Socialist Health Care

By: Inoljt, http://thepolitikalblog.wordpress.com/

Some of the Obama's more incoherent detractors have labeled his health care plan as "socialized medicine." It is assumed, naturally, that socialism is Bad (with a big B).

While socialism may be less effective in many industries and fields (just look at the Soviet Union's fate, after all), the insurance industry as a whole is rather different. Think for a moment - how is capitalism supposed to work? The company that makes the most profit wins. Companies make profit by selling goods and services to consumers; the better the product, the more consumers buy it, the more money said company makes, and the more effort said company puts into making an even better product. Society as a whole benefits from this invisible hand.

With insurance, on the other hand, companies don't make profit by selling consumers the best product. Instead, they make money by denying insurance claims from consumers. The incentive is perverted; the insurance company that does the best denies the most claims. And because one has to begin with a lot of preexisting money to start an insurance company, it is very difficult for competition to emerge. Meanwhile, the customer is trying to make insurance companies pay for something (a medical crisis, for instance) he or she could not afford on his or her own. It is as if both sides are continually trying to rob the other.

Obviously, this is Bad (with a big B) for society. Partly as a result of the above problem, the United States spends far more than its peers on health care and gets far less for its cash.

Does this mean that the United States ought to switch to a socialist health care system? Doing so would certainly constitute a wretching change. Terrible mistakes could be made with implementation; moreover, other failings of the U.S. system (e.g. malpractice lawsuit costs) are just as or even more responsible for its high costs.

Yet nations with socialist systems, such as Britain and France, tend to have far "healthier" health care by most measurements - especially cost per capita. As even the most persistent free-market advocates acknowledge, some fields  (e.g. the financial industry) are simply not suited to capitalism. Health insurance seems like one such domain.

To switch or not to switch? At the very least, it's worth considering.

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The Problem with Profits; Katie Meacham's story

A small story appeared in the New York Times recently that few nationally are likely to have noted. It was published on page MB1 of the New York edition, not exactly high profile placement for a national newspaper, but what it covers should be central to the national debate going on today about health care in America:

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On One Health Care "Myth"

Republicans have attacked Obama's health care plan for, amongst other things, creating "death panels." Democrats, predictably, have responded by calling this a ridiculous scare tactic, something that of course will never happen.

The problem is, however, that the fundamental concept behind this idea has merit. And unfortunately, because of Republican attacks, a good idea may not be implemented.

Here is the viewpoint on "death panels." Killing old people is a bad idea. So don't do it. Case closed.

But reality is not that simple. The plain truth is that the enormous cost associated with caring for the elderly is slowly bankrupting our nation and its health care system. The last months of a person's life incur an enormous and disproportionate amount of spending relative to his or her lifespan. And sometimes - many times - those expenses are simply not justified; unnecessary operations and surgeries simply prolong the pain and delay the inevitable. Unplugging the machine may simply be the right thing to do - both for the nation at large and the person individually.

There is most definitely a chance of abuse and terrible wrong happening with this. There usually is. This idea is not perfect; few ideas are. The point is that it should not be immediately dismissed out of hand.

Today, with the health care plan losing popularity, Democrats are quickly backtracking from end-of-life planning. They have promised to delete the text concerning "death panels."

That is unfortunate. Excessive end-of-life treatment that does not help is a major part of our skyrocketing health care bill. If we ignore the problem, as Congress seems poised to do, it will not magically get better. Sadly, ignoring the problem increasingly looks like what is going to happen.

--Inoljt, http://thepolitikalblog.wordpress.com/

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Dear Opponents of Socialized Medicine

Originally posted at The Wayward Episcopalian. This post is called "Dear Opponents of Socialized Medicine." That's clearly not the MyDD crowd, but maybe you can find a new talking point (like "socialized defense") for when Uncle Pete comes over for dinner tomorrow night.

Dear Opponents of Socialized Medicine,

CONGRATULATIONS, YOU'VE WON! This is good news, it means you can stop screaming now! Neither the Senate nor the House is giving serious consideration to government-run health care. What they are doing, with limited leadership from the President of the United States, is trying to reform the private health care system that currently leaves 1/6 of the country in the cold, provides shoddy care to another 1/6, and is on track to consume 31% of the our GDP. What Congress is NOT doing is trying to make it a public system, so please, stop distorting debate over the issue! I would suggest that you pay attention to what is really being considered rather than screaming about a non-issue. Nevertheless, since opposing socialized medicine is all the rage these days, I have three observations that I would like to offer.

1) It seems hypocritical to me to say that the government-run programs are socialist when you don't like them but are democratic when you do. If government-run health care is "socialized medicine," how come the far-right isn't whining about "socialized freeways" or "socialized defense"? My point is this: if the security provided to you and me by the United States Armed Forces is not socialism, then neither is universal access to quality health care.

2) The most common talking point from the status quo crowd is that the government is too incompetent to run something as large as health care. This came up at an Arlen Specter event and has been pushed by organizations like Fox News and the American Spectator. This makes me wonder: does the right-wing also opposes Medicare, or thinks we should take away the government-run health care given to American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan? (On a related note: Weekly Standard founder Bill Kristol said three things on The Daily Show last week: the government cannot provide quality health care, it does provide quality care to soldiers, and normal citizens don't deserve the best health care they can get. Watch the interview here.)

3) Points one and two aren't really that important anyway because no one who matters is proposing government-run health care. President Obama has said that he wants a "public option" but his position carries little weight since he refuses to introduce his own plan to Congress. The House bill's public option was all but dropped following negotiations between Henry Waxman and the Blue Dog Democrats. Finally, the Senate bill will probably be based on the work of a bipartisan Senate Finance Committee working group, a group that will not include a public option in its bill. At least four of the group's six members, Democrats Max Baucus (full disclosure: my former boss) and Kent Conrad and Republicans Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi, have said so.

Let me be very clear: NEITHER THE HOUSE NOR THE SENATE HEALTH CARE BILLS WILL CONTAIN A PUBLIC OPTION, AND THE PRESIDENT HAS NOT INTRODUCED A BILL OF HIS OWN. So please, PLEASE stop distorting the debate. Stop acting like thugs at respectful town hall meetings. Stop surpressing discourse and squelching voices you don't like. Stop protesting what no one is doing; stop acting like anti-Bush liberals afraid of a draft. For the love of God, stop spreading false information and baseless fear!!! (And while you're at it, stop getting false information in the first place and turn off Glen Beck!)

Are we at the end of American-style Capitalism?

Are we at the end of American-style Capitalism?

There's a thought provoking article in the new Vanity Fair by Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize winning economist, which evaluates what the current financial situation Joseph Stiglitzthroughout the world means to America's position in it.

It is worth reading and thinking about, since it lays most of the responsibility on a "free-market economy" as foisted on the world by a greedy and thoughtless Wall Street, which set very different standards for other countries than it adopted for the U.S. This from the article:

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Diaries

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