Thursday, April 05, 2007


Opposition to Universal Health Care

Writers Michael Tanner and Michael Cannon have an opinion article in the Los Angeles Times for Thursday, April 5 in which they present the Libertarian argument against universal health care or universal health insurance. Mr. Tanner and Mr. Cannon are scholars at the Cato Institute. In their argument they make the following points:
  1. Providing universal insurance does not necessarily provide universal or equal access to medical care. Many countries that provide universal health insurance still require waiting periods for many more expensive procedures, such as joint replacements or organ transplants. The patient may die while waitint.
  2. In our own country, lack of health insurance does not deny medical care. An uninsured person can always obtain medical treatment at a hospital emergency room. Hospitals are legally required to provide such care.
  3. The writers cite studies that show that having health insurance does not correlate with having better health.
  4. The writers cite a report that shows that the cost to society of providing health care to uninsured persons amounts to no more than three percent of the total cost of medical care in the United States.

The writers conclude that, rather than concentrate on providing affordable health insurance to everyone, politicians should work on fixing some of the other problems and applying other solutions,

such as enacting a standard health insurance deduction, expanding health savings accounts and deregulating insurance markets.

I think that these writers are living inside a bubble. Even they concede that it would be good to provide everyone with health insurance. They don't think it would solve anything to do so. They don't recognize that our national health care system is broken and is deteriorating. It may be statistically true (I can't dismiss their statistics out of hand) that a person who must rely on a hospital emergency room for medical care is otherwise just as healthy as a person with health insurance or with enough money to pay for visits to the doctor. I do know that more and more hospitals are closing their emergency rooms. Emergency treatment is still available, but waiting times are longer and longer. I have good health insurance and I have enough money to pay for medical costs out of pocket, but if I have a heart attack I may not be able to reach a hospital with a working emergency room in time to save my life.

It is very wrong to argue that we don't have a pressing need for universal health insurance, at least, simply because emergency rooms are legally required to care for the uninsured and indigent members of our society. We all need access to emergency treatment from time to time. Such treatment should not be delayed because ideologues have objections to society providing afforcable health care to all.

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