What has government-run health care ever done for us?

WHAT HAS GOVERNMENT-RUN HEALTH CARE EVER DONE FOR US?…. Paul Krugman noted yesterday that “Americans hate single-payer insurance” because “they don’t know they have it.” President Obama raised a related point yesterday during an AARP forum on health care.

“I have to say, the reason [a public option] has been controversial is a lot of people have heard this phrase ‘socialized medicine’ and they say, ‘We don’t want government-run health care; we don’t want a Canadian-style plan,'” Obama said. “Nobody is talking about that. We’re saying, let’s give you a choice. You can choose the private marketplace, or this other approach.

“And I got a letter the other day from a woman; she said, ‘I don’t want government-run health care, I don’t want socialized medicine, and don’t touch my Medicare.’ And I wanted to say, well, I mean, that’s what Medicare is, is it’s a government-run health care plan that people are very happy with. But I think that we’ve been so accustomed to hearing those phrases that sometimes we can’t sort out the myth from the reality.”

This, apparently, is fairly common. Rep. Robert Inglis (R-S.C.) recently hosted a town-hall meeting, at which a man insisted, in all seriousness, “Keep your government hands off my Medicare.” The constituent, apparently, didn’t appreciate the irony.

As obvious as it should be, a surprising number of people don’t realize that public health care programs already exist in the United States, and operate quite well. Krugman reminded readers yesterday, “[W]e already have a system in which the government pays substantially more medical bills (47% of the total) than the private insurance industry (35%).”

It reminds me a bit of a scene in “Life of Brian.” The People’s Front of Judea are having a meeting and considering what the Romans had ever done for them. Reg asks, “Apart apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”

Likewise, we’ve reached the point at which opponents of health care reform ask, “Apart from quality, affordable medical care for seniors, U.S. servicemen and women, injured veterans, poor families, and low-income children, what has government-run health care ever done for us?”

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.