Efforts to understand, improve, or do less harm to the world around me.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Health care public option conversation

On the topic of healthcare reform, a wise friend of mine pointed out the following (paraphrasing):

"The so called "public" option has no competition, no profit incentive, and therefore, no incentive to be *efficient*. Ergo, its cost to run will keep escalating, as demand escalates, and all the while the actual supply side of the healthcare economic equation remains stagnant, further compounding prices. To offset the problem, government will throw more money at it, causing higher taxes and another recession, which will be offset by printing more money, thus weakening the dollar and losing more foreign investment in the US. Better solution: stimulate growth and competition in healthcare supply markets (i.e. supplies, equipment, services) and limit "public option" participation to those who can prove they don't make enough to become insured on their own."

While in principle, the profit and competition motive should drive better services like computers, cars, and more, it's not working with health care.  As I understand it, profit-driven health care is the problem, not the solution.  Where the profit motive in other industries drives innovation, the motive here is to deny service at the time of greatest need, as that means the greatest profit.

Thus, a public option seems more viable and the analysis is whether this waste is an acceptable failure level to justify the public good.  This could be compared to the publicly funded police and education systems: they are wasteful, but necessary to maintain the peace and keep America competitive.  When family members get sick without treatment, that doesn't maintain the peace or make us more competitive.

(Responses welcome.)

Note: some of these ideas come from an essay by Bill Maher touching on the public option.


Kimberly said...

First of all, ugh Bill Frist.


Another factor of the profit and competition motive and why it works for the industries Justify has listed and just about every industry in our capitalistic society is, they don't have to shell out large sums of money to their consumers the way insurance companies do. This is why they drop you when you need them or make it impossible to get approved. There are perfectly healthy people who can't get approved for healthcare in this country, people who can and can't afford it alike. They are afraid of what you might cost them. They don't want their take home money to be effected and in turn their customers are the ones who suffer either by increased premiums or reduced coverage because the company had to pay a claim. Or they just simply cancel your policy. Where capitalism has worked in the favor of the insurance companies, it's literally killing others.

The health care system has become practically a monopoly with little chance of new companies succeeding. Our country has a history of breaking up monopolies and trusts. When so few have so much it isn't really a fair market system? The fact that one company insures an entire state, and I'm not talking about Rhode Island, tells me the choices for healthcare in our country are very limited. Government was created by and works for the people. If the government can't make change to help those left by the waste side, then, are they doing their jobs? Are they earning their ridiculous salaries?

What makes this topic so hot is that for the first time, in a long time, something truly affects us on a personal level. Our country is also in a very weird moment in its relationship with the government. Like in the 70's with Nixon, when the first country first grappled with the idea that someone as trusted as the president could lie to his people, we are again faced with the disappointment and abuse of trust that has come out about the previous eight years. I believe mass majorities of the people have moved from a healthy skepticism of authority to extreme mistrust of anything government. Things have gone from bad to worse in rapid time and because of they way government works it looks like it all one persons fault. How quickly people like to forget about time lines and who should be held accountable for what.

Because politics and lobbying is operating as business as usual the public is being manipulated to work against itself. Both sides are susceptible to the propaganda of their own side, believing each one is telling the truth. We all want to think we're right, that our side knows best, but if the people can't work together and the government is a representation of the people, how can they be expected to work together. If you find yourself saying, "Now, I don't know a lot about this subject..." but yet you still have an opinion, time to do some fact checking on both sides. I'm guilty of this myself and I'm trying to practice what I preach, but it does become increasingly hard to find the truth. These days what looks like truth is funded by some dummy corporation, that's funded by another dummy corporation that's actually funded by a lobby group who may or may not be working in your best interests. Lobbyist, "good" or "bad" are still just salesmen trying to convince you they are right. It truly is a fine line their purpose walks.

The rest of my response is in the second posting due to character limits.

Kimberly said...


Clearly, I'm for the public option and country wide healthcare (its not really universal is it now?), but like any responsible citizen I cannot blindly trust whatever side I lean towards to be 100% truthful. After all, they want you on their side. We need more people committed to truth in this country and an easily accessible forum to get that information out. "The Internet! Duh!" Often when searching the web for answers the top hits might not be the right hits simply because their Google rating is higher. It usually involves hard digging and let's be honest the "instant gratification" mentality the digital age has moved us to doesn't allow for much in the way of attention spans. "T.V.! T.V. is an easily accessible forum." Well, we all know how that argument ends and PBS, the most neutral station I can think of, just isn't drawing the numbers like it used to. They are having a telethon every time you turn around just trying to survive, so you know they are getting the numbers everyone else is getting.

So what's the answer? To healthcare? To government? Civic duty? Truth? As idealistic as it sounds, we are. We have to demand more of those that we put in office. We have to do our own research when it comes to decisions about our lives. We have to take responsibility for ourselves (a conservative thought, I know) and know when to ask for help, like say from the government. I think if the history of the people's relationship with government has taught us anything, it would be the following: be informed, be available to other's ideas, skepticism can be healthy, demand quality and accountability.