‘Free’ Medical Care for Military
Amongst the many stories circulating about the suddenly-famous Rep. Joe Wilson (who once used caffeine!) is that he’s opposed to government provided health care for non-citizens in the United States in violation of our immigration laws* yet he and his son shamelessly take it just because they’re in the National Guard! Indeed, this is apparently their “dirty little secret.”
He’s passionate! I know this because he told me, in the sole message that blazes across his campaign Web site: JOE WILSON IS PASSIONATE ABOUT STOPPING GOVERNMENT RUN HEALTH CARE!
Except that he’s notâ”€at least not when it comes to his, and his family’s, government-run health care. As a retired Army National Guard colonel, Wilson gets a lot of benefits (one of which, apparently, was not a full appreciation of the customs, traditions, and courtesies that mandate respect for one’s commander in chief). And with four sons in the armed services, the entire Wilson brood has enjoyed multiple generations of free military medical coverage, known as TRICARE.
Yes, it’s true. As politicos and town-hall criers debate the finer points of the public option, employer mandates, coverage for undocumented immigrants, and who’s more Hitler-like, they seem to miss a larger point: the United States has single-payer health care. It covers 9.5 million active-duty servicemen and women, military retirees, and their dependentsâ”€including almost a 10th of all Californians and Floridians, and nearly a quarter of a million residents of Wilson’s home state.
Now, this is a fine retort to the notion that government can’t run an efficient health insurance program or, indeed, directly provide care. (Although those with experience in the military system will tell you that it’s hardly problem free.) See, n.b., Jon Stewart vs. Bill Kristol:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
But it’s patently absurd to argue that, because your employer is providing benefits to you in exchange for your labor — let alone the very real danger of being sent to war for years on end, risking life and limb — that you’re a hypocrite if you oppose having the taxpayer provide them to everybody. Let alone to people who aren’t even citizens!
I’m only slightly less annoyed by the related trope that Congressmen who won’t vote to extend free health care to all citizens should give up their own taxpayer-provided benefits. Our health care system has evolved as one where employers provide benefits for their workers. For government workers — be they military personnel, file clerks at the Commerce Department, or Members of Congress — their employer is the United States taxpayer. It simply doesn’t follow that taking the benefits agreed to as a condition of employment requires extending said benefits to non-employees.
*Liza Sabater informs me that “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrant” are considered slur words; I struggle to find a compact alternative.