Thursday, January 25, 2007

Progressive Talking Points: Universal Healthcare

Here are some talking points on universal healthcare, whether your goal is to educate fellow progressives or shut down wackos from the radical right who don't know what they're talking about.
Why is this relevant for my next cocktail party?
Every Democratic candidate for president is expected to float proposals for universal healthcare this election. Senator Clinton and Senator (soon to be President) Obama have already announced those intentions as well as Dennis "Totally Hopeless But I've Got Heart" Kucinich. A major tactic from the right will be to spread confusion and fear about this much like they did with Iraq and terrorism. They have no ideas of their own, so they can only attack with nonsense and fear-mongering.
Progressive Arguments for Universal Healthcare
It's the moral thing to do. There are over 46 million of your fellow citizens who are uninsured. That number is too high to simply include workers and families in transition. It our moral responsibility to care for each other in a democracy.
Healthcare is too expensive. The only people benefiting from these unaffordable premiums are greedy insurance companies. You are directly hurt by higher premiums and costs every time an uninsured patient shows up at a hospital or clinic and cannot pay. To compete for labor, most businesses offer healthcare and must pay these exorbitant premiums. This is hurting businesses and thus our economy. Businesses will have more money to invest in plant and equipment that results in productivity gains rather than making insurance companies rich. It will actually stimulate the economy while helping our citizens – even better than a tax cut.
Doctors can focus on their calling. I worked for a couple of doctors while I was in college collecting payments from insurance companies. These companies would do anything to get out of paying a claim for their own customers who had been paying them regularly. By leveling the playing field in coverage, more doctors would be paid and could spend time learning medicine and not learning how to bill correctly across 100 different insurance contracts.
Preventative care will save lives and money. The uninsured end up going to the emergency room for everything. They wait for emergencies or abuse the system because they have no other options. We all know that prevention is the least expensive option. Even greedy insurance companies offer wellness programs, and believe me, it's not because they care about you, it's because it saves them money.
Combating the Radical (and Largely Incoherent) Right
"Do you want your healthcare run like the DMV?"
I hear this argument all the time. It is the most ridiculous red herring in the conservative arsenal. No one is saying that universal coverage means government run medicine. We're talking about extending insurance benefits and it would probably work much like the system does today.
"We can't afford universal healthcare."
We could afford a $1.2 trillion war that ended in failure, I think we can afford to help our fellow Americans. It's a matter of getting the priorities right, not about raising taxes. Besides, see above for reasons why universal healthcare is not only affordable, it will probably save us money and stimulate the economy.
"Free market economics are more efficient."
This is a faulty argument in a number of areas. There currently is no real free market in America for health care. Your insurance is picked for you and greedy insurance companies who don't care about you are the ones choosing your doctors and hospitals for you. Universal healthcare would actually improve your choice and make healthcare more competitive, not less (isn't that the argument that same conservative hypocrite uses for school vouchers?).
"People are going to abuse the system if it's free."
It's not really free. What does a doctor visit look like today? Several hours of work time lost, you're probed and prodded, injected and constantly told "you've got to stop your drinking and carousing, Turner and Phelps." That's no fun. I'm not singing up for more than an annual physical just because it costs less. Heck, don't you have insurance now, Mr. Conservative Wacko? Are you abusing the system?
"It's not right for the (healthy, employed, productive) to pay for the (infirm, unemployed, lazy)."
That's what we're doing in Iraq and other places. Why can't we care for our fellow Americans first?


Blogger Phelps said...

Question: One of the major talking points regarding the illegal immigrant problem (some call it the "Mexican invasion") is that they are overburdening our healthcare system and ultimately costing us more in taxes. Would universal healthcare affect this in any way?

2:52 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

We're already paying for it, but we're doing it through the most expensive means -- emergency room care. It is causing hospital bankruptcy and forcing them to close their doors to real emergencies. California hospitals had $1.4b in unreimbursed care last year. What we're already spending could be used to battle what is really a significant health risk.

But my take on this is that it's not truly a universal healthcare issue, but an immigration issue. The imbalance comes from our desire to exploit cheap labor which results in our inability to track and tax these workers. Republicans use this as an argument because they like to muddy the issues with emotion and fear, and xenophobia is one of their faves to leverage. What could be scarier than having to pay for the medical treatment of strangers who don't pay taxes? The fact is that these are two separate issues -- should we pay for universal healthcare (I say yes based on the original post) and what do we do about immigration (I personally think it's a wash in the end, but that's another post).

7:58 AM  

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