Saturday, March 11, 2006

A right, not a privilege

The New Republic makes a persuasive argument in favor of universal health insurance, and says it is the issue that can reignite the liberal imagination. Might this not be the kind of thing I was talking about earlier this week, the kind of issue that all Democrats can rally around?

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14 Comments:

Blogger djhlights said...

This topic was discussed last week over at the Washington Monthly and TPM Cafe.

6:58 PM

 
Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

You have to be kidding? Universal Health Care before everyone in the U.S. has free digital cable TV and gas prices below a buck fifty? Bush/Cheney will win a third term before that happens. Ain't that America?

Until there is UHC (or if), I'd love to see people shop for health care coverage with the same dedication as they search out the best deal for a Honda Element or big screen TV. I'm not saying health care isn't expensive and shouldn't be available to everyone (it is and should be). But damn if I'm not gonna be exasperated by my 300 pound neighbor having his fourth heart attack on my dime because he refuses to just say no to that fourth Big Mac.

You know, if you abuse your computer at work often enough, your boss will boot your ass out. Does he have the same right if he watches you stuffing your face with Krispy Kreme donuts in the morning, McDonald's at lunch and a couple candy bars around 3:30 p.m. — and that's even before I start to rant about the four cigarette breaks.

UHC is a tough equation. Maybe it should only be for kids or the poor (and god knows who will come up with that definition). And maybe we need to put a cap on how much doctors can make. Because I gotta tell you, I've never seen a poor MD who hasn't put himself in debt because of the high life. And, really, should Pam Anderson's next breast job be free? As it is, I'm not sure that guys should get a break on Viagra through their medical coverage. And then there is the issue of how much say the moral bunch will have about coverage for anything concerning contraception and abortion.

So in the end is it the the government's job to be the nation's health provider? And at what cost? You know, the National Review article said that people are dying prematurely because they can't afford medication. Well, it seems to me that people are living longer than nature designed thanks to science and man, if that's the case. Dying prematurely happens when the bus plows over you at the corner of Fifth and Bigelow near the Pitt student union. Or when your kayak gets stuck under the big rock in Ohiopyle. But dying because you don't take you medicine seems as though the script is playing out as planned. Unnecessary, yes, but right according to schedule, some might say.

Sorry for going on so long. And yes, UHC should be the rallying call for the Dems (or whoever's liberal these days). But damn, the have to remember to be passionate about the issues without being shrill and hard-harded. Which means no Hillary or Howard Dean.

8:08 PM

 
Blogger Sherry P said...

i really would like it if people who ask "is it the government's job to ... ?" just fill in the blank, but health care is a major one, natural disaters another.

to please explain just what their personal beliefs are as to just what our government's jobs are concerning us.
break it down as to federal/state/ county and local government.

it just seems that more and more the government isn't supposed to do much of anything for it's citizens so i'd just like some specific examples, honestly, not civics lesson please, just honest thoughts on it. i think it would be interesting to read what thoughts are on this.

8:24 PM

 
Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

Sherry,
I posed the question about what government should do. And sort of answered by saying that UHC should be something the Democrats build their platform on. I would love to see this government protect me from genetic high cholesterol levels instead of non-existent threats from Saddam Hussein.

Really, it would bother me to think that I was paying for Rush Limbaugh's health care. Or Jimmy Carter's. Or O.J. Simpson's. Or Loretta Lynn's (and I think Loretta is the sweetest thing in the world). And if some gangbanger in Allentown gets capped in the knee, my taxes are covering the ER and rehab tab? Same for the washed up, drunk athlete who gets a new liver, thanks to me. I really hope not. But I guess that's how UHC works. Everyone benefits, regardless of need or merit. Or would it still be a system in which the rich can pay for care that is a cut above UHC?

My biggest question is how to make sure that the system really helps those 46 million uninsured people get the coverage they need. Right now, I pay more than $1,100 a month for health care, since I'm self-employed. Sure, it would be nice to have the government or anyone pick up part of that tab for me, even though I can afford it. But by the end of the year, those payments account for nearly 20 percent of my income (and remember I have to pay all 15 percent of my Social Security tax. And deductions are not nearly as nice as real cash in your hand.). So I'm not a big fan of citizens taking care of everything themselves — even though I am covering all my own costs, for the most part. Hey, do realize how many more iPods I could download with even a tenth of that outlay? (What, you don't have more than one iPod?)

So back to your question, what should government do? How about provide us the OPPORTUNITY for a quality education, health care, housing, clean water, safe food and other basic needs. But once government gets involved in our lives, it's a very tricky business. What works in France, just might not work here...and vice versa.

