One member of our talented stable of writers here at TMV, Marc Pascal, published a long, detailed column on the health care debate yesterday which raises many questions currently being debated around the nation. Having taken such time and care to do so, I feel it only appropriate that a few of these points receive a full response.
Unfortunately, Marc falls into the all too common usage of phrases which I see popping up all across the web in these and other debates, wherein the author begins an assertion by saying “Some falsely claim…” or “Others facetiously argue..” This is nothing more than a modern remake of the old, evangelical style of patter wherein the preacher says, “I’m sure we can all agree…” and then goes on to say something which is patently outrageous to a portion of the listeners. It does nothing to advance rational debate when you start out by calling the person who holds a different opinion a liar. But on to some specifics.
Is the private health insurance market really competitive? Should it even be based on free-market principles? Several studies have shown that in most cases across the U.S. just one or two private insurance companies dominate any particular region or state.
How this tired argument began is beyond me, but I can personally attest that the consulting company I do a lot of work for (and through whom I get my very satisfactory health care coverage) has changed providers three times in the last seven years. It’s a pain in the butt at times, having to fill out new forms, change cards, etc. but they did it to keep getting the best rate possible and provide us with the best rates. The competition is out there. Yes, many states have one or two companies holding a lion’s share of the business, but that is precisely because of the free market, not in spite of it. The ones who operate the most efficiently and offer the best price while delivering an acceptable product will lead the market. Thus it has always been. This argument about how there is no competition in the insurance industry is ridiculous on its face. If that were true we wouldn’t be watching insurance commercials on our televisions 24/7.
Some other argue further that millions of young individuals who consider themselves indestructible refuse to buy insurance and that fact distorts the very notion of risk-spreading inherent with private insurance… Others facetiously argue, including private health insurance companies, that if these young indestructible individuals were required to buy insurance, many of the systemic financial problems would go away.
This one really deserves a blue ribbon. In reverse order, let’s first recognize that Republicans are not generally the ones saying the government should force these “indestructible youths” to have insurance… the Democrats are. But by all means go find the Republicans who are. You hold ’em down and I’ll draw cat whiskers on their faces with an indelible marker. The indestructible youth argument comes up when we discuss the vastly overinflated numbers of “desperate people without health care” which so many Democrats quote. (“Falsely” saying that it’s 38, 42 or even 51 million when, in reality, it’s probably somewhere between 10 and 15 million who truly can NOT afford, want it badly and could use a hand from the government.) They are generally young, single or married without children couples who don’t want to spend the money for something they don’t believe they are likely to need. I see it in our company and many other places. If you don’t, then you don’t get out among the work force much. The largest of the inflated numbers also include illegal aliens. Perhaps you feel that those who pay taxes inside of the system are obligated to pay for insurance for those who do not participate as citizens, but I do not. That’s an argument for another day, however.
Many on the right believe that any activity, including the social and economic needs of the general public that cannot be met by a private for-profit company, must simply be ignored.
Talk about offensive strawmen! And you guys complain about the tone coming from conservatives on the health care debate? A lot of this nonsense comes down to a fundamental disagreement (and misunderstanding on the part of bureaucratic liberals) as to whether or not health care is a “right” and a failure to grasp the essential definition of what insurance is and how it works. For more on this, see Ed Morrissey’s guest post on this today here at TMV. Your comments about “only doing things with the expectation of future profit” as some sort of evil empire thinking demonstrates this fundamental disconnect in understanding between the concept of rights and consumer services which fill needs. Health care is not like free speech or religious beliefs. There isn’t a free, inexhaustible supply of it out there someplace. It has to be delivered and it has to be paid for. And if you don’t want the government to do it (which I don’t) then there has to be a profit incentive for private enterprise to provide it.
And then there’s this:
Others have facetiously tried to argue that healthcare is not that important to even be considered a civil right for every human being.
This, of course, brings us to the title and essential thrust of the original article. Does government run, owned and operated health insurance kill competition and drive the private industry out of business? Of course it does, and the number of people who keep trying to foist this argument off on us is staggering. A for profit operation will always, always, always lose out to a not for profit operation which not only doesn’t need to make a profit but can mandate what it’s willing to pay, even if that payment doesn’t cover costs.
Obama’s endless droning about, “If you like your health plan, you keep your health plan” is maddening to those of us who actually stop to think about it. I 100% agree that nobody is talking about having the government come and forcibly take away your private health insurance options. They don’t need to. If “competition” from a non-profit government plan drives them all out of business, there’s simply no other option left. This should be obvious to a third grader.
[A] public option does not require a public or quasi-governmental entity to exist. I mentioned in a prior post that a nationally required and regulation minimum health insurance plan could be offered by each private healthcare company to the general public. The premiums, coverages and patient protections would all be set by law.
Where does one even begin when trying to address such “logic?” Thankfully, the disastrous, so-called “public option” appears to be dead, but what you’re talking about as a replacement is top-down price control by the government which has always, uniformly proved disastrous. So the government is going to tell private industry what products it must provide, who it must provide them to, and what they can charge for it, regardless of the costs incurred by the company? If we haven’t been able to explain the inherent folly in such a plan by now, I doubt I will be able to here.
Many of the angry older white people screaming at Town Hall Healthcare meetings are simply sore losers who cannot accept the 2008 election results.
If you can’t construct a coherent argument against the message, attack the messenger. Check.
Democrats must understand that Republicans are masters of appealing to the base emotions of humans, and misleading many gullible and uneducated people. They must be prepared to enact healthcare, financial, environmental and infrastructure reforms with no bipartisan support. The discredited policies of Republicans have so damaged this country that it will take years to dig ourselves out of the deep pit in which they have dumped the country.
Republicans, and an increasing majority of independents from all recent polls, must understand and remind themselves that Democrats are masters of pushing populist, rainbow strewn promises where the government will solve everyone’s problems and spend money to do so like there is no tomorrow, and then turn around and tax you into oblivion as the economy collapses under the weight of their folly. They’ve done it each time they’ve obtained unbridled power in living memory and we always kick them out shortly thereafter, and they’re not acting any differently now.
See? Doesn’t sound any more pleasant when the other side does it either, does it? That kind of insulting rhetoric doesn’t advance the debate. It shuts it down. Oh… and by all means, please bring up the meme about how the last time we had a surplus and the government ran somewhat efficiently was under Bill Clinton. And then we will ask you who was in charge of Congress (and therefore, by constitutional definition, the public purse) at the time. I use that argument myself on a regular basis, except it is to argue the fact that our government runs best when the political parties share power, with one holding the executive and one the legislative. Whenever we give one of them total control for too long, things go off the rails in one policy area or another. When we gave it to the Republicans, foreign policy and social liberty issues went to hell in a handbasket. When we give it to the Democrats the economy swirls to the bottom of the drain. This is America in the modern era. Get used to it.