It was the second-most-blogged article on the NYT when I got up this
morning; now, it is the first-most-blogged. It is the article
that reports on a survey that shows 72% support for a government-run
health insurance program. The program would be similar to
Medicare, but would be available to persons under 65 and not on Social
Poll, Wide Support for Government-Run Health
By KEVIN SACK and MARJORIE CONNELLY
Published: June 20, 2009
Americans overwhelmingly support substantial changes to the
health care system and are strongly behind one of the most contentious
proposals Congress is considering, a government-run insurance plan to
compete with private insurers, according to the latest New York
Times/CBS News poll.
The poll found that most Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes
so everyone could have health insurance and that they said the
government could do a better job of holding down health-care costs than
the private sector…
…The national telephone survey, which was conducted from June 12 to
16, found that 72 percent of those questioned supported a
government-administered insurance plan — something like Medicare for
those under 65 — that would compete for customers with private
insurers. Twenty percent said they were opposed…
Complete poll results here.
This is as close to a mandate as you’ll ever get. In fact, it is
so “overwhelming” that it would be difficult to consider it to be
controversial. This makes it rather strange that Congress — and
the media — seem to act as though it is controversial.
I suppose the controversy come, not from the number of people who
oppose it, but from the amount of money being spent by those who oppose
it. The “creationism” story shows that it is possible to create
the appearance of controversy when there really isn’t any.
Likewise with climate change. All it takes is for there to be a
large amount of money at stake, or a small group of very loud,
Oddly, though, there is not a lot of money at stake here, if one looks
only at the total cost. Given how expensive the current system
is, it is clear that we could have a universal, single payer program
for the same amount of money. The only difference is where the
money comes from, and whose pockets it ends up in. But the most
heated arguments seem to be those that focus on the total cost.
That is completely a red herring.
The other main argument has to do with control. Who gets to make
the decisions. To understand this, it is important to understand
the distinction between two phrases that sometimes are used:
- Government-run health care
- Government-run health insurance
They are not the same, although they sometimes are used
interchangeably. Presumably, any plan would have major decisions
made primarily by patients, in consultation with their healthcare
providers. I notice that the title of the article, In Poll,
Wide Support for Government-Run Health, sidesteps this
completely. It also does not make any sense, taken
literally. No one is proposing that government run health.
I’m not even sure what that would mean.
The first paragraph clarifies, with the phrase, “government-run
insurance plan.” The governemnt would operate the insurance
payment system. This would, inevitably, exert a strong influence
over health care decisions.
The thing is, that already is the case. The difference would be
that you would have goverment agencies exerting the control, instead of
companies with a profit motive.
Of course, the governement would not be trying to make a profit.
That does not eliminate finacial considerations, nor should it.
People are not going to be perfectly comfortable with anything that
leaves control outside of their sphere of influence. However, I
do not see any way to get around the fact that those who actually have
the money are going to have at least some influence. If a given
person does not have the cash to just go out and buy whatever health
care they need, then that person will not have complete control.