Government-run Health Care is not the answer

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This story on ABC’s 20/20 (video below) does a good job of summing up a lot of the problems that come when the government gets involved with providing health care – instead of just regulating parts of it.  Everyone wants people to be taken care of and to have the health care they need. But let us be cautious in how we go about doing that.

Let’s not give in to this (seemingly) easy or (falsely) inevitable idea that the government is going to solve all of our problems for us. Not only are they often simply incapable of doing so, but they make the problems worse. This is one of those cases.

Obama says the “status quo is not an option.”  Fine, but let’s not forget that the status quo is often better than a lot of other options (like the ones currently being proposed by Congress).

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Andreas August 7, 2009 at 10:13 am

Hi there…

I think it is very cynical to point out that political leaders and stars come to America for treatment. Yes, indeed, if you are rich and famous, you can get the best health care in the world. Surprise!

I think the issue with our current system is not the quality of medical service, but the accessibility. What good is the best system in the world, if you can’t afford it?

I would have thought that as Christians you would embrace any step towards caring for the poor. And yes, a government option might not be the most efficient way, but if I have to choose between mediocre care and *no* care… hm, let’s see.

The private insurers promised to take care of the mess after the Clinton plan was beaten. Look at where we are now.

If you think the status quo is better than the proposed changes… well, consider…

– the United States spends six times more per capita on the administration of the health care system than its peer Western European nations
– premiums have risen more than 115%, while wages went up 34% over the last 10 years
– thanks to wonderful inventions like “ricission” (dropping patient policies), you might find out that after paying premiums on time for years you might not be insured at all, based on a technicality. And don’t be fooled by the “low numbers”. As long as you don’t need expensive treatments, you won’t be affected by ricission.
– pre-existing conditions. The exact reason why you might need a health care insurance will be exempt?
– 14.000 Americans lose their health care every day.
– over 40 millions aren’t insured. Sure, they get treatment in an emergency room, but guess who pays for that? Wouldn’t it be better to treat them earlier for a 10th of the cost?
– insurance companies work for a profit. Every denied claim is more profit for them. This is a sick system.
– about 1.5 million families lose their homes to foreclosure every year due to unaffordable medical costs.

I am not saying that the government will do it perfect or that it will take care of all problems. I am really surprised though that as Catholics you would oppose a change that would help those who are poor and suffering the most. Wouldn’t that be a great way to love your neighbor?

By opposing this, aren’t you saying: “Meh, I don’t care if you are sick. Tough luck you can’t afford insurance or got dropped. I’d rather you have NO insurance than a government run plan.”

I found a very well written article (by Aana Marie Vigen, Professor of Christian Social Ethics, Loyola University Chicago) about this:

“The Gospels overflow with stories of Jesus caring for people in need–not only the fortunate few, but whole gatherings of people–hungry masses, gaggles of children, and scores of the infirm. In one instance, Jesus healed too many to count (Luke 4:40). If we take Jesus seriously, then our obligations to the naked, hungry, beaten, suffering, and vulnerable are hard to deny. This is not new or revolutionary–Christians have understood this duty for centuries; it’s why the first hospitals in the West were founded by religious communities and why so many doctors and nurses were also priests, monks, nuns, ministers, or lay members.”

and

“Are we willing to put our money where our scriptures are? Health care is not free. I ask only that we shoulder one another’s burdens. That is what a public option will do. Medicare and public schools are federally-funded. They use taxpayer money to care for and educate others and no one calls them “socialism.” “

Kimberly November 5, 2009 at 1:07 am

“I am really surprised though that as Catholics you would oppose a change that would help those who are poor and suffering the most. Wouldn’t that be a great way to love your neighbor?”

Catholics do not oppose change and have been stressing the importance of universal health care for a long time. Take for example, since 1981, letter from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/HEALTH.PDF . Look on the 2nd page under C. Mercy and Justice.

The Church supports JUST health care and cannot and will not settle for anything less. Catholics cannot accept the bills as they are or this would dismiss every claim about human life and dignity we have ever upheld. That would be quite an act of hypocrisy. Furthermore, the Church is demanding more care for the poor and suffering within the current health care bills- contrary to what you claimed above: http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/national/2009-10-08-healthcare-letter-congress.pdf.

pinko August 7, 2009 at 11:02 am

Oh, man. John Stossel is the guy you trust, whereas Krugman is just fluff?

