage war in far corners of the planet to defend those ideals at the expense of the lives of her sons and daughters, should not shy away from taking care of its own citizens here at home. Being a shining city on a hill starts at home by making sure that our fellow citizens don’t have to choose between food and medicine. Even those who do not feel it is a moral imperative to provide basic healthcare to the fellow humans who contribute to this amazing country we all share, should recognize that not doing so would result in the degradation of the American way of life as we know it.
Cem Hacioglu, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and MIT Sloan School of Management, is the President & CEO of West Africa LNG Group, an alternative energy company developing affordable and environmentally sustainable energy solutions for West Africa. He resides in Westlake Village, California.