Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Simple Test for Arguments Against Obama's Health Care Plan

A very simple problem arises when people attack Obama's health care proposals. If you are afraid "the government might have death panels," "the government might make you wait weeks for care" etc. etc., you then have to show why this either doesn't happen or won't happen if we keep the current system, with insurance companies in control of funding health care.

We know that insurance companies do exclude people because of pre-existing conditions, they do revoke coverage if you get sick, and they do put lifetime caps on the care that they will fund. We also know that they have to pay huge CEO salaries that dwarf even the President's annual paycheck. So if you are going to argue against Obama's plan, just please tell me what you are afraid the government will do and why you think you don't have to worry about United Health or whoever your private insusre is doing the same darn thing.

I'm not saying that there aren't any arguments that can be made against Obama's plan. What I am saying is that you can't make these arguments without comparing what you are objecting to with present reality.


Anonymous said...

Because whatever faults the private insurance companies may have, there at least is a built in (though hobbled by regulation, some reasonable, some not) diversity that encourages competition, and that allows greater individual choice.

At the end of the day, businesses seek, if nothing else, profit. Governments can and have sought everything from idiotic utopian solutions to frightening political and metaphysical goals to otherwise. I don't have to worry, generally, about whether Company X is going to decide that people with a given disability are worthless eaters not deserving of care. If people desire care for people with said disability, there will be market incentive to provide it. If the government is in play - if the government is the only game in town (and the risk of this happening whenever the government enters any private market is phenomenal) - it's a whole new ball game.

Really, this is akin to asking why, if I'm a christian, would I not automatically support turning the government into a theocracy. One reason among many is that making religion the business of the government has nasty repercussions that aren't present when religion is the business of the individual, the church, or the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Under some proposals (including some more liberal than the plan that Obama seemed to throw his weight behind during his address to congress), there will be a government plan for those who cannot afford private insurance. That allows for competition, unlike the single payer system that most doctors seem to be behind. (Note: it's the doctors that seem to be the farthest to the left on this one.)

Victor Reppert said...

We can hope businesses will provide some behavior in the public interest if there is real competition to beat. Otherwise we're in the world of Lily Tomlin. "We don't care. We don't have to. We're the phone company."

Insurance companies will be happy to declare someone to be a worthless eater if they think it will benefit their bottom line to perceive them as such.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, Victor, they certainly will. But that's actually my point (Anon 1 here). Businesses are practically constrained by economic considerations alone. Government meanwhile can have 'other concerns' - even their most well-meaning concerns can often lead to disaster. And frankly, the modern climate (just look at the 20th century) makes it absurdly clear that 'well-meaning' is not always the pursuit of government.

Leave me with a reasonably regulated (not over-regulated insanity, not under-regulated caveat emptor madness) purely private company solution, thank you.

drwayman said...

Dr. Reppert - I had this discussion with my "primary care physician." He stated that we already have "socialized healthcare" except that it is the insurance companies dictating rather than the government. Insurance companies tell doctors how to treat a patient, how many sessions are needed for a condition, and how much to pay the doctor. I asked hims what the solution was. He gave an interesting answer, "get rid of insurance all together. We need to get back where medicine is a private contract between a patient and doctor. Sometimes, we might even accept payment in chickens." Interesting answer. He maintained that it is insurance companies who have driven up the costs of medical care.

Daniel Gracely said...

Dear Hon. Andrews,

I suppose by now you have heard every conceivable argument for and against President Obama's health care initiatives. Nevertheless, I feel bound to register my two cents, and say that I do not feel these initiatives are in the best interests of our country (even given the current problems we have). I hope, therefore, you will not vote in favor of the President's plan.

The only thing that will ever fix our current healthcare problems is this: all persons--doctors, patients, and lawyers included--will need to learn how to treat others as they would have others treat them. Indeed, until or unless the Golden Rule is practiced by our nation's people, I fear we will always have major problems in our healthcare system. Exactly how government could promote THAT plan, I am not sure. Yet even if it the Golden Rule were employed, it would not be enough. Some persons, for example, might be willing to die by euthanasia when they are old, and therefore would feel justified now in treating others the way they themselves hope to be treated in the future. This explains why the Golden Rule is insufficient by itself, and why Christ put it second to and under the First and Greatest Command, which is to love the Lord God with all of one's heart, soul, mind, and strength. And to do THIS would of necessity mean agreeing to God's position on the sanctity of LIFE.

In short, I do not think President Obama's perspective shares this view of the supremacy of the First Command, and that is why I am against his plan. That is, while the President's proposals may be motivated toward the 2nd Command, I do not think it regards the First and Greatest Command, and unless it fulfills both it cannot produce the good of life for the nation.


Daniel Gracely, Glassboro

Daniel Gracely said...


