Once upon a time I was pretty liberal, believing the state could fix things. What changed that perception? Firsthand experience with socialized medicine.
I once went to school in Israel for a year – in between going to college – to get more in touch with my Jewish roots. In Israel, healthcare is universal, and participation is required. Israel used to be heavily socialized, but has since taken great strides in liberalizing the markets.
The year was 2010 – the week before Passover. I began to feel sick, with what felt like an upper respiratory infection. For me, this was an almost yearly or bi-yearly occurrence, having dealt with asthma my entire life. So having been through this before, I thought “no big deal.” Since I was a student in Israel, studying at Ohr Sameach Yeshiva, we were required to have insurance, so I had my insurance card, headed to “Terem” which is like an urgent care. I sat there for about an hour hacking my lungs up, knowing absolutely at this point what I have. I got a doctor and told him about my medical history and that I have had these before. I knew all I needed were some antibiotics for about a week, possibly topped off with some prednisone (steroid) for my lungs if need be. So the doctor had me do an x-ray, at which point I was just questioning the doctor saying, “in my entire life no doctor has ever needed more than a stethoscope to confirm what I am saying.” But I let him do his thing, hoping he will give me the medicine I needed. When he came to give me the results, he said I had a mere cold. At this point I began arguing, saying, “I have had asthma since I was 4 – I get these twice a year, this is more than a cold. A cold doesn’t make me have to hop on a nebulizer (machine for bad asthma attacks) every 4 hours like clockwork!” He still refused so I ended up cursing him. I took the cold medicine as it does help reduce coughing, and that would hold me over. Luckily for me, I was already scheduled to be flying home to Ohio, so I called my mother after what happened in the doctor’s office. She was appalled as well, and immediately scheduled an appointment with our local doctor. Right when I get off the plane and got in her car, we went straight to our doctor. We sat in his office for 15 minutes before he came in and saw me in the worst shape in years. He asked what was wrong, so I proceed to fill him in on the story. He was floored and upset, and immediately took his stethoscope and listened to my chest for one minute. Shaking his head, he said “this is the worst I have ever heard your chest! Here, these should knock it out fast.” As I knew, all I needed was some amoxicillin. The doctor told me to hang around for a while, and returned to the room with a letter he wanted me to give to the doctor that treated me in Israel. Needless to say the doctor didn’t pull any punches in this letter. A week later I was perfectly fine, but I realized I was wrong regarding socialized medicine.
But it got even better. I can’t remember if this happened before or after my own incident, but around the same time, give or take a few weeks. One day my friends from school and I took a bus from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, so we could party on the beach, meet girls and such. We were having a great time. During the evening, around 8, my friend Eitan was running on the beach and suddenly began screaming at the top of his lungs. It turned out someone broke a vodka bottle on the beach, and in the darkness Eitan had the misfortune of stepping on it, getting glass in his foot. It wasn’t too horrible, but enough that we knew he may need stitches. So my friends and I, all being backwoods, performed some first aid on the spot, cleaning it as best we can. We then decided it’s not horrible enough to be life threatening, so we hobbled him to the hotel to sleep it off. The next morning he felt like he needed to go to hospital, but in Jerusalem. I acted as his crutch the whole way, splurge by taking a taxi from the station to the hospital instead of waiting on a bus. We walked him in and got him set. Now here is the kicker: the hospital said the type of insurance we had was not accepted at the hospital, and they couldn’t take him. I remember yelling “the guy can barely walk, and you care about what kind of insurance he has?”
The woman at the desk replied “no, we can’t treat him unfortunately, unless it is an emergency.”
I then went on to ask “so basically what you are saying is if I find a Palestinian to throw a rock at his head, then you would treat his foot? Meanwhile Hamas leaders and families are being treated in Israeli hospitals. Do you care about their insurance cards? Nice to know you guys have no rachmanot (human decency)!”
She just hung her head in shame. I hailed another taxi due to him being in excruciating pain. My priority was getting him taken care of ASAP. Guess where Eitan and I had to go? Yup, to the same Terem where I was told I had a cold. We waited for almost 2 hours until the doctor was finally in, and then I ended up waiting another hour. Apparently they had to clean some more glass out of the wound as it was apparently that bad. They gave him some medicine for the pain – but what was it? No, not oxycodone, or maybe some other pain pill which you’d think would be appropriate given the circumstances. Instead, they gave him ibuprofen, better known as Advil. I honestly wished it was some kind of a sick joke.
These were the two stories that helped me realize the failures of socialized medicine. Israel is ultimately what began my ultimate transformation from more liberal, to conservative, and ultimately to the minarchist libertarian I am today. Ultimately, the ways in which different individuals transition to libertarian beliefs are varied. For me, my path required firsthand experience, and study of the Torah. This led me down the road to my love of the free market. I have always been outspoken about the state getting involved in issues, even amongst the religious issues in Judaism regarding the state of Israel. I have been fighting amongst the cronyism, corruption, and all around mess in Israel regarding the State of Israel Rabbinical Courts, as well as the state run Va’ad organization. The Va’ad is an organization which must ensure that products are held to a standard of Kosher, for example Orthodox Union (OU), among hundreds of other Va’ads around the world. You probably have seen the OU symbol on some foods in the USA. It looks like this next time you go to the cupboard, I guarantee some have it.
The state run Rabbinical Courts are very corrupt and crony versus their private counterparts located in almost every sizable Jewish community in the world (example the Beit Din of America). The state run Va’ad is also messed up, and extremely low quality, to the point a rather sizable amount of the Jews living in Israel actually don’t consider establishments certified by the state as even Kosher (or Kosher enough). Many religious Jews in Israel also hold a large amount of contempt for the Jewish courts that are run by the state. I heard an example where a woman studied for 3 years to convert to Judaism by one of the most strict Chassidic courts not run by the State of Israel, that court approved her conversion, she was so passionate and knowledgeable the head Rabbi was impressed enough he got off his chair and bowed down before her because he claimed she was even more righteous than he was. The state Rabbinical Court still denied her conversion unless she performed it with them, and of course also paid them the money.
So it is rather interesting to say the least: I came to Israel thinking socialism was the cure, only to find the Jewish people have found privatization to be our own cure in Israel and around the world. It wasn’t only but a few decades ago Israel was heavily socialist. But now it’s hard to find a device or technology that hasn’t had some Israeli fingerprints on it thanks to Israel liberalizing their markets.
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