The S Word by AM1090 Listener ML Cohen MD

Socialized Medicine is Here


It has become as predictable as the annual return of flu season and the August rush of sports physicals.  Mention comprehensive health care form or universal coverage to those on the political right and they label it “socialized medicine” as a means to squelch any further debate.  Little do they realize that this stall tactic has done more to bring about a socialized health care system in the United States than any legislation.


In many places throughout the US, and in particular in underserved locations like the rural community in which I practice, the rolls of patients walking into clinics or being admitted to the hospital with government funded health insurance is outpacing those with private insurance be it employment based or self-paid.  In Grays Harbor County 18 % of the population is Medicare while 28% of the county qualifies as low income Medicaid.  That’s 46% of the population.  Add in another 2-3% that receives health insurance through Indian Health Service and another 2-3% on the military’s Tri-Care plan and the number tops 50%. 


We are fortunate enough in this county that only a little over 13% are completely without any health insurance.  Many regions are certainly much worse off when it comes to this.  But the uninsured receive health care too and while sometimes it is in the office, more often than not, they are driven to the emergency rooms and are admitted to hospitals.  When these folks, who aren’t poor enough to qualify for Medicaid or well off enough to afford health insurance, are unable to pay their bills the result is a higher cost of care for the rest.  Add this 13% of the population to the above tally and we have as many as 65% percent of the population in my rural county that receives their health care at the expense of the general public.  Only 35% of the population has privatized insurance.  Now this is socialized medicine.  It’s here.


This problem is only going to continue.  Many were shocked at last month’s Census Bureau data showed that showed the number of uninsured in this country went down from 47 million to a paltry 45.7 million.  After scratching my head over this for a while I finally saw the drill down of the data and it made more sense. 





Private Insurance

201.7 million (67.9%)

202.0 million (67.5%)

Any Government Insurance

80.3 million (27.0%)

83.0 million (27.8%)


47.0 million (15.8%)

45.7 million (15.3%)


Nationally both the uninsured, as well as, those who had private insurance are being are being driven to government funded plans.  As baby boomers approach that magic Medicare age of sixty five there will likely be an even greater upsurge of those with private insurance category moving to government insurance.


Next time a politician mentions “socialized medicine” as an off the cuff counter point to comprehensive health care reform or universal coverage remember that Grays Harbor County is already there and the rest of the country will not be too far behind.


ML Cohen, MD aka “The Country Doc” Elma, WA


One Response

  1. i see socialized medicine is important

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