Healthcare Is A Right – Private Insurers Need to Back Off

24/07/2019

Yesterday, NIB boss (Mark Fitzgibbon) said that the government should scrap Medicare. Not a surprising call from the head of a private health insurance company, and one that has been slowly in the works for the last few years anyway. But such a blatant attack on our public healthcare system is exactly why we should not be abolishing it.

This is what Fitzgibbon had to say about it:

“(The) sensible policy approach would be to make private health insurance compulsory for all Australians with taxation devoted to subsidising the premiums for those who would otherwise be left behind.”

Now, call me anti-capitalist, but I don’t feel that our tax dollars should go towards subsidising the profits of the private health sector – we already do that to prop them up, just like we do with the fossil fuel industry. I have a few reasons for that, not least being the abysmal cover they give in an increasingly deregulated market. For one, I believe healthcare is a right, not something that should be turned into a business opportunity. If someone needs medical care of any kind, they should freely be able to access it.

The US’ healthcare system should be a massive warning against the privatisation of public services. Even the most corporate country in the world is edging towards a Medicare for all plan, introduced first by Bernie Sanders and now by the ‘Squad’ (as the 4 Congresswomen despised by Republicans and Democratic Party leadership alike are being referred to). It has a lot of popular support from the people – the public. Not businesses though, with private healthcare and Big Pharma raking in billions of dollars and buying elections.

The Americanisation of Australia grows with each passing year the Coalition is in power, but they cannot be allowed to sell the health of our people for corporate profits. The “government monopoly” on healthcare that Fitzgibbon decries is in fact the dying remains of the public system. If Medicare was funded properly, and the private sector wasn’t subsidised, then there is no reason why every single person could not have universal coverage and access when they need it.

If we were to adopt Fitzgibbon’s vision, then we would all be paying taxes that go towards subsidising a service we then have to pay to receive anyway. As we have seen in other countries – like some of the Scandinavian ones – people are happier to pay a bit more in taxes, under the provision those taxes go towards services that benefit the public. Healthcare, infrastructure/housing, public transport, welfare, etc. are better served in a public framework as the focus is on the quality of the service in question. When a service is privatised, it is profit and metrics that take centre stage.

Sadly, even with all the evidence around, our current government will happily comply with the demands of their corporate puppeteers, even if slowly (as they have been doing since Abbott).

 

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