A few years back, my First-Responder partners went to a chest pain call and found a hunter sitting on the ground by the deer he’d shot. I was in my own stand at the time, so didn’t see the call. Yes us liberals hunt, too. We just hug a tree on the way to the stand and do some yoga when things are slow. Fair-trade coffee in the thermos and all that. Anyway, they gave him oxygen and carried him to the ambulance. They were about to follow it down the road, when they realized the guy’s deer was still half a mile back on the trail. So they hiked back in, dragged it out and brought it to his home. Full-Service EMS!

The last time I wrote you, it was about the gay marriage issue back in 2012. I’m real proud of you for defeating that foolish, time-wasting, expensive, amendment. You did the right thing in voting it down. The gay folk got their deserved benefits and the world went on, our super-duper hetero marriages still intact, and no one – as far as I can tell – began marrying farm animals. Minnesota is still fer great and everyone from the surrounding reddish states still appear to want to spend all their free time here. It’s with that in mind, I’d like to request a bit of trust in what I’m about to tell you this time around. Here we go:

I never want you to suffer from medical bills due to illness or injury. For this to happen, you and I need to get behind a single-payer system. If designed properly and not sabotaged, single-payer (like Medicare For All) will improve your life without limiting your choices. But you and I have been deluged by scary fliers and terrifying ads lately, screaming red-faced about the horrors of socialized medicine. So, let’s start by dispelling with that bullshit right now:

  1. Competition will give us the best system possible. Tell that to us in Bemidji where Sanford Health of Sioux Falls swaggered in like a drunken hedge-fund manager, bought up every nearby provider, raised prices, reduced benefits, squeezed primary care until they bled, micromanaged decisions, chased away doctors, turned in their employees to collections agencies, and managed health care like, well, like a business. The market has completely and utterly failed us. Do you see Mayo or Essentia or anyone else riding on a stallion into Bemidji to offer competition? No, you do not. We are under the thumb of one of the worst corporate entities I have ever known and the market could give a damn. And Sanford, if you’re listening, and  if you’re thinking of arguing these points through lobbyists, lawyers, or marketing folk, I formally challenge you to agree to an independent, third-party, survey of all your employees and patients. Give them room to respond at length. Publish the results. You and I know the results will be hair-raising. Go ahead. I triple dog dare you.
  2. You will wait a long time to see your doctor. Compared to what? When my wife worked for Sanford, she was booked out months for new patients. For current ones, it was four to six weeks. My doctor is currently booked out 3-4 months.
  3. Bureaucrats will make health care decisions for you. This is hilarious. Hey, here’s a question: How much do you trust the bureaucracies of, say, Verizon? Comcast? How about Wells Fargo? Yeah, same here. Well, guess what? Private insurance bureaucrats have been making decisions for you forever. They have set up layers and layers of bureaucracy with the purpose of confusing, obfuscating, and ultimately preventing you from receiving care (See Sicko, where one insurance whistleblower admits this, outright). Your doctor, right now, already spends an appalling time on the phone fighting with these bureaucrats on your behalf. Don’t believe me? Ask. Bureaucratic decisions in places with socialized medicine are driven by public health outcomes, not profit. They are not remotely in the same league.
  4. Government-run health care is more expensive and less efficient. This is measurable and this is wrong. Per capita single-payer systems are cheaper than private ones. Efficiencies of Medicare, Medicaid and the VA are significantly higher than in the private sector.

No bills. No pain. No worries. Life is grand for Richard.

I’ve seen first-hand how this works living abroad: You give them your health care card, you get seen, you go home. In some systems, the government covered 75% of costs while private supplemental insurance covered the rest. How would we do this here? Hey, we are smart, innovative people. We can figure this out! But beware the interest groups hovering over the pie with knives, ready to carve out the largest slice possible! This corruption is systemic and bipartisan. 

Here are two questions to ask fear-mongering politicians: First, “Is basic health care (not access!) a right?” If the response is anything other than “Yes!” your followup is “How, exactly, will you guarantee that I never go broke from a health care expense?” If their answers are complicated or confusing, then you are looking at someone who would sacrifice your health for their job perks in a New York minute. Give your vote (and your volunteer time) to someone who actually gives a damn about this issue.

 

Last year my friend, Richard, like that hunter, suffered a heart-attack. It was extremely close. Hundreds of chest-compressions, multiple defibrillations, one ambulance ride, two days of therapeutic hypothermia, and one heart-valve surgery later, he posted a picture of himself holding his medical bill: his hand was empty. Richard lives in Canada.

My conservative-leaning friend, you have the right to basic health care. If, god-forbid, you fall or get chest pain next month, I’ll come to the rescue (yes, I’ll get your deer, too). As your First Responder, it is my honor and pleasure to help you in an emergency. As a patriotic, tax-paying Minnesotan, it’s my duty to ensure you will never go broke because of it.

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