This video basically says a) Obama’s not trying to get to a Canadian health care system, but here is a lady who says that maybe eventually he will try to. b) That said, in Canada they have lines for health care and here are a couple of loons who pulled their teeth out or superglued their teeth in. I will present no facts whatsoever, just a picture of one guy who pulled his tooth out.

Here, try this: http://blogs.consumerreports.org/health/2009/08/amenable-mortality-us-health-care-system-versus-other-countries-.html

Or this: http://www.gallup.com/poll/8056/healthcare-system-ratings-us-great-britain-canada.aspx

Or just ignore it all because it doesn’t serve your political goals. I mean, ignoring the fact that this ‘look at Canada’ thing is another straw man, it’s not even a good one.

Matthew Warner August 7, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Andreas – you said:

By opposing this, aren’t you saying: “Meh, I don’t care if you are sick. Tough luck you can’t afford insurance or got dropped. I’d rather you have NO insurance than a government run plan.”

The answer is no. The point is that I don’t believe the proposed plan will improve the system…and especially not in the long run. It is going to hurt the system. So, as a person (a Catholic as you point out) who cares about helping people, it is my duty to oppose this.

Why is it that so many in this generation think that if the government doesn’t do something then it can’t get done? We have become so reliant on government. Wake up! Go out and help some people. Donate as much money as you can to private charities, clinics and hospitals. Start your own community organization that takes care of the needy. Stop demanding somebody else (the gov) do it for you!

Jesus didn’t teach us to force the government to take care of people for us. He asked them to PERSONALLY take care of them.

And yes, of course we should work for Government policy where appropriate. There are some good things that can come from some federal policies to help regulate, cut costs, etc. But we’re turning into a bunch of whiny wimps who have to turn to some government program thousands of miles away from us to take care of the people around us. It’s ridiculous. The insanity that just because somebody opposes a bureaucratic, government solution to a problem (commonly an oxymoron) somehow means that they don’t want to solve the problem scares me (it would insult me too if I was a little more sensitive). It scares me because it reveals how one-dimensionally so many Americans think anymore.

Pinko – please cut the “political goals” stuff. I truly don’t believe this “reform” is good. My politics are a result of first having some strongly held principles and beliefs that then shape them. Not the other way around. I’m fine if you disagree with me on some point. Fine – let’s discuss. But don’t question my principles unless you want to back it up.

I never said Krugman was fluff (totally confused right now). But he is an ideologue. And I believe his worldview is backwards in many cases. Not sure what this has to do with this post though?

I’m not basing my entire conclusion on John Stossel. I do think his report sums up some good points of which are well documented.

There is absolutely no question that Obama wants a single payer, totally government run health care plan. He’s admitted this in the past plenty of times. Yes, I realize what he is proposing is not quite that. But he has also admitted (along with many other liberal congress people) that his intention is to move towards a government run, single payer health care plan. So stop pretending that anyone who suggests that’s where he wants to take us and is working to take us with this bill is crazy or playing with straw or drinking some kind of right-wing kool-aid. The man ADMITS it (despite his spin lately).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-bY92mcOdk

And your polls you quote don’t mean much. The first outright admits that it’s hard to compare systems in this way because it ignores the many other health problems we face due to our excess and habits in this country (obesity, smoking, lack of exercise, etc.).

The second one only gives a relative opinion of whether or not people are satisfied with health care in their own country. This is entirely subject to their expectation of health care and the alternatives they may or may not be aware of. They also are not the center of medical innovation, research, and ingenuity that America is. They reap the benefits of the advancements we provide to the world. Who will do that if we become a UK or Canada? Also, those are old numbers.

Either way, they reflect a perspective relative to what was goin on at that point in time and culture. For instance, since these health care reform bills have started coming out, more and more Americans are starting to have more favorable opinions of the current health care system because they are seeing just how horrible it COULD be if we let this “reform” happen as proposed. Like I said, it’s relative. Here is a recent poll that shows this change.

Phil August 7, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Matt, as you know I run a small business. I therefore must pay for my healthcare out of my own pocket. My premiums for 2010 are increasing by 23%. It is now costing me $1550/month for a small family of three.

If this trend continues, by 2012 my premiums will be $2350/month. That’s $28,000 per year. I can’t afford that. Either my business will fold or I will become uninsured (probably the latter).

