As long as you've got your health….

My colleague Arieh Lebowitz, at the Jewish Labor Committee posted the article below as a comment, but I think it should get a post of its own.
Here’s another article from Ha’aretz on the topic for a fuller picture.
It’s nice to know that the privatization monster is taking over this territory too. I wonder what else we can undermine by privatizing? Money, after all, should be our top priority when we consider our children’s health, on a national level. But hey, kids are hearty – who needs school nurses?
Israel Public health nurses’ struggle against transfer of school health services to manpower company – more a struggle against sweeping privatization of health services than a battle over employment conditions.
Privatization today, illness tomorrow
By Avirama Golan / Ha’aretz / September 13, 2006
The public health nurses’ struggle against the transfer of school health services to a manpower company can of course be described – as Finance Ministry officials are doing – as a battle over employment conditions. Not that that’s so terrible: After all, there seems to be some logic in a person’s desire to preserve job security. But in the case of the nurses, who in recent years began working under a private association and are not civil servants in any case – that is not the main thing. At the heart of the attempt to minimize the blow to these services lies a much more important struggle – against the sweeping privatization of the health services.
The case of the schools exposes privatization’s failure in preventive medicine in particular, and in the health services in general. Preventive medicine is the mainstay of a developed society. It is not by chance that the OECD countries decided preventive medicine is a condition for growth, and defined it as a threshold requirement for joining the organization. A World Bank paper states, “In places in the world where preventive medicine services have been transferred to competitive bodies, there has been a decline in immunization coverage and an increase in the extent of illnesses requiring immunization.”
Nobody in the treasury can claim not to know these things. What is also known is the simple calculation that shows, in black and white, that when hearing or vision problems, eating disorders, depression – or even abuse – of children are not diagnosed in time, these children soon become a heavy burden on the education, health and welfare systems. Even if they drop out of – or are dropped by – all the systems and fall ill or disabled, or turn to crime, they will cost society and the government much more than a nurse’s salary or pension.
But for years the treasury has been waging a stubborn and systemic war of attrition against the health services, a war whose most blatant symptom is the blow to preventive medicine. Every few months a focus of privatization erupts into public awareness. There was the transfer of the well-baby clinics to the health services organizations, thus eliminating – for reasons of economic feasibility – preventive treatment for remote, weak populations: small peripheral communities, the Bedouin, foreign workers without residence permits, et al. There was the plan to privatize the hospitals for the mentally ill, and now there are the school health services.
In all these cases, the direct victims are those who cannot afford the increasingly expensive health services, and worse, anyone who is unable – due to economic or geographic reasons, or simply due to a lack of awareness – to arrange diagnostic tests for himself and his children. Israel is justifiably proud of its hospital system, which in spite of overcrowding and budgetary problems entitles everyone to emergency treatments and complex operations. But these treatments are the last (and most expensive) stage, and should be rendered superfluous by preventive medicine, including diagnoses, inoculations and counseling.
Economically speaking, this is a big mistake. A comparison between Israel, where the health care privatization process is still moving slowly, and the United States, which has fulfilled the dream – reveals the infant mortality rate there is higher than here, and life expectancy is lower, despite the fact that the U.S. government spends far more on health care per person than the Israeli government. In every other respect – social, humanitarian, civil-democratic – this is a matter of dangerous neglect.
The percentage of children per capita in Israel is the highest in the western world. (38 percent of the population is 18 and under). Since 1997 the number of students in Israel has grown by 33 percent, whereas the budget for school health services (which in 1997 was transferred from the Education Ministry to the Health Ministry, by dint of a government health law) has declined steadily. Public health nurses visit not only the state schools but also churches and mosques where children study. The treasury, which is pleased about erasing expenditure items, may not be interested in who replaces them. They should know: In every Arab community where the state avoids its civic duties, it is replaced by charities of the Islamic Movement, which distances its members from the state and leads them to political radicalism.
The Arab periphery is only the most extreme example of the folly. A society where only the children of the rich receive inoculations and diagnostic tests, whose public health nurses – once the clear symbol of the system’s responsible, professional and human touch – speedily leaf through the files of thousands of children at record pace, while being tyrannized and exploited by manpower companies (see: security and caregiving firms) – is a society conducting its expenditure accounts blindly and obtusely, because it has apparently given up on tomorrow.

