Health Care Reform
A pair of Megan McArdle posts underline an interesting political dynamic which is applying itself to the various health care reform bills percolating in the congress.
There’s been a lot of talk about how lack of sufficient health care is a major cause of bankruptcy in the US. Some of this is based on a couple of very bad studies, which essentially assumed that anyone who declared bankruptcy who had any outstanding medical bills at all must have done so because of medical costs, regardless of the relative size of their medical and other debts. But there’s also a legitimate aspect to this, though it doesn’t have to do with medical costs. Bankruptcy is often the result of some sort of unexpected circumstances (lost job, divorce, medical problems) which drastically increases expenses or lowers earnings. Obviously, if you come down with major medical problems, you may well end up earning less regardless of your medical bills, and this can cause bankruptcy.
Illustrating this is a recent study commissioned by the Canadian government investigating the high prevalence of bankrupty among older Canadians. (via Megan McArdle) The finding: medical problems is the number two cause of bankruptcy among Canadians aged 55-65, the group with the greatest propensity to declare bankruptcy. (see pages 18-19) Continue reading
Pro-life liberal Catholic writer Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter argues that because Catholic conservatives find themselves opposed not only to a universal health care bill that funds abortion, but also to the idea of centralized health care in general, they are in fact playing into the hands of the pro-abortion lobby.
It is strange indeed to see conservative Catholics unwittingly aiding and abetting the agenda of the pro-abortion organizations they oppose. And stranger still that conservatives who spent the last election cycle saying that no political issue mattered as much as abortion are suddenly putting their idolatry of the market before adopting a sound strategy for keeping abortion coverage out of the health care reform effort. They have provided ample reason for the administration and Congress to ignore their pleas on abortion. The may see themselves as the “loyal opposition” but they are not being loyal to the pro-life cause they espouse. They are undermining it.
His argument is basically that since health care reform is currently on the table, if conservative pro-lifers do not promise to support it if it doesn’t fund abortion, then they are therefore helping those who want it to fund abortion. I can’t help like feeling that this is a bit like the old National Lampoon cover: “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog.”
Blackadder pointed out elsewhere that for all of the insistence that people cannot wait and absolutely need reform right now in order to alleviate the suffering of the uninsured, the health care bills currently under consideration are designed not to begin to go into effect until 2013, conveniently after the next presidential election. It is, I’m sure, a matter of opinion whether this is a cynical political attempt to avoid the consequences of people actually experiencing one’s health care reforms, or if its the necessary time to enact all 1100+ pages of regulations in the current plan. Either way, perhaps there’s a better way if people are really serious about helping people quickly and avoiding partisanship.
By most counts, there are actually around 12-15 million Americans who are uninsured for more than a few months, do not have the financial ability to buy their own insurance (make less than 75k), are legal residents, etc. This 12-15 million includes some people who are simply poor and can’t afford insurance (perhaps it’s not provided by their employers, or perhaps they’re unemployed) and others who are middle class (but without employer coverage) and have medical conditions which make it impossible to get individual health care insurance.
Let’s assume it’s 15 million. If we also assume that they’re fairly expensive to insure ($5000/person/year) the cost of simply paying to buy them all private insurance would be $75 billion per year, or $750B over ten years — actually less than the estimated cost of the current health care reform bill. (Heck, you could pay for the first 4-5 years by canceling all stimulus spending which is not scheduled to happen until after 1-1-2010.)
In a post on the topic of health care rationing (responding to a progressive post which argued that denying care to people unlikely to see much return was one of the benefits of a centralized health system) Megan McArdle of The Atlantic makes the following observation:
There’s another intuition that at least libertarians have, which is that it is not as bad to have undesirable things result from an impersonal process than from an active decision. It is bad if someone’s house burns down and they couldn’t afford insurance. It’s worse if someone’s house burns down, and they were in the class of people deemed unworthy by a bureaucrat of having their house rebuilt.
