Clash of the Titans XLIX: Universal Health Care

September 14, 2007, 12:00 pm; posted by
Filed under Connie, Debate, Steve  | No Comments

In this corner, against a national health care system, is Steve!

And in this corner, supporting it, is Connie!

No one wants to see people suffering in sickness without access to health care. I understand the terrible dilemmas faced by the uninsured poor in America, and I know that there really are people who cannot afford to go to the doctor. But this problem requires the right solution.

Before we think about changing things, let’s examine the current system, which does a lot more than some believe. Medicaid and Medicare do a lot to cover the expenses of the poor and elderly. In New York, Child Health Plus and Family Health Plus provide free or low-cost health care to ALL residents of the state who meet certain income requirements. A two-parent family with two children can make as much as $51,636 per year and still qualify for Child Health Plus, with only a $30 premium each month. Unfortunately, many eligible people don’t apply for these programs, perhaps because they don’t know about them. Other low-price medical insurance programs are available through various means (although many people — like me, for the last three years — make a conscious choice to go without), and free clinics exist in almost every city.

I might be convinced to support some sort of expansion of these programs, especially to cover the constantly mentioned (but rather rare) single adult stuck in a dead-end, low-wage job. But what I will not support is so-called “free” universal health care.

First, the government will handle health care inefficiently. There isn’t a single thing — not even national defense — that the government has proven able to handle without an increase in cost and a decrease in service. You’re sure you want to put them in charge of your newly diagnosed prostate cancer? For more effective results, we should be trying to privatize things, not nationalize them.

Second, such a policy won’t be free at all — its cost will simply be passed along in the form of much higher taxes. People like me, who get sick twice a year and are blessed with excellent health, will be required to enter this system even if we largely don’t need it, and will pay into the system vastly more than we get out of it. It’s FICA all over again, except on an even larger scale. Just what we all want: the government taking more money out of our paychecks.

Third, the repercussions of free universal health care would be disastrous to our system. Give something away and people value it less and use it more. Elective surgeries will become nearly impossible to get, involving long waits, obscene costs, or perhaps both — just like they already are overseas, regardless of Michael Moore’s lies. And if you think antibiotic resistance is bad now, just wait until everyone with a pulse gets a bottle of amoxicillin every time their nose runs.

Nationalizing health care would give everyone the same standard of care — a painfully low one. Let’s fix the current system to include the people who legitimately cannot afford the care they need, rather than overhauling something that’s really not that bad, destroying it in the process.

My reason for supporting universal health care is simple — people don’t just suffer without insurance coverage as Steve concedes, but they can die without proper treatment, and it’s being priced out of their range. Statistics say that employers and workers will pay an average of $12,106 for health insurance this year, and overall, the cost of employer-provided insurance has risen 78% since 2001, exceeding the 17% jump in inflation.

Yes, health care is available for the poor and lower middle class, but how many of the poor can actually get it? The sad truth is that most poor people are not able to take advantage of these programs. I know because it happened to my family. My father couldn’t hold a job, and I went to six different second grades in two states one year. Record keeping would have been a joke for us, but it’s very important in these programs. You must follow rigid recertification rules twice a year or you get kicked off. If your materials are misplaced by bureaucrats (mine were), you get kicked off. If you don’t have the skills to battle the bureaucracy, you’ll lose your coverage. All this red tape is a supreme waste of health care dollars. It has nothing to do with keeping people well.

But the middle class is probably having the hardest time. They could handle the paperwork and red tape; unfortunately, they just don’t qualify. And every single year their costs keep going up. What if they have a crisis in the meantime while they’re uninsured or under insured? They might lose their homes. I personally will spend 75% of my paycheck (nearly $10,000) paying for health care premiums this year, and that doesn’t include co-pays or prescriptions. My employer doesn’t provide any coverage help.

The difference between coverage and no coverage could be checking out that melanoma or going to the dentist before a tooth becomes abscessed. Steve suffered through only he knows how much pain this past spring and summer, waiting for dental coverage. Maybe he just didn’t want to spend the money, but many others just don’t have it to spend.

I personally suffered from a systemic infection last summer — a simple case of food poisoning spread to a bladder infection. I had health insurance, although I’m notorious for not going to the doctor; eventually I got checked because I was in a lot of pain. I was issued a bottle of pills and sent home. A couple hours later I hit the Urgent Care where I was called a wimp, and told to let the pills work and tough it out. A couple hours after that, I was in the ER and admitted to the ICU.

If I hadn’t had insurance I don’t think I would have tried the last step; I would have been worried about how I would pay the first two bills and trying to believe that the first two doctors knew what they were talking about. But I would have been wrong and I would have died. All that would have been left for my family would be filing the wrongful death suit…maybe that would have covered their insurance premiums for another few years. Some ironic consolation, eh?

I know the federal government doesn’t have a good track record in this area, but New York does. Their programs became a pilot for the nation because they worked so well. We just need to stop wasting money on red tape and develop a health care system that’s fair, affordable and available to all, not just those who can afford to buy a kidney whenever they want one.

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