It appears to me that what you call in your follow-up comment "real competition" cannot be real if the 'competition' by government is funded by a tax-paying public that private health insurance companies cannot also tap into. The proof of such inequity is in the immigrant run gas stations whose immigrant owners (reportedly) don't have to pay federal income tax for five years. What U.S. native born citizen can compete with that kind of 'competition', regardless if he or she is white, African American, Hispanic, or Asian? The fact is, private insurance companies would have a competitor with its own money printing press. As one professor of my brother's once pointed out, no government has ever been able to resist the temptation to print money. That's fair competition?

But then, too, is there the more direct spiritual criticism of Obama's plan. Preceding this post is the email I sent this morning to my pro-life Democratic congressman, stating why I do not support the President's health care plan.

Granted that our current system, like the government itself, has laid a foundation of sand not built upon respect for God and Neighbor. For this reason I could not agree more with Anonymous's comment at the top, that government has the tax-supported luxury to pursue, in a way not possible among private insurance companies, some insane idea under the guise of a utopian solution. So why would you wish that such people exercise even more control in this area than they already do?

PersonalFailure said...

Funny, I have yet to see any of the anon's explain how to fix the current system- which is not working.

I don't have chickens to pay my doctors with. "A private contract between doctor and patient" sounds fantastic- only I have 5 doctors, am supposed to take 11 medications a day and will need joint replacements (at least 4 of them) in the next few years.

We pay 17% of our GDP to rank in the low 30s in terms of outcome, and we have 50,000,000 uninsured. What we have isn't working, and the golden rule doesn't work in business.

drwayman said...

PF - you may not have chickens but I'm sure that you have something of value that you could arrange with the doctor. A doctor may not always need something tangible but maybe a service you could provide or someone in your family could provide. Every person has value!

I'm sorry that you have to have 5 doctors and take 11 medications and will need joint replacements. It is people with complicated health issues like yourself that would require communities and families to be creative and caring.

One Brow said...

I think it is important to distinguish between a single-payer system that allows for independent medical pratice (such as Medicare) with a governemnt-run system.

It is naive to think that there will always be private insurers for any class of patients, as some patients will simply pose too much risk.

There are a wide variety of national health care systems out there (the ScienceBlog denialism rans aseries on them, for tose who care to look it up), some of which include running health insurance companies like utilities, others which include nearly full governement control. The results are interesting and not conclusive in any particular direction.

Joshua said...

I used to be a blind follower of Ayn Rand, too. What's astonishing is that people *still* are, even after the most spectacular loss of wealth in human history. I really don't think government is a great solution, but it's beyond me how anyone can trust the oligarchs.

Victor Reppert said...

Daniel: Are you saying that Obama disagrees with God about the sanctity of human life? So he says
"God, you're a pretty good guy, creating the world and everything. But, I think you got one thing wrong. I mean life is a wonderful thing, but when you gave that commandment "Thou Shalt Not Kill" you left people with the idea that life is sacred or something. And that was a big mistake. You and I both know that there are some people that need to be gotten rid of, and you really need to send down an amendment to that commandment making clear that it doesn't cover certain important cases, like fetuses and the terminally ill."

That would be an unusual theology.

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

Speaking from personal experience, having lived 4 years under a government-run health system (when I was in the Army), and subsequently 6 years covered by the German health system, and 3 years covered by the British (when I lived in those countries), I'll take "government run" health care over what we have now any day. I am embarrased for my country when I think how inferior our system is to those of Europe (and as I said, I can personally attest to their superiority). We have no excuse for the insane way we run health care in this country.

Daniel Gracely said...

Good afternoon, Victor,

I believe everyone has a theology whether they admit (or emphasize) it or not, since either by believing or disbelieving in God they either enthrone in the first instance God, or in the second instance Self. Whether therefore we call a person's veiws their ideology or philosophy, or even theology, seems to me a matter of preference.

Since Obama has, on the one hand, identified himself with a church that at least nominally is considered by many as Christian, while on the other hand voted that a born fetus may in some circumstances be refused care, I think the unusualness of Obama's theology is, in fact, only unusual because we forget it IS (whatever else one calls it) a theology. I think we do well to go beyond thinking that the word symbol "God" has to be present in order for theology to be present.

Victor Reppert said...

I can't be sure about this, but having read the reports about the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. Based on other things he has said I seriously doubt that he opposed it because he is a Singerite. I don't think, for example, a thoroughgoing Singerite would want to restrict the "woman's health" exception to diagnosable physical distress, but Obama does, and he got some flack from the pro-choice movement for saying so. I think he objected to the bill for reasons having to do with the way the bill was worded. He has always looked to me as a more "reachable" pro-choicer than most. If the issue is framed in the right way, he might be prevailed upon to be the Nixon that goes to China and take some steps in the interests of human life that we might not expect, given what we have heard with respect to his "pro-abortion extremism." I am afraid a lot of people won't even try, but that is how I read him.

Victor Reppert said...

Would Obama make the statements I ascribed to him above? Would anyone that you know of?