5 thoughts on “As long as you've got your health….

  1. If God had wanted privatization in the Land, there would be no Jubilee year, and no sabbatical. These things are designed to prevent the kinds of income disparity that creates a wealthy class and a slave class. Privatization has precisely the opposite effect, making profit the highest moral value. This is an idea that is repugnant to Torah, and also repugnant to the secular values that built Israel. Just because all the “cool countries” are doing it, doesn’t mean Israel has to; in fact, it is precisely the crime of doing what all the “cool countries” are doing for which the Land has spit the people out in ages past.

  2. If G-d had wanted Socialism in the Land, there would be no private ownership of virtually everything that could be privately owned – fields, homes, animals, etc. Even the Jubilee years and sabbaticals did not return property to the government, but rather to original private owners. As history shows, privatization (with a small degree of government oversight) leads to large middle classes; Socialism, to either general poverty or to a small elite classe and a large slave class. Privatization creates incentive to produce and to take risks which benefit the individual and their society through maximal wealth creation, bringing the blessings promised by G-d to his people through natural means. Allowing profit does not mean that profit will become the highest moral value; this is a choice on the part of each of us, and hopefully we will learn to respect the importance of wealth creation while not elevating it above other moral concerns. This is desired by the Torah (though not by the secular values of some people who built Israel; but who said these people were infallible?). The “cool countries” offer wealth to their vast middle classes and, yes, even their poor, that could hardly have been imagined generations ago. This allows them to feed their people, heal the sick, extend lifespans, and offer opportunities for advancement (education, jobs) that would have thrilled our Prophets. To fail to adopt their successful policies would be not only foolish but even malicious. Enriching the population can in no way be compared to the abominable and destructive practices for which the Land spits people out.

  3. Capitalism is the tool for the poor to prosper. Socialist BS hurts the lower classes who are most able to benefit from a truly free market. See Hernando de Soto for his experiences in Peru or, of course, Milton Friedman and Frederikh Hayek.
    socialism is not a Jewish idea.

  4. Sorry J,
    You’re offering Socialism as a red herring. How were the priests and levites supported? How was the tabernacle built? Torah does not offer us a “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” model, nor does it advocate state ownership. But it takes a dim view of ownership as well, reminding us frequently that it is not our power alone that creates wealth for us, but the help of God, from whom the materials, our skills, and our very selves derive. Wealth is to be used not for oneself alone, but to support the Levite, and to care for the widow and the orphan. These are efforts that serve the whole community and are rightly borne by the whole community. The decision to provide public services for the sake of one’s community is NOT socialism, it is responsible governance – something entirely to many nations seem all to eager to shirk.

  5. Uh, Rich, I was responding to your comment (#1). Red herring? Reread your third, and especially fourth, sentence, to see where I got the idea that I was responding to a call for more Socialism.
    “How were the priests and levites supported? How was the tabernacle built?”
    Even the most laissez-faire versions of Capitalism (beyond what even I would subscribe to) included public payment for civil servants and some public buildings. You’re not proving anything with these examples.
    “But it takes a dim view of ownership as well,”
    Says who? I would say it takes a nuanced view, recognizing the benefits (really, necessity) of private ownership, while trying to mitigate the potantial associated problems.
    “reminding us frequently that it is not our power alone that creates wealth for us, but the help of God, from whom the materials, our skills, and our very selves derive. Wealth is to be used not for oneself alone, but to support the Levite, and to care for the widow and the orphan.”
    Do you not recognize the distinction between the relationship of the individual to other people, on the one hand, and the relationship of the individual to G-d? When I own property, it is mine as regards other people (such that they may not seize it), while at the same time I acknowledge that G-d is the true owner of everything. Under Judaism, most charity is discretionary. With a few exceptions, a theoretical Jewish government can’t compel charitable giving. At the same time, charity is religiously mandated. And there’s no contradiction.
    “The decision to provide public services for the sake of one’s community is NOT socialism, it is responsible governance ”
    All depends on which public services, what the costs are, what the benefits are, and what the effects are. As I said before, even the most laissez-faire systems included some public services (ie education, postal service, police etc.). At the other end, if everything is offered publicly, we have Socialism (and consequently no incentive to work or risk). So clearly there’s a balance here.

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