Kevin Hollinshead, Staff Writer
Ideology: Progressive | Writing from: Fort Collins, CO

Rush Limbaugh makes a living by mindlessly railing against any government program that benefits society as a whole, including government-run health care, flinging around that dirty word, “socialism.” Health reform has been unfairly given a negative connotation by wonderful human beings like him.

Yet, he apparently loves socialized medicine now, if his praise for Hawaii’s universal health care system is any indication.

Hawaii has had nearly-universal, employer-mandated health insurance since 1974. Although the state’s distance from the mainland makes the costs of living highest in the nation, health care premiums in Hawaii for comprehensive care, with small co-pays and deductibles, are nearly the lowest, and their costs per Medicare beneficiary are the lowest in the nation.

Universal coverage is the reason for this. With everyone’s primary care covered, most emergency room visits are for, you know, real emergencies, as opposed to a last resort for people with chronic conditions that cannot afford health insurance.

This in turn reduces ER costs, as well as the costs of non-emergency care since patients can be handled less expensively and more effectively by their primary care physicians. Hospitals in Hawaii thus do not overbuild by acquiring expensive machines to compete with other facilities for patients, further driving up costs. Insurance companies have instituted various screenings and other measures to improve wellness among their covered populations. Who’d have thought, insurance companies actually want to improve the health of their customers somewhere!

Upon his discharge from the hospital after being admitted for chest pain, Rush remarked that “there is nothing wrong with the American health care system. I received no special treatment.” Here, he inadvertently stumbled upon the real point here—American medicine is indeed a godsend. At least, for those who can afford it. No one in Hawaii is given special treatment, because, yep, everyone can afford it.

By (gasp) accepting socialized medical treatment in Hawaii, Rush has shown that when someone is ill or injured, what matters is availability of quality health care, even if it’s socialist. Of course, Rush does not live in Hawaii, so the costs of his angiogram are not covered by the Hawaiian insurance system. But, having that “socialist” system for more than 3 decades has not reduced the quality of the care he received. He himself enthusiastically testified to that, and serves as yet another example of conservative hypocrisy with regard to socialized medicine.

Every member of Congress has a medical office available in the Capitol, at the expense of taxpayers (psst, this is socialized medicine). Dick Cheney’s bum ticker has benefitted from pacemakers paid for by the government (read: socialized medicine saved his heart). Dubya had a government-paid (socialist) colonoscopy while in office. And the list goes on and on.

If Hawaii-style medical care (which is actually a stronger form of socialized medicine than the watered-down bill in Congress) is good enough for the Lord of the Dittoheads, it’s good enough for me, and one would be safe in assuming it’s good enough for the American people as a whole. If Rush is so satisfied with the treatment he got, he shouldn’t have any problem returning the favor by supporting a similar system here in the lower 48.