Why Don’t We Have Universal Healthcare In America & Other Questions We’re Tired of Asking

Click here to listen to episode 5 of Rosie & BJ Save the World

Episode Summary

While it’s not an ideal piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) led to growing American interest in universal and single-payer healthcare models. Rosie and BJ discuss ways to implement full government-subsidized healthcare coverage for all U.S. citizens.

Other countries, both co-hosts believe, have tested universal healthcare models, and the U.S. could learn from those programs, and take what works and leave behind what failed.

Even though universal healthcare seems like a win-win situation to some, its highly politicized nature has kept it from U.S. adaptation. Rosie notes that, even with her many libertarian views, she sees access to healthcare as a fundamental human right, “I shouldn’t have my thumb cut off by accident and say, ‘Well, should I pay my electric bill or put my thumb back on?’”

Access to universal healthcare would provide preventative care. Rosie points to those experiencing homelessness as an example. The cost of this population’s ER visits on those who pay into insurance could be significantly decreased if those experiencing homelessness had better healthcare access.

Even for those with a roof over their head, there are other issues that prevent adequate healthcare coverage: For example, employers might not provide robust healthcare plans and employees might still have to pay a lot out of pockets. BJ explains, “Large employers are basically shuffling everyone onto public services like food stamps and Medicaid, which then drives up the cost for everybody.”

Several industries in the U.S. — from insurance companies to pharmaceutical companies — profit from illness. Rosie and BJ suggest that changing pharmaceutical companies’ business registration to become B Corporations could really shift the conversation. Once a company’s profits are beholden to everyone (in the case of a B Corp) and not just its shareholders, the co-hosts theorize it would force more ethical behavior.

The government could also pass legislation to limit the amount of marketing money pharmaceutical companies spend. With financial restrictions, pharmaceutical companies could be more critical of where they spend their resources.

With universal healthcare, there’s the added bonus that we would no longer be subjected to “ads about all these pills that may or may not kill you or cause anal leakage.”

Quick Hits for Saving the World

🌎 Speak up! Corporations are run by people. If you’re part of a large organization, you can make a difference. Rosie explains, “You do have a voice, and you are part of the machine. You definitely can influence the culture of that corporation.”

🌎 Talk to your neighbor. Even if you have apparent political differences, you might have more in common than you think.

🌎 Research the lobbying and pressure the medical industry places on politicians to keep the country from moving toward universal or single-payer healthcare coverage.

Resources for Saving the World

📚 “Bullshit Jobs: A Theory,” by David Graeber.

📺 Drug Short is an episode of “Dirty Money,” that explores price-gouging by pharmaceutical companions.

📺 Outbreak is a film exploring an outbreak of disease brought to the United States.

⭐ The history and context surrounding one Ebola drug, ZMapp, developed in part in San Diego.

📑 “Three Guides for Going B — And Why It Matters,” by Patagonia.

Serial Box delivers weekly sci-fi and fantasy audio stories to your device.

Out of The Box, Rosie’s other podcast.

Support BJ Mendelson on Patreon.

Follow Rosie on Twitter.

Support and Subscribe to Rosie & BJ Save the World on Anchor, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Top quotes from the episode:

[7:59] Rosie: “Medical care should not be a political thing. It’s frustrating how divisive this issue is when it shouldn’t be a divisive issue!”

[36:37] BJ: “I am all for the free market, but there are instances that should disturb everybody. If you’ve got the cure for something, you should not make it so unaffordable that tens of thousands and some people are going to die.”

[50:22] Rosie: “You do have a voice, and you are part of the machine. You definitely can influence the culture of that corporation.”

[57:00] BJ: “I would love it if tomorrow we were like, ‘All right, everyone’s getting universal healthcare coverage.’ It’s just not the way this country operates — it won’t happen like that. It’s going to have to happen incrementally.”



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B.J. Mendelson

B.J. Mendelson

B.J. Mendelson is the author of “Social Media Is Bullshit” from St. Martin’s Press.