Friday, June 26, 2009

Obama's medical plan - not good enough for his own family?

Obama's controversial overhaul of the American health care system is infuriating both Republicans and health care industry moguls - leading one doctor to plant a poser on the president during an ABC News town hall event:

"Will you promise," the doctor demanded, "that your wife and daughters will only get the medical services covered by your new health insurance plan?"

"No," said Obama. "I'd always want them to get the very best care." Even if that meant buying a more expensive insurance program, or paying for non-covered services out of pocket.

Critics are highlighting this as an example of hypocrisy - a 'Dukakis moment' according to some. Obama's proposing a health care system that even he wouldn't entrust to cover all his family's medical needs.

But is that hypocritical? Or merely honest?

Obama's health care proposal offers some medical care for millions of uninsured people. It might not be comprehensive coverage - the 'best that money can buy' - but it is at least some coverage.

It hasn't been put in place to replace private medical insurance. It's been put there to supplement it - to offer the uninsured something, where they used to get nothing.

If Obama could find a way to offer medical coverage that was better than private health insurance, he wouldn't just be a miracle worker - he'd be the first man in history to make a nationalized health care system work!

[And yet, the Republicans would still attack him, for destroying the 'free market' private health care industry. You just can't win with them. - Editorial Bear.]

No, what he proposes isn't perfect. But perhaps it's the step in the right direction. And, more importantly, it's not like his Republican critics have managed to put forward anything better.

They criticize Obama for not entrusting his family's health to his new system. Perhaps the question should be reversed:

Would they show their 'faith' in the existing system by entrusting their family's health to the current options open for America's 46 million uninsured?

If the answer to that is 'no' (as it should be, for anybody who cares about their family's welfare) than they're the ones who the accusations of hypocrisy should be leveled at.


Tom said...

Saying 46 million people don't have health insurance is a bit misleading. That number includes 10 million illegal aliens (which wouldn't be getting health insurance under this plan). It also include people who are eligible for medicare (etc), but knowing that, haven't bothered applying. And people (Rush Limbaugh comes to mind) who can afford insurance, but have decided it makes more sense to self-insure.

The problem with a public plan is that the taxpayer will be paying for it regardless of if they use it or not, and so an inferior public plan will crowd out a superior private one.

This has been the case with public schools. Most people send their children to public school, even if it's inferior to private ones, since they're already spending thousands of dollars on it. Only the well-to-do (or dedicated) can afford to send their kids to private school.

What's the right solution? A national insurance pool, similar to the one federal government workers have. This pool would accept anyone, and insurers who participate would have to agree to charge the same price to everyone in the pool. To this, perhaps add subsidies for the poorest.

The current system is not broken. A recent poll (ABC News/USA Today) says that 89% of people are happy with their current health care. (This means that about a third of those 46 million people are happy without insurance.)

Even if we try to help the other 11%, we should keep in mind the current system isn't fundamentally broken, and does provide the best outcomes in the world.

Tom said...

John Lott wrote about the ABC News survey for Fox News.

"To put those numbers differently, 5 million uninsured Americans are very dissatisfied with their health care. Including those dissatisfied in any way raises that to 8.4 million."

"About 14 million of the "uninsured" qualify for Medicaid... nearly 70 percent of the remaining uninsured are without insurance for less than four months."

Tom said...
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Roland Hulme said...

Hey Tom! Great points you make - the '46 million' is a soundbite figure and you're right about the reality being less.

I still argue that American health care IS broken because it costs so much! It's much better than British health care, but as I wrote in my new post, not 'it costs twice as much' better.

Roland Hulme said...

I like your suggestion for a national insurance pool, though.

What would you think about mandatory purchasing? Because one of the reasons it's so expensive is that people who buy insurance USE it. If it worked more like car insurance (it's law to buy it, but we hopefully never use it) it would spread the cost out a bit and bring down premiums for everybody (in theory.)

Tom said...

I go back and forth on mandatory purchasing. While it seems like a good idea, I worry that if we mandate a purchase, the providers of that service have less incentive to control costs.

Well, in a competitive market, that's less of a problem.