A while back, Anitra, a friend of mine, asked a good question about the debate on healthcare:
I usually never comment on your blogs, but I do read them and love your insight and straight forwardness. Could you post an alternative to what is being proposed? I am not understanding what is wrong with a government run health care plan? Illegal immigrants are covered now…you just pay out of your taxes. I worked at a hospital as un undergrad; uninsured people can go to the ER and can’t be turned away. The problem with that is they could probably benefit from preventive care, etc. My mom died of cancer in 2005; by the end of her illness, even though she’d worked her entire adult life, except for the time she took off to raise children until the youngest was five and could go to school; she had insurance and when her cancer bills kept mounting, they started denying our claims saying that her treatment was ‘experimental.’ We ended up having to pay out of pocket for meds and drugs and her illness wiped us out financially. That is not fair. The US is ranked 37th in Healthcare according to the World Heath Organization (http://www.photius.com/rankings/healthranks.html) and countries that are being criticized in the health care debate are ahead of us. What is the alternative to what Obama is proposing? Medicare is just about broke right now and the baby boomer generation is quickly approaching the age to be eligible. What do we do? On TV and in conservative forums, there seems to just be opposition to what Obama is proposing…it’s too expensive, etc. Fine. What is the alternative? What’s wrong with a single-payer system where ALL Americans are covered? What we have is not working, and I have seen it first hand through the inhumane way that we were treated during my mother’s battle for life. Please point me in the direction to some links or info on viable solutions to the current issue. Thanks and I appreicate your blog. Know that you touch people even if they don’t leave comments. =)
She raises a few good questions. Here are my thoughts:
First, even if there is no good alternative that conservatives propose, it does not follow that we must accept Obama’s plan. Not only is suggesting so a false dichotomy, but it turns on an equivocation as well. It’s a common “politician’s ploy” that goes something like this:
Something must be done.
This is something.
Therefore, it must be done.
I’m not buyin’. Bottom line, if the “something” that is being proposed is morally suspect and could potentially make things worse, we are not obligated to accept it, even if it’s the only solution currently on the table.
In fact, Anitra mentions one of the reasons we have for thinking Obama’s solution will make things worse: Medicare. If you click on the second link above, you’ll see that a Obama’s plan (well, at least as it was about a month ago. I haven’t kept up with the debate since then so I admit things might have changed. If they have, someone feel free to correct me) will dump millions of Americans into a Medicare-like system, which isn’t made to handle that many people. That’s what the government option basically is: Medicare for the public. As the Verum Serum fellas put it, if Medicare is driving us into further debt, why burden it more with more people?
Secondly, my main concern with government-run healthcare isn’t an economic concern. It is more basic and has to do with government’s proper role. In my view, government’s role is to provide law and order and ensure that citizens have equal opportunity to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. It is not government’s role to provide those things for us. In other words, the state protects it’s citizens from harm, but should not provide us with benefits and goods. Some might denigrate this by calling it abstract philosophizing, but I’m not persuaded by the loaded words. Since ideas are connected to people’s lives, flourishing, and wellbeing, ideas have consequences. I’ve commented on the consequences many times before on this blog, as have many others.
Thirdly, again as Anitra mentions, there are legitimate concerns with our current system. The consensus seems to be that a) people are being denied coverage for frivolous reasons (i.e “pre-existing conditions,” Anitra’s mom’s experience, etc), b) the people who want coverage should be able to get it (crucial distinction. Some can afford coverage but willingly forego it because they want to purchase something else, like a nice car), and, similarly, c) make coverage more affordable. No need to move to a single-payer system (and many a Dem has admitted that a “government/public option” is a good intermediary step to that end goal) to take care of those issues.
Here’s Paul Ryan talking about the alternative he’s spearheaded:
FWIW, here’s a critique of Ryan’s bill I found, plus a critique of the critique. By the time I read the critique of the critique, my head was spinning, so I simply point all those interested parties to them…make up your own minds, folks. Again, I’ve been out of the loop on healthcare for over a month now (150 17 year olds beckon), so this post might be horribly out of line with the current state of affairs, so I welcome any and all comments/corrections. As for now: were it summer, I’d trudge through it all and write a detailed post on it, but I have a late night Congress session with senators pillow and sheet in a few minutes, so I have to go…:)