Both Sides of the Health Care Debate Have Me Worried Sick.Posted: July 28, 2009
The right wing puts in our heads all kinds of horror stories demonstrating that public health care in the countries that have it (Canada, the UK, etc.) is a prescription for disaster — people not receiving desperately-needed operations for years, having to wait interminably for doctor appointments when they have terminal diseases, and on and on.
Meanwhile, the left wing (as with The Huffington Post’s banner story yesterday) counters with horror stories demonstrating that private insurance companies, in the system we have now, deny people essential, life-saving procedures because of evil corporate greed or bureaucratic incompetence.
To educate yourself on the issue, you examine both sides, and all you come away with is the horror of both. And that way lies despair. You conclude that continuation of the status quo sucks and is completely unacceptable, and that every possible change from the status quo sucks and is completely unacceptable.
Maybe both sides should be talking about why their health care solution is good, instead.
In the meantime, here’s what makes sense to me. It’s the health care plan I thought Obama proposed when he was campaigning.
No public health care.
Instead, everybody gets private health care insurance. You change the laws so that the insurance companies are required to give you coverage, regardless of preexisting conditions, and are prohibited from taking your coverage away if you lose your job. You also require everybody to get insurance — thereby putting healthy young people (who don’t think they need insurance and now don’t have it) into the system, which will keep the system solvent. For people below the poverty line, the government subsidizes (or completely pays for) their insurance premiums. Middle-income people get a tax credit to help defray the burden.
What’s wrong with that?
Here’s my concern with a “public health care option.” I think it will quickly cease to be an option and become the only choice, as more and more employers use the existence of public health care as a justification for eliminating health coverage as an employee fringe benefit.
Once, health care was seen by employers as a valuable perk they could use to lure a top-flight workforce. Now health care is just an expensive albatross around employers’ necks, one they will rid themselves of as soon as they defensibly can. The existence of public health care will give them the cover they need to do that. So Obama’s avowal that under his public health care option “you can keep the private insurance you have now, if you choose to do that” is a misconception, I’m afraid. You can’t keep private health insurance if your employer takes it away using the rationale that you have a plan B.
Meanwhile, evidence seems to say that as flawed as our present system is, it works, for the people who have private health care insurance. 80% of them say they’re satisfied. And while our health care system is expensive, it also works. Mortality rates for common cancers are much lower here than in countries with public health care.
So just do my plan. There, I’m glad that’s solved.