I understand your wanting to be prudent, that is entirely fair. But let’s not confuse prudence with politcal nonsense which is why this reform hasn’t been passed for 4 decades. Both sides have admitted for years that we need reform. But it never get’s done. Both the DEMS and the GOP want to be “the one” to pass this reform. They know what it means for their respective party, and the consequences of not being “the one”. So when the opposing party has the chance to pass it, they stall it or oppose it. And I know the DEMS can pass it themselves, they really have no choice otherwise in politics today anyways. But that’s my whole point. It may never get done if it is not done now, today, right this minute. Look how hard it is to get it passed even with a majority! This may go on for years if this thing gets stalled out.

I need reform today. I can’t wait one year or two years or another ten years. And I certainly can’t wait for both sides to agree on something. That may take another 40 years. Nor can the uninsured who are dying every day.

And this won’t help me lower my premiums and save my business right now. Good concept though.

“Donate as much money as you can to private charities, clinics and hospitals. Start your own community organization that takes care of the needy. Stop demanding somebody else (the gov) do it for you!”

This reform may be far from perfect. But it’s a step in the right direction – it can be tweaked, amended, etc. once it’s in place. But inaction will be a far worse disaster for me and many others (both economically and for the sick).

Matthew Warner August 7, 2009 at 5:13 pm

Phil – there are other ways to cut costs. Why is it that you believe the only way to cut costs back to previous more affordable levels is to fundamentally change the current system and introduce a subsidized health insurance option run by the most inefficient institution in the country – the federal government? ANd not only that, but a program that will increase our federal debt faster and bigger than ever in history? All to get back to previous prices that existed last year? Or the year before? Or previously? Does that make sense? Of course not.

There are lots of things proposed that we can do to help cut costs. Why do you think that this must involve the government running an insurance option? An option that is too expensive and has an unfair advantage and therefore no real incentive to compete or be efficient because it is subsidized by your tax dollars?

And how do you think they’re going to pay for these trillions of dollars in new and unnecessary spending of money they don’t have? They’re going to tax your business, man. Nothing’s free.

These bills are NOT a step in the right direction. They are in the wrong direction. That’s why I oppose them.

Costs creep up because there is no consumer discrimination on purchases and no transparency and choice where costs occur. This breeds corruption, fraud, and price creep. We are far away from the purchase and don’t exercise a choice in our health care at the very basic level. If we changed that, those are things that could drive down cost and increase competition, therefore driving up efficiency, more innovation, etc.

Introducing artificially competitive, inefficient options into the mix that cost more money than we have does not help that in the long run. Having a single payer, entirely government run health care system (the system that Obama is admittedly working towards) makes those problems worse. And we see them occurring in countries where they try it.

And what about debt? It was about a year ago that you were teaching me how crucially detrimental the debt is to our economy. But I haven’t heard one peep about that from you since Obama became the one spending all (even more) of the money. I would have expected you would be supporting a plan that spent less money, regulated, and introduced some innovative ideas that cut cost. Not a plan that would increase a debt at a faster rate than ever before in history.

And you are right – it’s all on the democrats right now. If they don’t get it done you can’t blame party politics. Their problem is that you have a lot of moderate democrats who don’t want to fundamentally change the system and think we shouldn’t spend money we don’t have. And then you have Obama’s wing of the party who want to fundamentally change the country and move towards government run health care (which yes, Pinko, is a socialist tenet).

It seems to me if they are serious about getting something done for the American people, they should start with the things they all agree on that WILL cut costs. Things like electronic record systems, tort reform, cross-state competition of health care plans, reform insurance regulations, and crack down on fraud and waste within medicare and medicaid, etc.

These are things with a consensus to pass immediately and be effective. And you won’t have Americans from all over the country protesting them either! They should make a bill with just these and PASS IT.

Then they bicker over the other garbage and whether or not to totally change the system. But Obama and Pelosi and Reid won’t do that. Because they know they have to keep the other stuff in there (the stuff everyone wants) in order to have a chance at passing all of their own ideology that most people DON’T WANT.

That’s the truth. And everyone knows it.

pinko August 7, 2009 at 3:03 pm

I didn’t suggest you were drinking the kool-aid, or you were crazy. I don’t really know what the opposition to this reform is other than ‘we are better than canada, though I don’t trust us to do a better job than canada.’ And even THAT is (weird) opposition to something that is not being proposed at all. The first poll admitted it was hard to quantify such things, so they had come up with the system that they used in the posted poll.
“Enter the concept of “amenable mortality.” Invented years ago in the United States and used worldwide by researchers ever since, it’s basically a body count of people who die for want of “timely and effective health care.””

