Inane Heath Care Debates

Paul Krugman says that

The debate over the public option has, as I said, been depressing in its inanity.

and over at the New Majority, David Frum asked his contributors

Tens of millions of Americans lack health insurance. Extending coverage to them has been a core goal of health reform proposals since the 1960s. President Richard Nixon offered a universal health plan in his first administration, but since then Republicans have hesitated to commit the nation to so costly an undertaking. Is it time to rethink? Should Republicans accept universal coverage as a goal?

Our survey says

No

The twenty-something responses to Frum’s question had a few common threads. The most common was that universal healthcare would conflict with American values.

To insist upon guaranteed universal healthcare for every living person in America is to insist that healthcare is a universal right, which it is certainly not. If it were, then all Americans (especially conservatives) would be moved by the Declaration of Independence which reminds us that government was instituted to secure these rights to demand nothing less than socialized medicine. But, once again, it’s not.

and

Finally, it is not who we are as a nation.  We are not a welfare state.

Another theme is that,

The U.S. has a system of universal coverage now – it’s called “show up at the emergency room” – and while it is far from perfect, the overwhelming majority actually seem pretty content with it – at least any time we get down to the specifics of some other form of “universal coverage.”

The last is that the proposed health care reforms are a trojan horse for a complete government takeover of healthcare.

This is the equivalent of “dumping” by undercutting competitors” prices, even at a loss, to take market share but without the hit to earnings that some companies are willing to take.  The Democrats see this as an option to keep insurance companies honest.  I see it as a first step to what Obama et. al. have repeatedly clamored for over the years (new rhetoric notwithstanding).  A first step towards an ultimate take-over of the entire healthcare system by the single payer entity, Uncle Sam.

And these are from the non-crazy conservatives (you should hear what they say at The Corner).

The only great post comes from an enemy plant. It starts well.

The answer:  Mexico, Turkey, and the United States. Ok, what is the question?

What are the only three OECD-countries, the 30 largest free market democracies, broadly defined, in which sizable numbers of citizens lack health insurance?

Not company our nation usually keeps.  Nor should it.  The idea that we can’t afford universal health insurance, as many NM contributors say, is just, well’s just say, it’s a bit more plausible coming from Mexico and Turkey, countries which are famous for sending legions of their people to wealthier countries like the U.S. and Germany. That enormous sum of money that Republicans keep warning us about “oh my goodness, over $1 trillion spread over ten years, the money it would take to insure about 97% of our population (to do it well, it would probably take about $1.4 trillion)” is less than 1% of our country’s estimated GDP over that same ten year period. [snip] We can afford a defense budget larger than that of the next 20 countries combined.  We can afford an unfunded war in Iraq now in its sixth year.  We could afford to pay for the prescription drug bill and gratuitously launder about $200 billion of the taxpayers money to the insurance industry.  Yes, the United States can afford this.

He also takes on the story about how Stephen Hawking would have been left to die if he had been British and had to rely on the NHS.

But did it make any of you wonder: What would happen to an American who suffered from what Hawking suffers from, or cancer, or severe heart disease, who lacks health insurance? Say, even the least sympathetic case, one of those arrogant 25-year olds, who think they are going to live forever, and wake up with a deadness in their legs, and are diagnosed with MS. I know someone like that, perhaps you do, too.  What happens to those people in America when they don’t have insurance? What happens after they show up at the emergency room, in Bradley Smith’s inelegant phrase?  This is what a number of you seem to think is fully the equal of having quality health insurance (of the kind you yourselves have, about which more later).  So you’re diagnosed with MS or ALS, or you found some blood in your stool time and again, and you go to the ER, and you’re diagnosed with colon cancer. So:  you followed Mr. Smith’s advice, and you showed up!!  Now what?

My favourite line:

People who couldn’t afford care would just be left to die on the street after all, if they can’t afford healthcare, tough luck.  Just as if they can’t afford to buy that car, or a house, or sofa, or a lamp.  We don’t say, “Just show up at Crate and Barrel, you’ll get an emergency sofa, if you’re just dying to have one.”

I have been very frustrated by the health care debate because it is so completely lost in wonkery. I can’t help think that if Obama stood up and painted the big picture of what this is really about…

Nor is it, ironically enough, like the sustained care that Stephen Hawking received from the socialists at the NHS. And isn’t it odd, too, that we act as if people in these other countries we know well, entirely civilized, advanced countries like Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, France, even the UK are dropping dead on the streets of the cities and town as if from the Black Plague every day.  Oddly enough, many of us have been to these places, and this isn’t true, people receive excellent medical care at less cost than our system provides.

…if he turned Eugene Debs’ excellent essay…

American conservatives write often about patriotism and love of nation.  I wonder:  Do they ever feel even a tiny bit of shame, maybe at least the blush of embarrassment, when reading that our country lacks the minimum level of social decency promulgated by every one of its peer nations and that we stand at the bottom in this category with the likes of Mexico (a nation Americans frequently mock) and Turkey? That even a dictatorship like Singapore provides universal care? That our great free market ally, Taiwan, does so, too? That this is just something that nations across the world, and conservatives, liberals and social democrats simply agree is a benchmark of modernity and civilization, no more controversial, but every bit as essential as the traffic light.

….into the kind of towering rhetoric we heard from him last year, the whole debate would be over by now.

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Ragged Clown

Based in San Jose, California

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