Now that Congress postponed in late July putting forth a national health care plan, we have more time to think through this.
Below is how I see the national health care option argument as it exists today.
A majority of Americans, however slight the majority, would like to see the U.S. have some form of national health care plan option. Increased unemployment in Fall 2009 could boost those support numbers, as long as President Obama and Congress are seen as making a good faith attempt at economic stabilization.
With a Democratic president and a strong majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Democrats could pass a national health plan without any Republican votes. This assumes Democrats can reach agreement. The pressure will be on in late 2009 to either pass or to suspend the campaign for a national health care plan. The Republicans have been totally ineffective so far in making a case against Obamacare. Republican natural allies, the Democratic Blue Dogs, have found themselves doing all of the heavy lifting as Republicans have spurned almost all attempts at bipartisanship or even working closely with the Blue Dogs.
The predominate counterargument is conservative. The conservative argument is that government should not do for people what people should do for themselves. The argument is also made that there are publicly available options to provide a safety net to the uninsured and to those unable to afford medical care; business and the free market is more efficient at providing better and less expensive services than the government.
PREDICTION: The Democrats will come to some agreement prior to early 2010. While this will be too late for the 2010 Federal Budget Year, it will be a decision that conservatives and Republicans will be unable to roll back even should they do well in 2010 mid-term elections.
MY POSITION: I oppose a national plan. However, I believe that major reforms of the health care industry are not possible. The health care insurers like things the way they are (438% increase in profits since 2000), and they have invested heavily in funding non-reform with more than $440,000,000 given to Republicans since 2000 in campaign contributions.
THE CHALLENGE FOR OPPONENTS
— Democratic Blue Dogs: Generally agree that national health care reform is needed but are very sensitive to anything which increases the national debt, and which does not seem like actual reform. Blue Dogs have the greatest chance to shape the winning argument.
— Republicans: Chaos reigns within the party and they have no plan at all. Period.
— Conservatives: The traditional conservative argument does not hold up under close inspection: publicly available resources are largely non-existent. They have no credible argument — see example of Virginia below.
— Independents: Independents tend to take the Blue Dog position.
VIRGINIA & THE CONSERVATIVE MYTH
Virginia has much to be happy about. It has largely escaped the worst of the 2007-2009 Recession. It was, and remains, among the Top 3 most economically blessed states in the Union. And Virginia seems poised to grow in both wealth, affluence and influence. Virginia was just named the “Top State for Business” for the second time in three years.
Yet, Virginia has a health care issue. Many Virginians do not see the problem as pronounced as some other areas since 1 in 8 Virginians receive medical care through affiliation with current or past military service. Approximately 1 in 7 Virginians are not covered by health insurance of any kind.
The conservative arguments holds that where there is demand there will be a supply of service to meet that demand. It is also argued that private groups are already providing many of these services; a public health insurance plan would just hurt the efforts of these groups.
So how well does the conservative argument hold up? The common availability of public resources by private groups is largely myth.
Below is an example of the Free Clinic network in Virginia. A Free Clinic is a private, nonprofit, community-based or faith-based organization that provides compassionate, quality health care at little or no charge to low-income, uninsured people through heavy use of volunteer health professionals and partnerships with other health-related organizations.
After reviewing Virginia’s “safety net” health care network below, the nation’s second largest such network, you tell me how strong is the conservative argument of supply-and-demand, private providers work best.
Virginia – Population 7,700,000
— 1,061,000 uninsured Virginians.
— Total clinics statewide: 55.
— Virginia has the 2nd largest network of free health clinics in the USA.
— Virginia counties with no free health clinic at all: 30+
— Ratio of uninsured Virginians PER clinic: 20,000:1
— Efficiency: $5.40 of services provided for every $1 received; 75% private sector funding, many services are contributed.
— Eligibility for use: A family of 4 may earn no more than $25-31,000 (150-200% below the poverty level).
— Virginians can find a master list of free health care clinics online at http://www.vafreeclinics.org