By Liza Peoples '20
For us politically inclined right-wingers this summer offered few options. It was either meditate among our extensive Trump hat collection (its existence I will neither confirm nor deny) or turn our attention to the entertaining yet painful performance of the 2020 democratic debates. For myself, even though I disagree with virtually every argument made on stage, I still found myself watching through the entirety of the more than eight hours of dialogue, and honestly enjoying every minute of it. Well, almost every minute - the broken Spanish might have been a little too much even for me.
The most engaging (as well as the most personally concerning) moment was the healthcare discussion in the first half of CNN’s Detroit night. During said argument progressive radicals (Sanders and Warren) advocated for a fully socialized healthcare system and the more chill blue-collar democrats (Delaney) advocated for a similar program that would allow citizens to merely retain the right to choose private insurance, and sadly, yet unsurprisingly the progressives seemed to walk away with a victory in the eyes of the average viewer. To myself, Delaney appeared to be the only sane voice in a crowd preaching “wish list economics”.
Bernie continued his crusade for a government-controlled system, preaching his catchphrase “healthcare is a human right, not a privilege”, citing Canada as a paradigm for a society where patients “come out with no bill”. The simple truth Bernie loses in his talking points is that healthcare is neither a right nor a privilege, but rather a service, much like any other available in the market in exchange for currency or some other value. A service is not owed or earned unlike a right or a privilege, it is given of free will by the provider if he or she chooses to accept the terms of the exchange. Now you may notice this concept is highly centered within the bounds of a market economy and relies on the existence of a private sector. A government bureaucracy isn’t bound by profit or market demands and just won’t have the incentive to provide the quality and efficiency that American citizens have learned to expect. Coincidentally, Canada presents itself as an opportune example where patients wait years for necessary procedures, even resulting in previously unnecessary amputations and other more complicated procedures to remedy the time lost. I don’t know about the rest of the population, but personally I wouldn’t want my healthcare quality to depend on the good hearts of our politicians.
Delaney counters by pointing out the basic structure of our current system. Medicare (the government provider program) provides significantly lower rates to hospitals. In fact, as Delaney mentions Medicare covers 80% the cost of healthcare, while private insurance covers 120%. Some studies have even found that private insurance rates can be as much as 150% higher than Medicare. If the law changed today and all payments were made at the Medicare rate, a significant number of hospitals would close, and even more, would be forced to cut certain programs and simply lower the quality of their care. For those confused, healthcare rates truly are some of the most confounding market practices in the US. Unlike other commodities, like a toothbrush at CVS which will within the same store maintain the same price of maybe 2$ (IDK how much is a toothbrush) healthcare service rates are set by insurers and providers. You can go up to a doctor and ask them the cost of a procedure and they truly would not know until they called your insurer.
With all of that said, I am nowhere close to jumping on the Delaney train. Although he isn’t blind to economic reality as some of the other candidates, he still joins the authoritarian left in ignoring the importance of individual liberty and responsibility in politics, a foundational virtue within our nation. Just like the entire debate stage, he vows to implement a universal bureaucratic healthcare plan. Unlike our current entitlements which will bankrupt our economy in a few years, the trillions of dollars necessary to provide the necessary standard of care expected in American would cause an economic collapse months after implemented. To those who point to Scandinavian and other western nations with a national healthcare system choose to ignore the indirect or direct (through NATO) defense funding these nations receive from the United States. Yet, even without the need to fund their own defense, these nations are already beginning to turn to unsustainable economic realities. Not to mention the fact that government bureaucrats who do not face market competitors nor responsible to a constituency and are appointed by other officials (such as the EPA) are generally terrible at their jobs, but I digress.
The final, and perhaps most important point is that complete governmental domination also stifles innovation. Researchers best perform in an environment where they aren’t dependent on the state of the current political faction. Too much interventionism ultimately destroys the initial concept of the United States. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How can you have liberty to pursue your dreams when the potential project to cure cancer is awaiting approval for government funding on a desk somewhere in DC. Granted such unfortunate incidents already occur, but do we want that to be the only reality. I would say no. The freedom of a private sector is the only way to ultimately provide quality care at a reasonable cost to as many people as possible.