Sunday, May 29, 2011

We should do what they're doing.

The role of the Federations in America has changed dramatically over the last hundred years. Once upon a time, Jews gave money to a local organization who served the community in various ways: to help people make aliyah; for burial societies; to supplemental income for widows, the elderly, and the unemployed; support for Israeli settlers, of course; support for those left behind in Europe; scholarships for children to go to daycamps, away camps, and trips to Israel; and often...a community doctor.

Now almost all of these things have been taken over by other entities, and people don't need the Federations to do these things for us. We can donate online to Israeli causes, to support European communities, to give scholarships to kids for camps and for college, and to help people make aliyah.

The US government has, during this time, taken over support for the elderly, the unemployed, the sick and disabled. And our communities have structured themselves around this fact - thinking, I suppose, that America would of necessity eventually become a more social democracy like the countries of Europe. It never occurred to most that the US would refuse to recognize that healthcare is a basic human right. Every other "first world" nation has - and it seemed reasonable that the US eventually would, too.

But it hasn't happened, and probably won't. Instead, American citizens are leaning towards "libertarianism," i.e. every person for themselves. The Social Contract is shredding at an alarming rate - largely because myriads of "good Christians" have decided it is no longer their job to care for the children, the poor, the elderly, the sick or the unemployed through their tax dollars. They want charities to take up those tasks - but of course, they don't intend to give the money previously collected in taxes to charity. So in reality, they intend to bring about a vicious and merciless social Darwinism - survival of the "fittest." Their definition of "fittest" are those who belong to their own families and churches. Everyone else can rot in the gutter and die for all they care. This cancerous idea is spreading like wildfire through "red" states here in America.

Enter Vermont.

Healthcare NOW! Online
Vermont governor signs universal healthcare bill
May 27, 2011

...“We gather here today to launch the first single-payer health care system in America, to do in Vermont what has taken too long — have a health care system that is the best in the world, that treats health care as a right and not a privilege, where health care follows the individual, isn’t required by an employer — that’s a huge jobs creator,” Shumlin said.

...“We’re going to hear all kinds of scare stories that this is a thoughtless experiment or that it is too bold,” said Dr. Deb Richter, a longtime advocate of a single-payer health care system. “But I would remind you that every other industrialized country is doing what we are trying to do. And they do it for far less money, they live longer and they get better-quality care.”

...“There is ample evidence that we can reduce cost growth without compromising health care quality, but it will take a new approach — we can’t simply cut provider fees,” a statement issued by Shumlin’s office said...

The Powers that Be in the for-profit healthcare and pharmaceutical industries will no doubt fight tooth and nail to make sure this initiative fails spectacularly. They have been making a fortune every year gouging the sick, taking money paid for healthcare premiums and using it for lavish salaries and perks, and profiteering off of state and federal systems designed to help the poor receive healthcare. They're making Billions-with-a-B in profit doing this and they won't give it up without a fight. I hope Vermont can defeat them, but I have serious doubts about that.

So what does this have to do with Federations, you may ask? I'm suggesting we turn back a page of history and do for our own communities what the other states and the federal government refuse to do - set up for ourselves a non-profit healthcare clinic or network of clinics in every Federation area. These clinics would be owned by the Federation and have a doctor or two, nurses and staff, and an in-house pharmacist all paid a flat salary instead of depending on the fee-for-service scam currently used by for-profit insurers. The Federation is large enough to negotiate wholesale contracts for medicines and supplies that could be distributed to the clinics at cost. And the clinic would be free for any Jewish Family who joined the Federation and paid a modest premium - say, $100 a month for a family plan, $35 for a single person, and a sliding scale for those truly unable to pay. The only other insurance they would need, theoretically, might be catastrophic care insurance, which is far less expensive than everyday health insurance. But even better, one or two national Jewish hospitals could agree to take the clinic patients who need catastrophic illness care at a negotiated modest fee - paid by the Federations, not those unable to pay. No Jewish person should be without healthcare, ever.

It's time we stopped throwing money away on for-profit healthcare, and stopped relying on government and christian charities to care for our sick and disabled. We took care of our own in the past and it's time we stepped up to the plate and did so again. It's a radical suggestion - but it's a doable one. And if we get started now, by the time the "red state" cancer spreads further, or the US is forced to adopt draconian austerity measures by the international community because of our unpayable debt, we'll have our own system in place.

Think about it, class.

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