Free Isn’t Free – Religion and Politics

I have to acknowledge that the subject about which I’m going to speak in this article is one that has been addressed by thousands of people in oh-so-many ways. I further must make it clear that likely none of my expression will not have been made by at least one or more of the people having talked about the subject. I’m proceeding on the basis that, maybe some folks who have not seen the message will see it here, and that maybe I can help it make sense to them.

One of the political mantras heavily bandied about by certain political groups, can be summed up in the idea, “We’ll give everybody free this or free that.” Some folks even go so far as to say, “You deserve free this or that.”

The two things I hear this idea so commonly applied to are education and health care. There are many more, of course, food and housing (particularly when you’re in “hard times”), and other things that people consider “basic necessities.”

There is a basic problem with this approach to things—several actually, I may cover only one here, I may try to get into some others, depending on space considerations.

The one problem I most want to cover is the idea that, “Free isn’t free.” It sounds like a very odd thing to say, so let me take some time to explain what I mean.

In the U.S. Medical system, there are a variety of people who spend a great deal of time becoming “qualified” to do what they do. Nurses are a great example. They go to school for relatively long periods, study things that are not easily understood, become adept at “patient management,” and for all of this, they pay (or somebody else does).

Obviously, and this is no slight on nurses at all, doctors take even longer to become “qualified.” First earning the “title” of Medical Doctor (MD), then more often than not, going through yet more training to become specialists in some field, and again, somebody pays for that process (whether a hospital to which they go to work for far less than they can make elsewhere, or the individual him or her self).

And this is but the beginning. If a doctor, a nurse or another healthcare professional is to afford to eat, to have a place to live, to be able to “afford” children (in order to help propagate the human race), he or she must be paid for what he or she does.

It can be argued that some medical professionals (doctors, for example), make far too much money—that they could “afford to” live on a good deal less than they make. Though I can say that the argument is valid, it should be understood that the person in question devoted a large part of his or her life to becoming proficient at what he or she does. As if that’s not enough, he or she must then constantly continue to study to stay abreast of changes in his or her area of expertise. This is no mean feat.

But even if one could get doctors and nurses to “work for free” (in itself an entirely unreasonable idea), there is still the cost of buildings, the production of various medications, and so many more things surrounding health care—and the more “holistic” the care, the more things there are to be considered (food and drink while in a facility can, for example, be considered health care in such a setting).

The argument has been made that free to the person being treated is not the same as cost-free, and it is a valid argument. Yet again though, the point is, someone must pay. This, by nature, means the thing discussed is not free. I should also make it plain that this is already happening. The government collects taxes for medicare and medicaid, for example. I can spend my entire life paying those taxes and never come close to recouping what I paid into them. In fact, the more carefully I plan my retirement, the less the chance I will see a penny from either.

The important “takeaway,” though, is that this is already happening, and not just through medicare or medicaid either. When you go into a “state hospital” and lots of “private” ones, they are required to treat in emergency situations before even talking about payment. When they do talk about payment, they are required to give you terms that are wholly unreasonable for them and all but “take you off the hook” when it comes to paying for service (“Ten thousand dollars of service? You have to pay five dollars a month until it’s paid off.”). It doesn’t take a genius to see that the facility recovering the cost will take basically your entire lifetime. Then of course, payment typically cannot be coerced. You must pay it voluntarily

The best part of all of this? The agencies responsible for the various programs that make all of this possible, spend a huge  amount of time and effort combating fraud. People see a possibility to “get over on the system (mostly “providers, ” but often “patients” too) and take the chance they will not get caught doing so.

The infrastructure for managing these programs is enormous. I have worked in support of them myself (not directly, mind you, there is a ton of “indirect support”)—from multiple angles.

Okay, I’m running out of time and space, but I wanted to take the time to say one more thing. That being, I think we should attempt to help others when and where possible, but I think the systems and infrastructure in place for doing that today (both free and for pay), need a good deal of “oversight” (and frankly, not by government) in order to reduce the sometimes-ridiculous cost of care.

Let’s be clear, I am not saying that all care is overly expensive, just that at least some, if not much of it is. That, however, is the subject of another post.

As usual, thanks for reading, and may your time be good. 

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