A Response to “Students AGAINST Universal Health Care”

I recently came across a facebook group “Students AGAINST Universal Health Care” and being a proponent of health care for all, I thought I’d respond to their “reasons” for opposing it.

Universal health care seems to be the new thing that students are pushing for, and rightfully at that-because most of them are unaware what UHC really means:

I think many (if not most) people who are FOR Universal Health Care, understand exactly what it is that they are for. At least from the media, it’s been painfully obvious that those against it are the ones who are arguing against a straw-man (death panels, it will cause rationed care, Canadian style health care, etc), showing their ignorance of what the actual health care reform has been all about.

1. There isn’t a single government agency or division that runs efficiently; do we really want an organization that developed the U.S. Tax Code handling something as complex as health care?

Well the simplest example would be Medicare. While Medicare has many flaws, if you’re looking at just efficiency, only 3% of Medicare’s premiums go for administrative costs. By contrast, 10 to 20% of private-insurance premiums go for administrative costs.

But that also ignores two other issues about government that typically hurt it’s efficiency, but don’t hurt it’s value.

The federal government is unrivaled at completing seemingly impossible tasks (Manhattan Project, NASA, Interstate Highways). These types of tasks are astronomically expensive and require massive investment for little or no forseeable payback. So, they are very efficient at completing insurmountable tasks with unprecedented price tags. Private enterprise can’t do this type of work, because private enterprise has to focus on the bottom line.

But the more important point regarding efficiency is that efficiency isn’t the only concern. Many would argue that although capitalism is incredibly efficient, the efficiency just isn’t always worth it, since it does not take into account the needs of the people. A corporation’s primary goals are profit and stock price. A government’s primary goal is the well being of it’s citizens.

2. “Free” health care isn’t really free since we must pay for it with taxes; expenses for health care would have to be paid for with higher taxes or spending cuts in other areas such as defense, education, etc.

I’ve not heard ANYBODY claim that UHC would be free. In fact, when it comes to to the economics of it, I’ve heard nothing but those against it exaggerating, misstating, and outright lying about how it will bankrupt the country. To say that it’s not free as a negative would imply there is some claim that it would be free or that the alternative (what we have now) is free (which obviously it’s not).

Essentially this boils down to being EITHER a straw-man about the claims of UHC OR it is a outright lie about the current health care system, and either way, it doesn’t hold water.

3. Profit motives, competition, and individual ingenuity have always led to greater cost control and effectiveness.

I’ve always loved this line. It’s seemingly parroted word for word by Libertarians discussion virtually any topic.

For many decades (pre-1934, to be specific, at which time it become a government sanctioned monopoly), AT&T / “Ma Bell” seemingly showed that competition does not always lead to better prices or service. In fact, they did the smartest thing any company would do in a pure Libertarian society, they bought out the competition that would sell, and ran the others out of business; then raised prices and abused their monopoly until the 1980’s when it was finally broken up.

Standard Oil is another great example of Libertarian ideals taken to their natural conclusion. Rockefeller bought or put out of business every competitor he came across for decades; until stopped by the Feds.

So to claim that left alone businesses will lead to lower prices and/or better service for customers (which would be the ideal according to CATO) ignores a history that clearly shows otherwise…

4. Government-controlled health care would lead to a decrease in patient flexibility.

I’m curious here what exactly is meant. As I see it, there are two options, and I’m not sure which they mean (or if there is a 3rd option I’m not aware of).

If by this the group means that the UHC will be the ONLY option, that is just flat out wrong. Every serious proposal of UHC has positions a government option as an alternative to current health care insurance options. If somebody likes their current insurance company, they are free to keep it.

If the group means that once UHC is implemented that the actual choices we have for medical care will diminish, I fail to see how that would happen. If UHC becomes, in effect, another health care insurance provider (similar to Medicare), that will not change the options medical professionals make available to their patients.

5. Patients aren’t likely to curb their drug costs and doctor visits if health care is free; thus, total costs will be several times what they are now.

Actually, ensuring that all Americans have the right to health care will decrease health care costs by allowing people to receive regular and preventive medical care and not wait until they are chronically ill to seek treatment when medical costs are much higher.

As well, providing all citizens the right to health care is good for economic productivity. When people have access to health care, they live healthier and longer lives, thus allowing them to contribute to society for a longer time. The cost of bad health and shorter life spans of Americans suffering from uninsurance amounts to $65-130 billion annually. And lacking health care can lead people to suffer from anxiety, depression, sickness, and stress, and other symptoms that affect not only individuals, but families and communities of that individual as well.

And since we’re talknig about the finances of UHC, currently health care costs are unaffordable and bankrupting Americans. In 2007, 62.1% of all US bankruptcies were related to medical expenses and 78% of these bankruptcies were filed by people who had medical insurance. Also, guaranteeing the right to health care will encourage entrepreneurship, which is good for job creation. Currently people are afraid to start their own business for fear of losing the health insurance provided at their existing job.

6. Just because Americans are uninsured doesn’t mean they can’t receive health care; nonprofits and government-run hospitals provide services to those who don’t have insurance, and it is illegal to refuse emergency medical service because of a lack of insurance.

And currently we are paying for this with increased health care costs for the rest of us by hospitals, doctors, etc passing the costs on to those who can pay. Here in the US, hHealth care costs have been rising for several years. Expenditures in the United States on health care surpassed $2.3 trillion in 2008, more than three times the $714 billion spent in 1990, and over eight times the $253 billion spent in 1980.

