Okay, gang, here it is… The long-awaited discussion on universal health care. You’ve been clamoring for it, and I’m game, so let’s chat. First, what I believe…
Unbelievably Expensive / Taxes Through the Roof
I believe that pulling health care under the umbrella of the federal government and paying for it with tax dollars will create an unbelievably expensive line item on the federal budget. As it stands already (without universal health care), the cost of Medicare and Medicaid is unbelievable. The 2007 federal budget allocates $387B for Medicare and $205B for Medicaid, totaling $592B … larger than any single line item on the budget. For comparison, we are allocating $503B for defense in ’07. This is to cover medical expenses for the 55 million poorest Americans — roughly 18% of the country. So, even if we were only going to provide the same service to the rest of the country (which we won’t; it’ll be way more), that means we’d have to increase the budget for medical by about 450% to about $3.3T. Total tax income in 2007 is projected at about $2.5T. Do the math, your taxes would triple.
Don’t Rely on a Massively Inefficient Government
I also feel that (echoing some of Bill Woessner‘s comments) the federal government has proven that it’s absolutely terrible at managing large complex processes, and in the attempt would descend expertly into a massively inefficient, massively overpriced bureaucracy. It would make Social Security or the IRS look like well-oiled machines. We already pay for some of the basic elements of health care (in Medicare and Medicaid) for the elderly and the down-and-out, and we can’t even run that system efficiently (wrought with bureaucracy), let alone make it financially solvent. Can you imagine how this would be exaggerated in attempting to establish a system that handed everything for everyone?
And speaking of inefficiency, isn’t it a well-known fact that universal health care systems in places like Canada, the UK, France and elsewhere take forever to get things done? People from all over the world clamor to come to our country for surgery that can’t wait, because (among other reasons) in their progressively advanced universal health care system, waiting is all their doing.
Not a Fundamental Right
I also believe that universal health care is not a RIGHT in this country. We are endowed by our Creator with the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We are guaranteed the opportunity and freedom to do with our lives what we will. Nowhere is the basic human right of “good health” or “health care” guaranteed.
Let’s get an (easy) extreme case out of the way… Many choose to use their freedom to indulge self-destructive patterns – reaping the rewards of everything from obesity to physical addictions to sexually transmitted diseases. As a taxpayer, should it be my obligation to pay for these choices?
But this group is a small percentage of the people who would be covered by a universal health care system. For everyone else, I think the government has an obligation to provide clean water and sewage, basic food needs, a fundamental level of health (fight the most pervasive diseases, etc). This is all part of a living in a modern, wealthy society. I also think the government is an excellent oversight mechanism (organizations like the CDC or the Office of the Surgeon General), and should have that authority. However, we have to draw the line somewhere. I just don’t think that the feds should RUN any more programs than they have to. They most certainly should not absorb the responsibility for everyone’s health and well-being. That’s just crazy expensive and crazy impractical. I have to believe there are other ways to make health care affordable for everyone.
We’re not Just Talking about Minimums
Brad has repeated focused on minimums (the government should provide minimal health care for everyone), but that’s not the proposal on the table, is it? Someone like Hillary Clinton would replace our current system with one run entirely by the State. That’s a far cry from “minimal”, isn’t it? Don’t we already provide for “a minimum standard” by making Emergency Room treatment mandatory – regardless of insurance coverage, etc? This alone is an incredible drain on the system, because it’s taken advantage of left, right and center. Also, the existing Medicare / Medicaid infrastructure provides for the health care needs of over 1/6th of the nation’s population as it stands. Doesn’t this also constitute providing “a minimum standard”?
People Will Take Advantage of “Free”
And speaking of that… When something’s free, it’s taken for granted and abused. Period. That’s human nature. If I have to pay for my doctor’s visit, then I’m more likely only to go when I actually need to. If it’s free, I’d go for even the slightest thing. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve known who took 45 minute showers when they were renting and water was included, but suddenly started taking 10 min showers once they had to pay the water bill themselves in their newly-purchased home. The same is true at a restaurant – you eat more at the buffet than when you order off the menu, or if someone else is buying then most will order the more expensive entree. The same is true with a car – you don’t invest in preventative maintenance on a car you were given. How many people do you know who treat a rental car with far less care than their own? On and on it goes. Wouldn’t making our system (appear to be) free cause it to immediately be overrun and beaten down by the trivial “needs” of every person with a hangnail? Wouldn’t that just exacerbate the cost and inefficiency concerns I’ve already mentioned?
It Doesn’t Work Elsewhere
Lastly, haven’t universal systems like the ones in Europe and Canada proven that this just doesn’t work? Federalizing the system kills its quality. How many people fight their way from Minnesota into Canada for major heart or brain surgery each year? How many fight to get into our system from Canada (or all over the rest of the world) each year? Doesn’t that tell you something? Broader topic (an aside), but… Why are we always trying to model after failed and failing systems?
Don’t do it. It’s too expensive. It’s inefficient. It will encourage abuse. It doesn’t work elsewhere. It’s a bad idea.
Okay, I’m had my say, now it’s your turn. Open shot… What do you think? Pros? Cons? Reasons for? Reasons against? I want to hear your opinion!