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US health care a sick joke that’s coming to Australia

  • 23 January 2015

Everyone knows that the health care system in the United States is an hilarious joke at the expense of poor people. The terrifying inequities that play out in surgeries across the country has been documented in the films Sicko (2007), Escape Fire (2012), and all over the internet (search 'health care horror stories' on any American masthead’s site). Nothing new. 

The constant pressure the Australian Federal Government has been pitting against our own universal health care, though, seems new and raises some disturbing questions. Why would any fair minded political leader want to emulate a brutalising system? It seems like class warfare dolled up as fiscal responsibility. 

Anyone who was born (or naturalised) in Australia after 1984 has enjoyed universal health care their whole (Australian) life. Universal health care is, philosophically, a fair concession to the shocking materiality of life: I didn’t ask to be born, specifically not in a body that requires a decent amount of upkeep to carry on. 

And while it’s not perfect in Australia, universal health care offers the promise that while some people’s bodies require more medical care than others, this is not the basis for discrimination nor an unequal distribution of fiscal responsibility. While there are strategies for pursuing 'wellness' – you know, drink four litres of water a day, half a glass of wine, eat red meat, no, don’t eat red meat – no one should be rewarded for the fact that their mother was able to properly nourish them during infancy, or that no-one has decided to run them over just yet. 

A population’s health is largely in the hands of the state and culture, and universal health care is a material extension of this truth. Good health benefits us all, and thus is everyone’s responsibility.

In trying to understand why anyone who is not simply a monster would wish to erode the basic dignity of health, it’s important to remove maliciousness from the equation. The outcome of privatised healthcare is, of course, brutal. But to believe that a person who has found a way to intellectually compartmentalise literal human suffering completely lacks compassion would infer that they are evil. Evil is intrinsic, evil has no human remedy. Evil can’t be reasoned with. Which means that a person is not responsible for the evil they commit. 

But what could reasonably motivate a person who, in attaining the life and health required to make political arguments in the first