In 2008, U.S. health care spending was about $7,681 per resident and accounted for 16.2% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP); this is among the highest of all industrialized countries. Total health care expenditures grew at an annual rate of 4.4 percent in 2008, a slower rate than recent years, yet still outpacing inflation and the growth in national income. Absent reform, there is general agreement that health costs are likely to continue to rise in the foreseeable future.  Many analysts have cited controlling health care costs as a key tenet for broader economic stability and growth, which is why massive reform is needed (and UHC is one part of that reform).

7. Government-mandated procedures will likely reduce doctor flexibility and lead to poor patient care.

This is easy to conform of deny by looking at a country that has already gone through the type of health care reform those who support UHC are interested in:

A 2007 review of all studies comparing health outcomes in Canada and the US in a Canadian peer-reviewed medical journal found that “health outcomes may be superior in patients cared for in Canada versus the United States, but differences are not consistent.” Life expectancy is longer in Canada, and its infant mortality rate is lower than that of the U.S., but there is debate about the underlying causes of these differences. One commonly-cited comparison, the 2000 World Health Organization’s ratings of “overall health service performance”, which used a “composite measure of achievement in the level of health, the distribution of health, the level of responsiveness and fairness of financial contribution”, ranked Canada 30th and the U.S. 37th among 191 member nations. This study rated the US “responsiveness”, or quality of service for individuals receiving treatment, as 1st, compared with 7th for Canada. However, the average life expectancy for Canadians was 80.34 years compared with 78.6 years for residents of the U.S.

8. Healthy people who take care of themselves will have to pay for the burden of those who smoke, are obese, etc.

And this is different from how things work today?
If you have insurance, you’re currently paying for the burden of those who smoke, are obese, etc who have the same insurance company…
If you don’t have insurance, and you visit a doctor, hospital, etc, you’re currently paying for the burden of those who smoke, are obese, etc by paying more than you would otherwise to offset the financial burden the uninsured have given to the hospital, doctor, etc…

This is true regardless of UHC, and with UHC it makes the cost easier to manage, and as mentioned above, can help reduce the overall cost of health care in this country, thus reducing this burden..

9. A long, painful transition will have to take place involving lost insurance industry jobs, business closures, and new patient record creation.

First of all, you’d have to show evidence of lost jobs and businesses before I’d even buy this argument as legit. Nothing about the UHC plans have abolished Blue Cross or any other insurance company or closing businesses.

But even if we grant that it would be difficult as true:
The same argument was made about keeping schools segregated.
The same argument was made about keeping minorities out of the military.
The same argument was made about keeping women out of the workplace.
The same argument is currently being made about repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.
Yeah, we’d never want to move forward, progress is hard…

10. Loss of private practice options and possible reduced pay may dissuade many would-be doctors from pursuing the profession.

There would be no loss of options. The health care reform plans that have been brought forward have essentially been creating another insurance company, but one government run and funded (much like Medicare) or just allowing everybody the option of Medicare. This would in no way reduce any option, what it would do is ensure that doctors and hospitals get paid for EVERY patient they see and that nobody goes bankrupt due to health care costs…

11. Like social security, any government benefit eventually is taken as a “right” by the public, meaning that it’s politically near impossible to remove or curtail it later on when costs get out of control.

The right to health care should be considered a civil right. People should not be discriminated against for being sick. Americans who are ill should not have to make the choice between financial ruin or paying for the medical treatments they need to stay alive. In fact, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of oneself and one’s family, including… medical care.”

About Rodibidably

Jeff Randall is a frequent volunteer for free-thought organizations, including the Center For Inquiry – DC. Having been blogging since January 2008, he decided that a community of bloggers would be an interesting new experience (or at the very least a fun way to annoy his friends into reading his posts more frequently). Since finding out about about the existence of, and then joining, the atheist/skeptic community in 2007 he has been committed to community activism, critical thinking in all aspects of life, science, reason, and a fostering a secular society.
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6 Responses to A Response to “Students AGAINST Universal Health Care”

  1. poietes says:

    Good responses. Numbers 3 and 8 in particular always make me shake my head. In number 8, health people blah, blah, blah: Don’t the people who use this argument ever analyze exactly how most things in life work? Take car insurance or homeowner’s insurance–we pay for these things in case. None of plan to total our cars or to have our homes destroyed by wind or to develop a brain tumor. The healthiest people in the world can develop sudden illnesses.

    I’m so sick of holier-than-thou logic passing as cogent analysis.

    • Jeff Randall says:

      The problem with those against health care reform (and UHC) is that they seem to want to live in an idealized world in which people can choose whether or not to get sick. But as you point out, nobody controls if they get a brain tumor or get hit by a car, etc…

      Perhaps (and only perhaps) a perfect society would be a Libertarian one. But greed and unexpected accidents make society far from perfect, and that is why the government must work to help protect it’s citizens.

      And I’m glad you like my responses. A few of them I was not exactly sure how to respond to at first, because frankly this is not my “area”, even though it is something I feel strongly about… But I hope I at least come across with reasonably intelligent responses.

  2. Ryan says:

    Nice blog !

    Our magazine [Edited to remove URL so not as to promote the spammer’s agenda] covers soemthing similar in Canada. They are look for new stories and ideas all the time. Anything and everything that is non mainstream and everything that gets people thinking.


  3. poietes says:

    Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam . . . wonderful Spam.

    Thanks for that Python classic.

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