I think almost all progressives have the opposite intuition. They think it’s better to try to produce an optimal result, even if that results in individual injustices (which it will–government rules are very broad brush, and will always involve error at the margins). I’m not sure how to bridge that intuitive gap.
It strikes me this is indeed one of the determining differences between those skeptical of and those confident in the ability of a centralized beaurocracy to actually improve the administration of health care (as opposed to its availability, which obviously could be improved simply by throwing enough money around.)
Given the range of viewpoints found around here, I’m curious what others think of this. Is this indeed one of the major dividing lines between progressive and libertarian/conservative viewpoints?
On the surface this would seem a fair evaluation but if you dig a little deeper, those on the Left may well be making another crucial misdiagnosis of the source and cause of this reaction.
First lets examine the prism that those on the Left have viewed this reaction.
The limits of civic discourse and modern medical science were tested in Los Angeles on Wednesday when a MoveOn.org protester whose feelings became inflamed over the issue of providing health care to all was moved to bite off part of the finger of a by-standard during the course of an altercation which broke out at a protest. Since the victim was 65, government health care was able to step in (in the form of Medicare) to provide care, but failed to succeed in reattaching the finger, which was severed at the first joint.
One man bit off part of another man’s finger when a health care reform demonstration turned violent.
William Rice said doctors did not reattach the bitten-off part of his left pinky after he got in the middle of a Southern California rally Wednesday night that he said was ”very scary.”
”I didn’t go out to demonstrate my beliefs, I happened to be driving by and I stopped to ask people what their purpose was,” Rice, 65, said in a telephone interview Thursday. ”I had no signs, I was not part of the demonstration.”
About 100 demonstrators in favor of health care reform had gathered on a Thousand Oaks street corner for an event organized by MoveOn.org. About 25 counterdemonstrators gathered across the street.
Rice declined to say Thursday which side of the debate he falls on.
Ventura County sheriff’s spokesman Eric Buschow said a confrontation erupted after the biter crossed from the MoveOn.org side of the street to the counterprotest, where Rice was standing.
President Obama will be dropping the socialistic Public Option from his government-run health care plan. This will certainly anger the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and make for some interesting showdowns with both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (emphasis mine).
“…Obama’s willingness to forgo the public option is sure to anger his party’s liberal base. But some administration officials welcome a showdown with liberal lawmakers… …The confrontation would allow Obama to show he is willing to stare down his own party to get things done.”
Salvete AC readers!
Buckle Up! Because here are today’s Top Picks in Catholicism:
Written in Hebrew script, the pure silver amulets were discovered in the ancient tomb complex of Jerusalem’s Ketef Hinnom. Archaeologist Gabriel Barkay wrote the discovery in the Biblical Archeology Review.
Blackadder has had a couple very interesting posts lately arguing that a public health insurance program wouldn’t sound the death-knell to private insurance companies (and hence competition for the consumer) which many have been arguing it would.
Isn’t it obvious that most of our American ancestors came over from Europe because they wanted life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? They fled totalitarian regimes, socialist governments, and anti-Christian repression for the freedom that is afforded all Americans.
We have the best health care in the world precisely because it is not operated by the government. Private industry drives innovation, government regulation or government-run health care eliminates innovation, awards bureaucrats, and ultimately leads to marginal health care in the long run.
We are Americans, not Europeans. Yet President Obama, Congressional Democrats, and well-meaning liberals and progressives want to emulate European health care programs. What Europeans have is not necessarily right nor good.
Today Senator Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said that senators are excluding a provision on end-of-life care from the House bill. This is a major victory for ordinary Americans.
As senior citizens voice their displeasure with “death-panels” and other provisions in the House bill, the Democrat leaders are grudgingly realizing that maybe, just maybe, some provisions in their House bill will not pass with the American public.
The most recent polls show that the demonizing tactics of President Obama and Speaker Pelosi have failed to cover the growing grassroots activism that is rising among ordinary Americans.