My October 2 column, “Impeachment Isn’t Just for Removal,” garnered several reader comments. One in particular sported a common theme chastising me and my liberalism as less than acceptable behavior and why don’t I simply dry-up. I’m used to that. One of the reasons I write is to stir thought and elicit any and all comments from readers. What I wasn’t expecting was a comment that made me think and ultimately spurred this column.
The response to a response stated, “Liberal ideology isn’t necessarily ‘crap’ as you call it … it’s humane, it’s nice, and in theory, would probably be a good thing but theory and practical application are two different things. Their (liberal) ideas are wonderful, just not very practical.”
I can work with that. I can accept and even admire that. Written into those three dozen words is the crux of what people are calling for government to do––find the good. Find where agreement can exist and then tackle any division of thinking with compromise.
One of the premier items being debated, and a perfect example of thinking liberal doctrine is “kind but impractical” is how to provide healthcare insurance for U.S. citizens. Today, private, for-profit enterprise insures about 44% of the population. Government provides, in some manner, insurance for the elderly, the chronically ill, many children, active military and veterans, and the poorest Americans, equaling about 46%, thus leaving about 10% uninsured. The uninsured numbers are up for the first time since the onset of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. The government gets the short end of the stick here as it insures the population of this country private insurance companies avoid like plague. It is an act of kindness that we use taxpayer dollars to help heal veterans with PTSD, poor kids with asthma, the elderly with cancer, and much more. Medicare recipients pay for a portion of their coverage with a premium, but the others pay little or nothing for their care. On the practical side of the issue, having a legion of sick and injured citizens uncared for would drain our economy––a problem for everyone. When uninsured folks go to hospital emergency rooms for care, they get it, but often do not pay. Especially in rural areas, hospitals are critical to the community, but cannot withstand the strain of spreading the uninsured costs among their few clients––they end up closing and everyone in the area suffers.
My argument for the practicality of universal healthcare insurance is that we’re doing pretty well already with nearly half the country getting government sponsored healthcare for the neediest segment of the population. Adding the other, healthier half would seem to be the easy part of achieving universal care.
The impractical part is, of course, how to pay for this universal service.
Here’s my pitch. Today, the United States spends 18% of its GDP, or about $3.65 trillion, on healthcare services. That equals $10,700 per person that does not include the $4,000 to $8,000 an average citizen kicks in with their own money––a steadily growing figure. There are 32 examples of countries that offer universal care to study and from which to learn. They range from the usual suspects like Australia, Canada, Sweden, and the U.K. with surprising additions like Brunei, Cypress, and Slovenia. Those countries spend what an individual spends in the U.S.––between $4,000 and $8,000 per person, per year. That leaves $10,700 per person ($3.65 trillion) for the U.S. to figure out how to save money and have patient control over how care is delivered to their families––making “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” a reality.
Even in the U.S. there are money saving examples to draw upon. Medicare has worked like clock-work since 1966. SCHIP has saved millions of kids and kept families out of bankruptcy. Even Obamacare has begun to work well in many places. Without much nurturing, costs at the state exchanges have begun to steady and even go down. The District of Columbia exchange has always had choices and low costs. Of course, it is pampered because that is the exchange where members of Congress and their staffs buy insurance. Kentucky, Colorado, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Nevada exchanges, to name a few, have all had successes. Massachusetts is nearing 100% coverage and new laws in Colorado could hoist that state close too.
Not having to debate whether universal health insurance is a right or a privilege reserved for those who can afford it (being kind) is positive and takes the discussion half-way to consensus before even getting started.
We’re not all supposed to think alike. We don’t agree on how government should spend our money and we shouldn’t. Progress isn’t made when everyone agrees. Blind agreement is precisely when policies get stale and cease to be productive. Abraham Lincoln famously had his “team of rivals.” He purposely chose cabinet members who did not think like him. If we can agree with my conservative commenter, that being kind is a first step, we can solve what is impractical about healthcare insurance, legalizing DREAMERS, and cleaning our planet with debates of “how” and not “why.” I’m completely open to finding ways to reduce college tuition costs and working off education debt without making it “free,” and much more.