And the beat goes on. The health care for millions of “un” and under-insured American citizens has become like a ping-pong ball being endlessly batted back and forth across the net of good intentions. It is a process to warm the cockles of any obstreperous bureaucrat’s heart – lots of commotion but nothing gets done. Providing basic health care as a right for all Americans is a difficult battle to win, because those against such a right need not propose but simply oppose. The bureaucrat will always offer endless reasons as to why something can’t be done. If one objection is put down, another one is ready to pop up. In the end, doing nothing will be a victory.The latest and most emotional objection being raised to defeat health care for all Americans is the fearsome involvement of government in our personal choices and life.
Those opposed to recognizing health care as a moral right of all Americans argue that government involvement will “take away and ration” the health care for those already covered. They suggest that the government’s involvement in health care will eliminate the individual’s right of “free choice” —something that most Americans believe is essential to their rights as citizens. Of course, the idea of “free choice” is wonderful, but for most of us in most situations, we know it is more myth than reality.
What “free choice” do the poor and aged have when it comes to health care today? The idea that somehow government involvement in providing health care to those who do not have or cannot get (even if the have the money and are healthy) will restrict others is just as much a myth as is the concept of free choice.
Opponents of Obama’s health care plan claim to support universal health care, but argue that the coverage should be provided by the private sector and not government. That’s a nice idea and I would be all for that, but there is just one small problem. The private insurance sector has had 70 years to provide affordable health insurance protection to all individuals and has failed.
If you can’t afford it, have ever been sick or are over age 60 then you cannot buy private health care in America. That means there are about 46 million Americans who are unable to acquire health care coverage from the private sector. If the private sector is unable or unwilling to meet the needs and legitimate rights of citizens, isn’t it the purpose and obligation of government to step in and do so? Doesn’t passing the buck end somewhere? And remember, we are not talking about the government actually providing health care, but just paying the private sector for the portion of care that individuals cannot afford, i.e. Medicare.
The fundamental conflict between health care provided by the private sector and government is not “free choice” or rationing, but simply profits. The private sector is unwilling and unable to provide health care coverage to the poor, sick and aged because it is simply not profitable to do so. So does that mean those people should not have coverage? If you accept that basic health care as a right if every citizen and the private sector cannot provide it, then it is the obligation of the government to do so.
Well-healed opponents (read health insurance companies) of health care plead that if the government provides national health care then the private companies will be unable to compete and will be driven out of business. One could respond with “so what?” Insurance companies have failed to provide the needed coverage anyway, so why should they continue to exist? But the better response is that far from eliminating the private insurance sector, the proposed plan will actually increase the market and potential profits for insurance companies.
Education is a good parallel example to prove that point.
No one questions that every American child – rich or poor – has a guaranteed right to a basic publicly supported education. That right, first proposed by Thomas Jefferson and enacted nationally at the turn of the 19th century, guarantees education for all—from grade school up to and through college. Hey, who is it that assures the accessibility of basic education to all citizens? It is the combination of local, state and federal governments. No one disputes the involvement of government in education because it is accepted as a right of all citizens. The same would be true if basic health care were to be accepted as a right.
Does government involvement in education mean that every child receives the very best education possible? Of course not. But it does mean that every child does have the opportunity for a basic education. Has this “public option” for education eliminated the private sector from offering education? Hardly. It has, in fact, created a profitable opportunity for private schools and other educational services. If one has the money and the wherewithal they have the “free choice” to “buy” a better education from private schools and universities. In fact, the public and private sectors of education work very well together. The same will happen in the health care sector.
With a government sponsored basic health care coverage to all Americans, insurance companies will be freed from the pressure to offer universal coverage. Much like private schools and universities, the insurance companies will be able to design and offer supplemental coverage (just as they do for Medicare) and “gold-plated” policies for those who can qualify and pay for them. In reality, the market and potential profits for the insurance companies may actually greater than they are today.
And the Moral of the Story …
Bureaucratic, shortsighted and greed-driven insurance companies should wake up and view national health care rights for all as an opportunity and not a threat. The only way health care for all citizens will be a threat to insurance companies is if they continue to resist the right thing to do and find themselves eliminated from the solution. If that happens, they will have no one to blame but themselves.