Can the Prison Healthcare System be a model of Universal Healthcare?
We invented technologies that we cannot afford to use; we have discovered cures that we cannot use to cure ourselves; we complain about the expensive healthcare when it is us who have inflated their prices; we have created a system where we expect others to pay for our healthcare; We have entitlement programs in place which only benefits the abusers of the system.
And we never stop to ask why!
Expectation, opportunity, dependence, abuse- these are few words which can explain the current state of conflict in healthcare. If we can eliminate these words from the healthcare vocabulary, then we will surely achieve universal health and wellbeing for everyone.
But sadly, that is not the reality!
Can the Federal Prison System be a Model of Universal Healthcare
Prisoners are the only people in USA who are guaranteed medical care under the constitution. Many argue that the inmate can get healthcare at zero cost irrespective of their immigration status even when taxpaying citizens don’t have the same privilege.
If we get a bit deep into the matter, it is the tax payer’s money which funds the whole prison system. If we don’t pay our taxes the criminals would be free roaming the streets! Life also seems to be easy for them now that hard manual labor has been considered unethical and eliminated. Capital punishments are also being reserved only for the extreme cases while many countries have done away with it completely.
The doctors and nurses treating the inmates are professional and qualified giving them best possible healthcare service. It sounds so perfect- you get the best healthcare at the expense of the tax payer. That encourages many to think that it will work for the whole population.
But the prisoners don’t have any options. They have to take only what is given.
Even in some prison system, the inmates have to pay money to access healthcare. For instance, if a prisoner wants to setup an appointment with the doctor himself, he will have to pay a few dollars; but if the doctor himself wants to check the inmate, it’s free of cost. Sometimes prisoners also have to pay for certain medications and procedures like topical ointments and surgery respectively.
Prisoners are not given any choices and get what is mandated by the book of law and regulations.
They form only a minuscule percentage of the population and have a limited number of mandated procedures funded by tax payer’s money. The prison is not a consumer driven market and the expectations of the inmates are not skyrocketing at any moment. The healthcare system in a prison meant for a limited number of inmates compared to the whole population can never be a feasible solution for universal healthcare.
When can a Prison Healthcare System Work?
The only way you can successfully implement the prison healthcare system in the population is by having a totalitarian government system. Is that what we are looking for?
We know we cannot have it both ways- if we try to insist a hybrid system on top of private choices then we are going to end up with an abusive phenomenon. It will create a situation which ends up abusing the system.
For instance, many states offer free healthcare through Medicaid and even financial support to single mothers. If you have more kids then you certainly get more money from the state. Obviously, I don’t want to undermine the importance of supporting single mothers, but many of them have been known to avoid getting officially married. It gives them the opportunity to keep on receiving the benefits, cash income and avoid tax payments especially if they are illegal.
The intention of the system may be good but the results turn out to be abusive. For instance, undocumented immigrants don’t get any healthcare expenses. They are only entitled to Emergency Medicaid which rounds up to around $2 billion per year- most of it accounted to undocumented immigrants.
It also creates political paranoia. Many immigrants without papers don’t just visit any doctor- they only go to clinics where they know the doctors personally. As a result, they miss out on appointments and don’t try to reach for medical assistance even when it is required.
We surely don’t want such consequences which will certainly arise if the prison healthcare system was applied for the whole population.
What can really be done ?
I have talked about the recent crisis which has gripped American healthcare many times in my posts. Hypocrisy, too, is unfortunately deeply rooted in our culture.
We have to make up our minds and we need to have free choices. We need more options than we currently have and we have to bring together all stakeholders with equal opportunities for all. Both patients and physicians have to be empowered without business or political agenda if we want to achieve our social obligation of making our communities healthy.
The patient physician relationship also needs to be strengthened where the physician has the independence to advice the best solution to the patient. We have to expand remote healthcare delivery and strengthen the point of care system. We need to promote and empower independent physician practices and have the capability to use the technologies we invent for our benefit.
We need to bring every individual, physician and small businesses that will deliver quality healthcare without any political influence and respect people as people and not just mathematical numbers or equations.