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Patient Zero: Why Health Care for All, Via a Nationalized Single-payer System, Is a National Security Issue

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I'm certainly glad that the Supreme Court upheld the vast majority of the Affordable Care Act, although once again it is disconcerting to have an incredible amount of power in the hands of one person.  Usually that person is Justice Anthony Kennedy, but this time it was Chief Justice John Roberts who differed with the four 'liberal' Justices by upholding the Individual Mandate not via the Commerce Clause but by its theoretical virtue as a tax, which Congress of course has the power to levy.  I'm glad that the many good things in the law will remain on the books and it is unlikely that these changes are going anywhere anytime soon.  Say what you will about the overall popularity of 'Obamacare', the vast majority of citizens of all political stripes approve of most of the specific portions of the law (no more lifetime caps for benefits, no more denying children coverage for pre-existing conditions, no rescinding of coverage upon serious illness, the ability for young adults to stay on their parents' plans until 26, etc.).  So now that the Affordable Care Act is set in stone, the next step is the provision contained which allows individual states to choose how best to implement the law.  Vermont has already chosen to take the initiative of crafting what amounts to a Single-Payer health care system, and hopefully California may do so as well.  And that's precisely the road that each and every state should take as soon as possible.  I say this not for humanitarian reasons, not for economic reasons, but for national security reasons.

In short, I don't care if my taxes have to go up so that someone else can get access to medical care.  I don't care if said universal/nationalized health care system ends up covering the sick, the poor, and the downtrodden, nor even those huddled masses yearning to breathe free.  In short, I want every person who happens to be on American soil at any time to have access to health care if they so require it during said visit.  Yes, that means illegal immigrants too.  Why, you ask?  Is it the bleeding-heart liberal hippe in me that wants the government to be primarily responsible for 'the commons'?  No, well, yes, but the other reason is more practical and more important than that.  There may come a time when people on American soil get sick.  I don't mean a cold or even a long-term illness like cancer or diabetes.  No, I mean the kind of 'sick' you see in movies.  There will eventually be an epidemic of some kind on American soil, or at least the start of one.  Be it some mega-flu or something we've never even heard of, its statistically bound to happen sooner or later.  And when that time comes, the best chance to cap it early is to make sure it's discovered early.  But what if the first patient, or even the first several patients, decide to ignore that fever, that stomach ache, or those violent sweats because they don't have health insurance?  Or maybe the cost of their private health insurance deductible and/or co-pay is high enough that they think they can just work through it, unaware that what they have is a new and possibly lethal contagion?

Come what may, whatever burden universal health care might bring about, I want a would-be epidemic to be discovered at the earliest possible moment.  Be that infection be through natural infection or criminal/terrorist action, I damn-well want patient zero to seek medical attention at the first sign of illness.  When a major contagion hits America, I damn-well want the first victims to feel comfortable with having themselves examined by a medical professional sooner rather than later.  If the first patient is an illegal immigrant, I don't want them to wait to seek treatment.  If the first patient is a member of the 'working poor', I don't want them to wait to seek treatment because they are afraid of doctor bills.  Having a national health care system, which serves every person on American soil, makes it that much more likely that the first victims of a new infectious strain will seek treatment that much earlier.  On a selfish note, I don't want my chances of getting sick to be increased because my sick neighbor wasn't able to afford to see a physician.  The 'auto insurance vs. health insurance' conversation has always revolved around the idea that you can do me injury with your car and thus you should be insured for just such a situation.  But if I am sick and either can't afford medical care or am fearful of seeking medical care due to my residential status, I am putting you and all those around me at greater risk for infection.

Yes, there will be abuses of the system here and there. The incentive of government-sponsored medical care may even be an incentive for undocumented immigrants to make an attempt to cross the border. Yes, the full coverage of every American (legal or otherwise) will lead to more healthy people seeking medical treatment that they turn out not to need.  But better for Americans to potentially overuse and immigrants to possibly abuse an affordable health care system as opposed to holding off on possibly vital care because the system is not affordable.  And if that possibly vital care can prevent others, possibly countless others, from also falling ill and turning an outbreak into an epidemic or worse, than a nationalized, taxpayer-funded, single-payer health care system seems to be not just be the right thing to do on a humanitarian level, or the smart thing to do on an economic level, but a necessary thing to do as a matter of national security.

Now you can tell me why I'm wrong, unless I'm not, which I don't think I am.

Scott Mendelson

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