Setting aside the assumption that people are poor because they don't work very hard - or wealthy because they work harder than other people - there clearly still seems to be a great deal of confusion around the healthcare debate that stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of economics and labor. Not only should wealthy conservatives want to pay for the deductible cost sharing of the Affordable Care Act, but they should want to go one step further and institute a single-payer universal health care program, and pay for that too.
As the West turned from World War 2 into a Cold War with the Soviet Union almost on the day the armistice was signed, these manpower issues presented a clear and present threat to Great Britain's immediate future. It was a distinct possibility that they would resume large-scale engagements very soon, and needed a way to make sure that there was a healthy, productive labor force from which to draw recruits. It was almost explicitly for this reason that Parliament formed the National Health Service to make sure that everyone had access to medical services.
The new NHS was a massive success. Life expectancy rose dramatically, productivity increased, and - especially important to those concerned with strong, healthy boys being born - infant mortality and childbirth fatalities dropped considerably as women received access to better natal care. It was so successful that other industrialized nations quickly followed suit.
I suffer - at the time, unknowingly - from a condition called eustachian tube dysfunction; the tubes that drain my ears into my sinuses are abnormally narrow and constricted. Left untreated, eustachian tube dysfunction causes fluid to back up in the ears instead of draining properly, making ear infections much more likely and even causing hearing loss. For many, including myself, it's a condition that is easily treated with some fairly innocuous and inexpensive nasal sprays, but before the ACA I couldn't afford the specialist visits and diagnostic tests required to tell me that I even had it. For years I suffered awful infections every time I got sick, and watched - or perhaps, listened - as my hearing slowly deteriorated for reasons I couldn't fathom.
Many of my friends, acquaintances, and even family still don't realize how bad this had gotten. By the time I was 22 I really couldn't hear people who were speaking softly to me. I became exceptionally adept at reading people's faces to see what emotion their words should be causing, and responding appropriately. I've had more than my share of awkward moments where someone whispered a question to me, and I stared at them without answering, trying to get a feel for what my response should be.
Imagine how much this minor and very treatable condition affected my productivity. If I fell ill it took me more time to recover, which means potential lost work time, and when I was working, or sitting in class and trying to hear a quiet instructor, I would miss key pieces of information, sometimes angering customers and the like. Cost sharing from the ACA, and my father's insurance program being forced to provide an HRA stipend to policy holders, allowed me to go and see an ear, nose, and throat specialist and afford a CT scan of my sinuses to diagnose the problem, determine its severity, and establish a course of treatment. Now I just have a prescription nasal spray that costs me about $5 a month, and I can hear people again, and have not had an ear infection in 3 years.
Not enough? Consider this: when I was 18, just a few days after graduating from high school, I suffered an injury - on my own time - that completely separated the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in my left knee from the bone. The ACL is vital to side-to-side motion in the knee, and the damage could only be repaired through surgery. At the time I was somewhat covered by reasonable insurance, being a kid and all, and able to have the ACL repaired. There were still some hefty out-of-pocket costs that put a financial strain on me and my family, but I am incredibly lucky to have been able to have the surgery.
A few years down the line, though, I suffered some late complications that came on very suddenly. I went from getting around normally to being on crutches again over the course of a couple days. The insurance company we had then covered a couple of physical therapy visits, and I managed to get down to using just a cane, but they wouldn't cover any more, and the next year the policy changed and they wouldn't cover any at all. I was stuck on a cane for several years.
Imagine the affect of that on my productivity. Any job that required physical exertion of any kind was more or less out of the question. Any job that required an employee to stand for a shift was out from the get go; I couldn't stand for more than an hour, if I was lucky, before my knee gave out under me. After the passage of the ACA, however, my now pre-existing condition was covered by new insurance. I was able to see a PT who did wonders for me, got me off the cane, reduced my pain to nearly 0, and allowed me to do physical tasks again. The return on investment from the care I've received has already been astounding, and isn't over yet as it can be logically extended into my entire working life.
To put the final nail in the coffin for the argument against single-payer system, not only does universal healthcare vastly improve health outcomes, raise life expectancy, reduce infant and maternal mortality, make people happier, raise productivity, and provide for national defense, but it does it all at a way lower cost then we're already paying for our ridiculous private program! Look at any comparative analysis of healthcare costs among industrialized countries and one quickly finds that not only do countries with universal healthcare systems pay less than we do, but that the US already has public expenditures on healthcare that are as high as some of those countries pay overall, due to our reliance on emergency rooms, smaller payment pools, administrative costs of the for-profit companies running things, and numerous other factors.
Higher productivity, a stronger economy, national defense, AND lower costs? Why, these are all things conservatives love! And staunch fiscal conservatives from nations all over the world will be quick to praise their universal healthcare systems, and consider them essential. It is long past time to change our thinking on healthcare. Wealthy conservatives who are concerned with the strength of the economy, you should absolutely want to pay for poor people's healthcare. It's not just better for them; it's better for everyone.