The matter of health insurance is coming more and more to the fore. The federal government has already adopted legislation which will probably go into effect January 1, 1959, in those provinces collaborating with the federal government. This health insurance plan is not what many imagine it to be. It covers only hospitalization — the cost of diagnosis and a bed in the public ward. It does not extend to the doctor's bills and the cost of medicine.
There may be a strong movement behind this health insurance scheme, but you can be sure that Social Credit is lending no weight to it. The fact is quite the contrary.
Some new readers may be surprised by this declaration; they may even conclude that Social Credit is not interested in the health of the people. Let us assure them that we are just as deeply interested in public health as any responsible citizen or group of citizens. Furthermore, we show this interest more concretely than others do. Social Credit is anxious that adequate medical care be within the reach of every individual, just as it is anxious that every individual should enjoy a standard of living that will give him food, shelter and a standard of hygiene that will conduce to his good health.
But such conditions can and should be established without a government plan involving contributions obligatory on all.
Any plan normally bearing the title, "insurance", automatically contains clauses involving contributions (premiums). You will never become the holder of an insurance policy until you have paid the first premium and engaged yourself to pay the others at regular periods. Fail once to meet a payment and you automatically cease to be insured.
Some people imagine that if the government becomes the insuring agent they will have no premiums to pay. They imagine that others will pay for them. When and if hospital insurance comes into force in their provinces they'll soon discover that it is anything but free.
A great variety to choose from
There are many kinds of insurance companies. But whether the insurance is against fire, accidents, sickness or any other risk, the principle is always the same; risks are borne in common. All the insured pay; when misfortune strikes one, the common treasury comes to the aid of that victim.
Since these accidents can involve very considerable sum of money which can place the victim of the disaster in a difficult or well-nigh impossible financial situation for years, or even for the remainder of his life, insurance is a commendable step.
There are a great many kinds of insurance against sickness; for the man who wants to become insured, or have his family insured, it is a matter of making a choice among the various offers.
∗ ∗ ∗
— Then why oppose state health insurance?
— Because where the state is involved there is no liberty of choice.
If all forms of insurance, state and private alike, involve the payment of contributions, state insurance has the added element of being obligatory. It is this element which is directly in opposition to the philosophy of Social Credit. Social Credit claims for the individual the liberty to accept or to refuse a contract, or to disassociate himself from it when he chooses. With private insurance you freely engage in a contract with a company or a mutual benefit society. You choose what suits you. You engage yourself to pay a certain sum of money in return for a specific guarantee. If the conditions are not what you wish you simply don't sign the contract. If you already have a policy and you decide that its conditions are no longer suitable to you, you simply withdraw from the contract; you stop paying premiums and renounce all benefits.
Such is not the case with state insurance. The contract is forced upon you whether you want it or not. Contributions are exacted from you in the same manner in which you are taxed. You are obligated whether you like it or not.
Obligation is always odious, but it becomes doubly so when it appears in health insurance. The state health insurance plan simply provides the government with another means of compiling more dossiers on its citizens, dossiers full of information which is of a most personal and intimate nature.
— But we are not able, as in the past, to pay our own medical expenses. Medecine has made tremendous advances; consequently the best medical care has become correspondingly more expensive. Many of the best treatments involve prolonged sojourns in the hospital; and modern hospitals with all their facilities for giving the best care are becoming costlier.
— We know that. The possibilities for medical care are greater today than they were in the past, just as in material production the physical possibilities are vastly greater than in other times. But if there were — as there logically should be — an effective relationship between physical possibilities (or services) and financial possibilities, the people would have more purchasing power with which to pay for more services offered.
— But if an individual has the misfortune to be stricken with a grave sickness, necessitating hospitalization for a long time, he will never be able to pay the expenses from his ordinary revenue even if his purchasing power is greater than before.
