Profits, non-profits, and a living wage

Last night I had a nasty little conversation with a Cambridge Tory: I was rude (for which I am sorry today); so was he (but I can’t do anything about that).

The conversation began with a tweet by someone else:

To which the Tory, apparently confused about the difference between profiting from someone else’s illness, and making a living providing healthcare:

This is classic Americana.

Right-wing Americans are fond of decrying all other countries and especially their “socialized medicine”. A repeated myth is that non-profit medicine means that doctors can’t make a living.

Anyone who lives in the UK of course knows that doctors working for the NHS make an extremely good living. The basic starting salary for the most junior residential post is £22,412. Assuming that a doctor in that post is unmarried with no children, that salary puts them in the top 25% of the population. Now while anyone who talks to a doctor knows they’re apt to complain about how little they get paid (and to be fair, doctors working their resident years are getting a low rate per hour) but this falls into the category of things rich people need to stop saying.

I never heard a right-wing American worry out loud that the NHS means nurses, medical technicians, therapists, nursing assistants, hospital cleaners, or any of the other healthcare workers in a hospital or general practice “can’t make a living”. Just doctors. After all, the other NHS employees would never be really, really rich, and to cheap-work conservatives only the rich matter.

So I said, very rudely, that this was a moronic comment. I probably should have found a better way of expressing that – indeed, this post is an attempt to try to do so – but not in less than 140 characters. But the Tory responded again with the argument that “profit” meant exactly the same as “earning a llving”, so the original tweet was “meaningless”.

I don’t think the problem the Tory had with the statement:

One person’s illness shouldn’t be another’s profit.

was that it was meaningless – rather, that it had a meaning which he did not accept as valid.

Earning a living wage is not the same thing as taking a profit.

Making a living is not the same thing as taking a profit.

GPs aren’t directly employed by the NHS, they’re self-employed, and how GPs are funded was complicated enough before the Health and Social Care Act – but GPs can choose what kind of practice to work for, what geographical area to work in, but they don’t make a profit out of each patient they see. Patients who need more care shouldn’t ever be made to think of themselves as less profitable to their GP.

In the US healthcare is a business. In the UK healthcare is a service.

There may be fewer millionaire doctors in the UK than in the US, but in the US, the majority of personal bankruptcies are caused by healthcare costs and thousands of people die each year because they can’t afford to see a doctor. Somehow I find I don’t really care if the NHS means not as many doctors become immensely wealthy.

The NHS is an investment into our national health. In its 64-year history is was not supposed to “make a profit” – though today the Health and Social Care Act becomes law in England, and from now on that will change in the largest part of the UK: because there exist people who regard profit as identical to making a living, and they see moral principles that you shouldn’t be making a profit from someone else’s illness as “meaningless”.

4 Comments

Filed under American, Healthcare, Poverty

4 responses to “Profits, non-profits, and a living wage

  1. DO you have a name for the ‘Dr’? Becasue I for one will want very much to avoid having him involved in my healcare in any way, possibly reducing his profit if he is a private practice jackal.

  2. Just discovered this post – perhaps you could have @mentioned me at the time so I could coment!

    I wouldn’t have been offended by you calling my arguments moronic – that is just your opinion – I think it was the previous day when things got a bit heated:

    https://es.twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh/status/181290356149731328

    My suggestion is to do a little less second guessing of what other people think/do/have and deal with what people say on face value. You may think they are scum of the earth but chances are more likely they just don’t agree with you.

    On the substantive point if you are self employed there is effectively no difference between profit and wages (though, yes, there will be technically a split). Healthcare is just one part of a person’s needs: shelter, food, and indeed leisure, are all areas where we recognise that entities are entitled to some return on their investment without which their services wouldn’t be available. Should those providing building, legal or catering services to the NHS also make no profit because it’s healthcare?

    • My suggestion is to do a little less second guessing of what other people think/do/have and deal with what people say on face value.

      I’m sorry, are you trying to claim that the Tories care about anyone but the very rich? Kindly point me to examples…

      You may think they are scum of the earth but chances are more likely they just don’t agree with you.

      I think there’s a distinction to be made between people who just don’t agree with me, but whose politics are basically sound, and Tory scum. Your mileage may vary.😉

      On the substantive point if you are self employed there is effectively no difference between profit and wages (though, yes, there will be technically a split)

      *raises eyebrow* Goodness, you don’t know much about being self-employed, do you? Trust me: there’s a difference between profit and wages.

      . Healthcare is just one part of a person’s needs: shelter, food, and indeed leisure, are all areas where we recognise that entities are entitled to some return on their investment without which their services wouldn’t be available.

      Well, that is the essence of Toryism: the belief that entities deserve a return on their investment, but people do not deserve a return on their labour, despite the fact that without their labour, the “entities” would be unable to provide any services. You favour profits over people.

      Should those providing building, legal or catering services to the NHS also make no profit because it’s healthcare?

      Andrew Lansley explicitly said that people who provide essential services shouldn’t expect to profit from doing so. Just big companies, the “entities” that are all that Tories care for: the very, very rich.

      You see, the problem with Tories saying we should take people at face value by what they say, and never look at what they do, is that politicians are quite capable of making pretty speeches about how much they value the workers who provide the essential services – while simultaneously freezing their wages: quite capable (as we have seen) of claiming they want to fix the economy and increase employment, while simultaneously cutting public spending to destroy the economy and throwing hundreds of thousands of people out of work. Now, I can see how that would benefit Tories if we just looked at their speeches, but as a practical matter of fact, it’s usually better to monitor what people are doing.

      Should those providing building, legal or catering services to the NHS also make no profit because it’s healthcare?

      Wouldn’t we all be better off if these were provided as a public service, ensuring taxpayer’s money was spent with triple value, than paying “entities” to make a profit on the deal and provide a substandard service to maximise their profit? And by “we all” I mean the rest of us, not the very very rich.

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