As for the second one – which again I’d like to point out is besides the point because we’re not trying to mirror the Canadian system – I have yet to ever see any indication that Canadians or the Brits are, by and large, anything but happy with their health care. People like Stossel go over there and pick one story out of the newspaper and go see? This guy had to pull his TOOTH out. And then some Americans go “I don’t want to have to pull my tooth out. This reform is a bad idea.” But I also have yet to really hear any actual reasons why people think this reform is bad besides the Beckers screaming socialism and some other guys saying well, we don’t want to be canada, and who will cure cancer once there’s no money in the cure for cancer (which is a lie in itself)?

So yeah, I don’t question your principles (just like you would never question the principles of three major Catholic organizations, right? – “either a huge naiveté or a blatant ideological bias”), but I ask, if this has nothing to do with politics – what do you suggest is a good way to move forward on this problem?

Matthew Warner August 7, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Pinko – the opposition is that we don’t implement a public option and spend record amounts of money in order to fundamentally change the health care system that has given us the best quality care, innovation, and advancements in technology in the world.

The options are not 1) do nothing or 2) totally change the system. That’s ridiculous.

There are plenty of things we can do to regulate costs and increase competition that will help brings costs down and get more people insured. And most of them don’t cost trillions of dollars and involve the government selling health insurance.

And of course it has something to do with politics! I never said that either. I was trying to say that my beliefs and principles don’t “serve [my] political goals”, as you put it. It’s the other way around.

Andreas August 7, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Matthew…
I understand the reluctance that many Americans feel when it comes to the government telling us what to do. And I agree, there are things that should not be mandated by the government, like who you can marry or whether you may smoke marijuana or not – we are adults and can make our own decisions. We don’t need a nanny for decisions that are personal.

And I also understand that you are not with those crazy astroturf mobs calling Obama a nazi and fearing that a government agent will come and shoot them once they get old. What I don’t like is the disingenuity that especially the conservatives show – it seems like a purely political ploy to harm Obama, more than anything else.

When it comes to health care it is pretty obvious that we can not trust or rely on the corporations who are a big reason for the situation we are in. If you make health a commodity that can be traded for a profit, it will lead to a situation where it’s profit over people.

You already have the situation that you predict for government interference: the only difference is that you have corporate bureaucrats deciding which treatment you will get – whether it is medically right or not. What is important is the price. That happens when you treat health like you would treat cars or tv sets. Can’t afford it? Well, gotta live without it.

A government doesn’t have to make a profit.
Also: nobody (in his or her right mind) gets ill on purpose. Some people might live more unhealthy lives than others, but in general nobody *wants* to be sick. So it’s not really a decision to get cancer – it happens. So you don’t really have a choice – and the insurance companies know it.

I think it would be good for America as a nation to healthier citizens that do not fear bankruptcy every time they cough.

And all the arguments about spiraling costs: what about the cost of the current system? And I am not just talking about money.

Phil August 8, 2009 at 1:59 am

Matt, healthcare will pass. And it will better our a country. And my premiums will go down and each American will be insured. I can’t wait!

Matthew Warner August 8, 2009 at 8:29 am

Ha, not sure why you’re so confident, Phil. The congressional budget office, millions of everyday Americans who are waking up to this, lots of doctors, etc. all disagree with you in terms of whether or not these currently proposed bills will make this country better.

But you’re right. Health care reform will probably pass. However, I’m fairly certain that it will be a version that is largely stripped down to many of the things I mentioned above and I bet it will not have the “public option”…at least not one anywhere close to what they’re currently proposing. And it will not fund abortions, which the current bills also do.

In other words, it will be the plan that many moderate dems and repubs have been wanting and not anything like what Obama, Pelosi, Frank, waxman, and Reid have been supporting. And that will be a very good thing.

Oh, and i guess you haven’t read the bills being proposed, because even the bills currently out there will not insure everyone. They each still leave tens of millions of uninsured by anyone’s count.

But keep dreaming!

Matthew Warner August 8, 2009 at 8:58 am

Andreas –

#1) Your health care IS a personal decision my friend. A more important one than if you want to smoke weed.

#2) I like how when everyday Americans “organize” they get called astroturf mobs. But when groups like ACORN protest, who are also organized AND tax payer funded, then our right to protest and speak out is celebrated and admired. Real fair there buddy.

