Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Libertarian Defense of Universal Coverage?

One way to get a person's attention is to hit him or her where it hurts: in the pocketbook. The average American's attention is now on health care reform for that exact reason. Over recent years, increases in the cost of insurance have far outstripped the pace of inflation and put the squeeze on the middle class and the working poor.

Today we will visit two sites in the Blogosphere that have definite opinions on the matter, each coming from different sides of the political spectrum. Lets start with the Daily KOS where the contributor known as HeartlandLiberal gives us a real world example of the rising expense of health care (Note: emphasis his):

This year the IMA medical services group here in Bloomington, IN, is threatening to withdraw from participation in the preferred provider program run by Anthem and used by Indiana University to manage its self-insured health care program through rational cost controls. They will withdraw unless they get a 23% increase in payment. THAT'S A DEMAND FOR A 23% INCREASE IN ONE YEAR.
Indiana University (IU) has a long and distinguished history of offering health care benefits well beyond the norm for the United States, even in the private sector. Click the link above to see the whole post as it includes a reproduction of the detailed memo sent to IU staff.

Then we bounce over to the other side of the ideological divide and visit the American Thinker web site where Randall Hoven, a self professed small government conservative/libertarian, offers a surprising argument in favor of universal health coverage along with detailed health care cost analysis.
The government provides Medicare for the old, Medicaid for the poor, veterans' hospitals for veterans, medical research funding and whatever else adds up to 6.6% of GDP. The federal government forces hospitals to provide emergency treatment to all comers. State governments mandate over 1,900 types of coverage on health insurance. Health care regulations cost the average household over $1,500.

We already have socialized medicine and we are already paying for it -- twice: once in taxes and once privately. What we are not getting is universal coverage.

But if universal care (via emergency rooms) is already mandated, what's the problem? First, it is not the best way to get treatment. For one thing, the condition has to be regarded as a medical emergency. Also, the law does not relieve you of having to pay for that treatment. In fact, medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcies in the U.S., accounting for half of them.

So while you might not die, the U.S. health care system does give you the age-old offer of "your money or your life".
He presents a wide array of figures and documentation to back up his argument, giving lie to the idea that universal coverage is a left wing issue. As George Halvorson notes in his book, Health Care Reform Now!, universal coverage done right doesn't cost money, it saves money.

As an addendum, here's a link to the National Coalition on Health Care's document, Health Insurance Cost, an easy-to-read summary of health care costs based on 2005 data -- the most recent year for which data is available. Healthy reading!

SOURCE: "23% Increase Demand. Why We Need Health Care Reform" 12/11/07
SOURCE: "A Conservative Case for Universal Health Coverage" 12/12/07
SOURCE: "Health Insurance Costs"
photo courtesy of greefus groinks, used under this Creative Commons license

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