— It is precisely this which has given rise to insurance societies wherein all the risks of which we have spoken above are borne together by all the beneficiaries. Each one pays only the regular premium; the heavy expenses of the sick person is spread out among all the members of the group.
— That's all very fine for those who can afford to take out insurance. But there are those unable to pay premiums; how are they to be insured?
— This is precisely the condition open to reform. Instead of forcing everyone to subscribe to state health insurance because some haven't the means to pay medical expenses, a regime should be established which would provide sufficient revenue for all. Now, sufficient revenue means not only enough to provide food, lodging, and clothing, but enough to keep in good health, to protect himself against financial disaster if prolonged illness strikes. In other words, it should be financially possible, for those who wish, to insure themselves out of their existing revenue.
— Yes, but there are people who, even with a sufficient revenue, are unable to provide for themselves.
— In that case, they should be taught to care for themselves instead of having everyone plunged into state slavery for the inefficiency of a few.
— But private insurance is very expensive. State insurance would be less expensive and the rich would pay for the poor.
— Now here are two sheer illusions. Regardless of who the insurer is, hospital expenses are the same. State undertaking generally cost more than private enterprises. If this is not apparent to all, it is simply because the state is able to draw on tax money to cover up extra costs — which private enterprise cannot do. But taxes are paid by everyone.
State health insurance would oblige everyone to make contributions. The rate of contribution would be calculated according to the overall cost of the program. And even if the government covers any additional costs with tax money, it will not be the rich who will pay for the poor. The rich are usually those who are in control of production and large businesses. They are the ones who set prices. The taxes they pay are generally included in the prices they set. So when the poor buy their products, they pay in the price their part of the taxes which the rich have paid in advance to the government.
— But in large families there is often only one breadwinner. Even if his salary is reasonably large, how can he possibly hope to cover the risk of sickness to every member of his family? The more people dependant upon him, the more the risks of sickness. And it is precisely in large families that it is difficult, with one source of revenue only, to maintain a high enough standard of living to keep everyone in good health.
— But why should there be only one income where there is only one worker? Who laid down such a regulation and who maintains it?
The good lord endowed the earth with an abundance of richesses. He gave man strong arms and an intelligence. There is sufficient produce to meet all needs — or there very easily can be. But unfortunately it was not the good Lord who set up the system of distribution. This is man's work. Consequently man can choose one method of distribution or another; but his duty is to see to it that goods are distributed, that they go where they are needed to meet the needs of men.
A system of money has been set up because in our society each person cannot make for himself or his family all the products he needs. So each one must get what he needs by buying products from others with money. That's the system. In order that the system function as it should, in order that goods may go where they are needed, it is necessary that money be in the hands of the needy. Where there are ten mouths to feed there should be not one revenue for one mouth but a revenue for ten mouths.
Making work the sole condition of revenue is idiotic if distribution is to achieve its proper end. Since needs are inherent in the individual, then the revenue (the means of satisfying these needs) should be attached to the individual.
That is why Social Credit demands a revenue for each and every individual, a revenue attached to the individual as an individual and not as a worker. This revenue would be in the form of a dividend for each and everyone. And this dividend would in no way interfere with the recompense paid to those who are engaged in production.
Thus, with the sum total of dividends and salaries keeping pace with the sum total of prices (or with prices adjusted to the scale of this sum of revenues) the entire community will be able to meet the costs of all the products it needs, of all the services (medical included) offered it and which it needs; each member of the community will be assured a sufficient share of revenue, as we said above, to meet all the needs dictated by health and medical care.
* * *
This is what Social Credit proposes. And it is infinitely better than all the schemes grafted on collectivism. For it respects personal liberty; it permits the individual to look after his wants personally, or in association with others, and this freely without state interference involving plans, bureaucrats and taxes.
Let the state do its duty — establish a system which effect an adequate sharing and distribution of wealth — and there will be no need for it to interfere in affairs which are not its concern. Individuals, families, associations, acting freely, will then be able to look after their own affairs.