#3) You’re missing the big picture here man. Having multiple corporations competing for your business is a good thing. Having the same group of people (gov) who make the laws, enforce the laws, tax the people etc. ALSO making your health care decisions is a bad thing. It’s called a (major) conflict of interest. You personally should get to make your health care decisions.

#4) If you think corruption, fraud, and profiteering is bad in the private sector, it is much much worse in the government. Even with all of the profits and high paid CEOs the private sector is far more efficient at doing things than the government (who apparently doesn’t care about profits to you). Whether it is changing a light bulb, fixing a pot-hole, teaching a student, or whatever – the government does a worse job, takes longer to do it, is significantly more expensive, and produces less advancements and progress. These are the facts. If you want to insure more people with good care and for less money, the last place you go is to the federal government.

#5) There has been more fraudulent “record profits” made from government projects than anywhere else. Where do you think every one of these billion dollar ear marks are going for new energy, environmental causes, medical technology, bank bailouts, etc.? They are making people rich. Al gore is one of them (worth over $100 million).

Just about every drop of fed money involves a conflict of interest. A politician x from city y has a corp z that wants to be successful and make lots of money. They support the campaign of politician x. In return, this politician goes to DC and votes for policies (with them whispering in his ear) that in turn helps them make more money. Additionally, when politician x gets the chance to ear mark a few billion dollars for his state, he secures for corp z contracts that in turn makes them more profit. And they’re happy about that so they give a lot more money back to politician y for his campaign or to keep in his freezer for a rainy day.

It’s corruption 101. It’s the real world. I’m not being overly cynical. This is the reality of human weakness in any well-meaning, big, bureaucratic organization. And when you mix that with also having the power to make laws, change policies, decide what type of care you should or shouldn’t get, tax whoever they want to do it, etc. it’s a recipe for disaster and more corruption.

In an ideal world, I agree, what you’re saying sounds great. But it just doesn’t work that way. That’s why we have the government we do. And that’s why it has limits. And that’s why it was never ever intended to have anything to do with things like health care. If we forget that, it will hurt us in the long run.

Andreas August 11, 2009 at 11:26 am

Hi Matt…

Thanks for the lengthy reply. I think you have good points and it boils down into differences in views. Which I can live with.

“#1) Your health care IS a personal decision my friend. A more important one than if you want to smoke weed.”
Yes, it is. My point was two-fold: first of all, you can work-out all your life, eat healthy and avoid risky activities – and still get cancer. Sure, you can lower your risk, but it might still hit you. That was my point. You might make all the right choices and still get sick. Nobody does that on purpose.
My second point was a – petty – jab at the fact that many conservatives trust the government very much when it comes to enforce policies they support: like gay issues, personal drug use and such).

My criticism about the astroturf mobs is the issue and the obviously uninformed way many – not all – approach it. “Keep your government hands of my Medicare” to quote just one prominent protester. And yes, the left did the same and they got blasted on Faux News and other papers for it. And I agree, we should call B.S….B.S. I would just wish that the discourse would be based on facts instead of crazy rumors about “death panels” and such.

And yes, competition should lead to excellence. But it doesn’t always. And I think the insurance companies are a good example for that failure. Sure, you can choose between several giant corporations, but basically it’s choosing between different flavors of crap. There is no real competition. They offer the same under slightly different names. It’s an illusion of choice.

And I agree with corruption being rampant in the government as well as corporations. I think my point is this: if you step over corpses for profit you get hailed for making huge profit and get millions in bonuses if you are CEO of a corporation. In government at least you have to cover it up, because discovery would actually damage your reputation. Profit at any cost is not ingrained in the system.

Government interference is not bad in itself. GM could make more money selling crack instead of cars. Why don’t they? There are laws against that. Society found it to be bad to sell drugs and put restrictions on corporations and private citizens. And who would call that bad? So why is putting restrictions on corporations bad, when it is about health and an issue of life and death? Why is competing with the government bad? I think FedEx and UPS are doing just fine competing against the USPS.

And finally, I read a very nice article in the Washington Post (I know, i know, the liberal media conspiracy), that shed some light on the fact that the majority is happy with their health plan. The basic question is: how do you know you have a good plan if you never had to use it? You will only see the ugly face of insurance companies if you get really sick. And most people never get there.

Meh. I think, Matt, if we could agree that something needs to be done quickly to fix this broken system, that’d be nice. :)

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