Both parties stand to gain from universal health care

By Mike Droste 2010

In the coming election, many issues stand out in the minds of voters, Republican and Democrat alike; whether it’s the economy, war or the dozen social issues that split America in half. However, you would be hard-pressed to find an issue that has exploded into the headlines in quite the way health care has in this election cycle. Whether this is due to the sheer magnitude of its impact or simply a sign of how broken the system has become, I think everyone can agree it needs fixing.

Health care is a unique political topic because of how deeply rooted it stands as both a social issue and economic issue. From a social perspective, I believe health care should be considered a fundamental human right, not a privilege. If America is to be considered the most altruistic nation in the modern world, I believe it’s only right that we set an example by providing our own citizens with the means to remain healthy.

As an economic issue, health care is much more complicated. I still firmly believe, however, that both parties can find common ground in how broken the current system is. In almost every industry in the world, corporate control has many benefits over government control; usually corporate control results in competition, driving down the cost of products whilst driving up the quality of a product. Health care, however, is an exception to the rule. First, health care, unlike any other service or product, is usually not something that can be “shopped” around for. Generally, people are stuck with the provider that they are granted by their employer or that they purchase separately, and from there you have a selection of offices and facilities you can visit for care. What this has led to is a system where bands of companies, driven by the incentive of profit, cut costs whilst maximizing profits.

Obviously this would stand well in virtually any other corporate scenario, but due to health care’s inherent urgency (as stated previously), it doesn’t work as an effective business
model.

While both parties can debate as long as they want regarding a solution, it has become increasingly apparent that there needs to be a change. The current system is bleeding money in the form of executive pay, high overheads and corporate profits, not to mention the billions of dollars lost in translation between every HMO and health insurance company as they have to pay. As it stands right now, 34 cents out of every dollar spent on health care in America goes to non-health related costs. The second most inefficient country in the world spends just over half that. America also spends far and away the most on health care compared to our GDP.

Universal health care would have many economic boons that both conservatives and liberals would find helpful. Fiscal conservatives, who traditionally appreciate incentives to businesses as a way to boost the economy, would be pleased knowing businesses would be lifted the burden of health care, which is incredibly expensive for businesses (Health care costs for workers adds over a thousand dollars to every car produced, according to General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler), driving up profits of companies in virtually every sector of work. Liberals, of course, would find solace in the improved efficiency of a system with far reduced overheads, centralized records and no profits in mind, not to mention the 40 million newly insured patients in America. The biggest number that both sides would appreciate would be the estimated 150 billion to 300 billion saved per year from a switch—a number that doesn’t take a reduction of doctor salaries into account, something many conservatives look down upon.

Of course, a switch wouldn’t be simple. Any time a system gains 40 million new patients overnight, wait times will go up. A common misconception exists, however, that wait times would be drastically increased because of a universal health system. Wait times are directly related to money put into the facilities and staff pay, not the system itself. America already has the highest doctor pay in the world, and a switch to universal health care wouldn’t necessarily change that. In fact, if America put even a fraction of the savings from switching to universal health care into new doctor subsidies or the building of new medical facilities, any problem created by the system would be immediately offset by money put back into it.

In fact, the only argument that cannot be refuted or compromised is the claim that it’s a socialist program. The only thing that can be added to that is that I hope socialized medicine would be looked upon like education, another socialist system. Any reasonable person can look at the roads system, social security or education and realize that tacking on the word “socialist” to any idea no longer demonizes it. In addition, most European universal health care systems offer additional programs that the rich can buy in addition to the care they receive, an idea that could be considered in America, as well.

The conservative and liberal voices of America need to look closer at health care. Underneath they’ll find a system that would please them both.

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