Maybe UHC falls under the pursuit of happiness clause. I know I'd sure as hell be damn near giddy if my medical insurance costs dropped by even half...although I'm guessing some taxes would go up. Maybe the answer is like the school voucher idea. If you want UHC fine. If not, maybe you can receive a credit and choose a plan of your own. But can Americans really handle freedom of choice when it extends beyond which of the 42 brands of Coca~Cola to drink (and increase the nation's obesity epidemic)?

Uh, did I answer your question?

10:54 PM

 
Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

Sherry,
I didn't mean for the last line of my response to sound smug. The "Uh..." just was sort of intended to say that I know I took a long time to get to the answer — hope I didn't go too far off course.

8:41 AM

 
Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

So, if the US gets UHC, where will all the M.D.s fleeing .CA go?

I have a younger brother that lives in YOW. (airport code for Ottawa. Man, is that a funny code.) His wife is an MD. Her father is an MD too. You want to now what is wrong with UHC? Talk to them for about 10 secs ... and they are both solidly left of center.

With UHC, instead of ranting about the cost of medicine, you will ranting about shortages, rationing, and budgets.

Having the Dems run on UHC is my new fanstasy day dream, and is the best reason why people would vote for the Reps.

3:27 PM

 
Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

As I said Amos, there's a lot to figure out. But it doesn't mean that it can't be considered...or tried. And yes I know that England's UHC is predicted to be 10 billion pounds in debt by 2010. Actually, I think getting rid of health care insurance might be the way to go...except for the big stuff. Even with the coverage I have, I don't run to see my MD every time my nose runs or back hurts. Honestly, I would have saved about $50,000 over the last five years if I would have paid for medical expenses as they came along. For my $1,100 a month, I should get a VIP suite in my doctor's office...and a daily rectal temperature reading...even if I don't need it.

4:48 PM

 
Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

Sorry, Sean, I disagree, there is not much to figure out as far as UHC is concerned. Every time UHC has been implemented it results in a predictable mess.

If by "getting rid of health care insurance" you mean employer paid health insurance, then I agree. Then again in Europe and the UK, some professions get paid cars as part of the employment package. The last time I would want would be a "one size fits all" car from my employer, yet we accept that with health insurance.

5:20 PM

 
Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

At this point, I'd prefer the Swiss system to ours. Everyone is required to buy health insurance, which they pay for themselves, unless their income is low enough to qualify for government subsidies. Medical care is cheapear.

8:30 PM

 
Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

I'm not sure I understand the logic of requiring everyone to buy health insurance. But according to what I've seen online (which is always true), the Swiss health insurance business is regulated by the government. So while the government might not supply the coverage, it imposes limits on what insurers can charge. Are price controls ever the right way?

By the way, what happens if a Swiss miss or gent doesn't buy health insurance?

Also, defining "low income" in America is a tough deal. First, I make a decent salary for Pittsburgh. But in New York City, I'd be scraping by. According to the CIA Web site (the most truthful Web site ever...just in case they're reading this), says that Heidiland is about twice the size (and half as smelly) as New Jersey with a population fo about 7.5 million. I can't say this with a lot of facts to back it up, but I would say that the highs and lows in incomes are nearly as dramatic in Switzerland as in America. Again, the online sources (UNICEF) say that 6.7 percent of the Swiss live below the poverty level. Let's just say that America wins in reverse with a rate around 12 to 12.5 percent. And then consider that stat multiplied by 250 million (the U.S. pop.)

9:45 PM

 
Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

hey, in that last statement i meant to say that income disparities in Switzerland "aren't" as great as we have here.Sorry

9:49 PM

 
Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

Ya, .CH is small in size and population. Other than having four languages, it is pretty homogenous too. Heck, the children born in .CH of legal immigrants are not automaticlly citizens in .CH. (This was also true in .CA until '77.) Look at the Gini Index in the CIA FactBook if you are interested in family income dist.

Surprise, insurance is always regualted by the gov.

I am curious what does the min coverage in .CH costs? Is it only major medical, or does it include alcohol treatment, mental illness, chiropractic care, past live healing, etc?

10:10 AM

 
Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I haven't been following this discussion very closely, but let me say a few things.

The question is whether the headaches we'd be trading from our current system are worse than the ones we would get from a single-payer or other government-sponsored health insurance system. (I am not advocating government-provided health care.)

It seems evident that our current system is unsustainable. As health insurance gets more expensive, fewer employers will offer it, and those that do will provide increasingly costly plans that the youngest and healthiest employees will avoid. That will cause premiums for everyone else to increase, which will lead fewer employees to offer insurance--I think you see where I am going.

Most market-based reforms that have been proposed would help only the relatively affluent and those who are young and healthy. That will only excarbate the problem.

I think this essay lays out the case better than I can, though as I said, I stop well short of advocating government delivery of health care:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/18802

7:15 PM

 
Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

Well, here's my final response to all this...

Hope I die before I get old (or extremely ill).

8:19 PM

 

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