Pro-Con: Privatizing Healthcare
February 16, 2017
NOTE: in the latest edition of the paper, the “PRO” side of this article was printed incorrectly. The correct version appears below.
PRO: We should privatize healthcare
Americans are divided on a variety of issues as Donald Trump begins his presidency, and one of the major controversies is his pledge to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Universal healthcare advocates argue that the complete privatization of the industry is an idea of the rich and greedy and tend to ignore the unjust consequences of socialized medical structures like the ACA. Although there is no easy solution to the nation’s flawed healthcare system, it is important to avoid a doctrine that relies on taking the money from one person’s pocket to put it in another’s.
On the surface, the notion that healthcare is a human right seems compassionate, and if money was an unlimited resource and people had a natural inclination to work without incentives, universal healthcare would be a viable option. Each dollar the government spends on coverage, however, is taxpayer money. This has caused premiums to skyrocket for the middle class since they subsidize lower wage earners. In this way, long-term “free” health care disincentivizes working and earning a livable income for beneficiaries of this service. In fact, a Congressional Budget Office report found that a majority of people would prefer to maintain their current income level instead of increasing their earnings in order to remain eligible for health care subsidies or Medicaid. Another study by the Heritage Foundation reported that in 2014, only 32% of work-eligible households supported by government assistance were engaging in work activities. As the government makes it easier for people to live with a low income, there will be less of a cause for people to seek higher-paying jobs.
Current HealthCare.gov television commercials show individuals and families thrilled to receive subsidies which dramatically reduce their monthly premiums, sometimes to $0. What’s not shown is how the plan is funded. The average monthly premium for the lowest-level bronze plan in 2017 for a non-subsidized 30-year-old enrollee is $311, of which ABC News estimates 78% pays for the individual’s health care plan and the remaining 22% helps fund the public costs of the ACA. The commercials also fail to show the system’s unsustainability. With the higher wage-earners paying substantially higher premiums, this redistribution of wealth will eventually reduce the funding source. In the words of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher during a 1976 TV interview, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”
In an Iowa democratic debate, Bernie Sanders said the United States is “the only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people as a right, not a privilege.” However, that is not bad thing considering the benefits of privatizing the healthcare industry. In these cases, people have more freedom in physician choice and are able to decide their quality of care. The middle class improves as they avoid high premiums and higher taxes. For example, Britain has a universal healthcare system for which every citizen pays through a national income tax. The tax rate for middle class families there is 20 percent of their entire income: a full 15 percent more than America’s current rate at the same income level, showing how much America’s middle class would have to sacrifice for an equivalent system. Patient care can also improve under a private system. A 2015 NCBI study revealed that in India, which is working on developing their private insurance sector, people with private insurance actually receive better provider care than those with public insurance. When Sanders and his supporters use the common argument that the United States should follow the trend to match other major countries, they avoid discussing the multitude of reasons as to how this is not in our best interest.
As supporters of the law claim the plan is working, they should consider what this means. Although it is true that more people are insured than before, the 16.64 million-person figure used to show the number of people gaining coverage includes not just lower income people who needed it, but also middle class families who had previously chosen not to purchase insurance but now have to by law to avoid paying a fine. The figure also includes those who were temporarily without insurance due to a job change or other life event and would have acquired it regardless of the law’s enactment. The Affordable Care Act penalizes those who do not purchase insurance, essentially forcing them to purchase something they don’t want. As family income increases, middle class members pay a higher penalty in order to offset low-income insurance beneficiaries. Defenders cite the statistics in a wrongfully positive tone, ignoring the fact that the law removes the option to save money and causes many middle class families to make the purchase out of obligation as the penalty costs the same as having the insurance.
Additionally, stating that those without insurance were denied health care prior to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act is a false claim. Those who qualify for Medicaid were offered basic care at specified practices, and emergency rooms were required to stabilize all people. In Kalamazoo County, there are city-funded practices and others where doctors donate their time and services, offering free clinic days to low income residents. Similarly, schools provide dental care and vision screenings.
Contrary to popular belief, the conservative platform does advocate for coverage for the disabled and temporary safety nets which provide help in times of need without disincentivizing work. The healthcare industry should be administered similarly to other industries such as the food industry. Privately run and allowed to be competitive, the food industry is able to flourish because the government is only involved in consumer spending when safety nets are necessary. When applied to the healthcare system, this would lower prices, allow for more freedom in physician choice, and generally would not force people to pay for another person’s coverage. Despite the lack of a simple fix to the broken medical system, it is important that the country’s leadership is wary of a system that depends on redistribution of wealth to fund the uninsured.
CON: Healthcare is a right, not a privilege
We know how the bathrooms at Portage Northern are absolutely trash, right? There are a lot of reasons for this, but one of the main ones is that the custodial staff has been privatized. The move, which allows different companies to try and undercut each other to get the job, demonstrates an incentive for efficiency and cost reduction on behalf of the district, but the physical reality often doesn’t match the financial one. With a contract staff that has an attachment to their employer and not the building, privatizing the janitorial staff has actually led to “cutting corners” by skimping on the quality of the work and losing the pride and personal connection to the work environment. The end result is bad for everyone but the district, actually: the custodians get paid low wages and the students get dirty bathrooms. This is exactly what happens when the government privatizes health care: the insurance companies make big bucks, but the doctors and patients suffer the consequences.
Privatizing a health care system might save the United States’ government money, but it will create lots of barriers for the impoverished community. This simply creates inequality and division between the wealthy and the poor, which is the last thing we need as a people. Additionally, while the United States thinks they are saving marginal money (which is borrowed money for securities), they are limiting American citizens to pay more to a private health care system over a public one. According to www.valuepenguin.com, most Americans who live in the state of Michigan are paying at most $400 for their health insurance on a monthly basis, and premium plus a co-pay. At that same time, the public system costs under $100 monthly with no co-pay. Without a doubt, this flux in price will highly affect families who cannot afford basic necessities but who are just as important as anyone else.
Furthermore, the right to health care can save lives. A study done in 2009 at Harvard University shows that the lack of healthcare is in partnership with 44,789 deaths per year. This is a 40% increase in risking death in our everyday lives. On this note, according to an analysis of Canada’s healthcare system by the Atlantic, if we had similar free or reduced health care prices, it would save nearly 50,000 preventable deaths. How helpful would that be? People who cannot afford privatized healthcare may get sick and not be able to get the support that they may need. Healthcare is not easy to get either. So the nearly 20 million people who received it within the last 8 years, have worked hard to get the help they need, and to have it privatized would destroy what they have fought for.
Although privatized healthcare creates inequality, it is, in fact, a human right. In 1948, the United States and 47 other nations agreed to The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The document says that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of oneself and one’s family, including… medical care.” Privatizing health care would do the opposite to the American people and higher prices, leave more and more people in risk.
In fact, 54% of the United States budget funding is geared toward funding toward the military, while only 6% of the money is for Medical Care and Health. The U.S is one of the richest countries in the world, yet some think privatizing health care is necessary when our government actually has a sufficient amount of money to support our people. According to Slate.com, a Reaper drone costs $28 million; one Hellfire missile (Lockheed Martin/Raytheon) costs about $70,000; one Paveway bomb (Lockheed Martin/Raytheon) about $20,000. The total cost of one weapons load for a Reaper – four Hellfire/ two Paveway – is at least $320,000, a third of a million dollars. According to quotes provided through healthcare.gov from major insurance companies, the bronze ACA plan costs a Michigan resident making $16,000-$47,000 per year $77.52 per month (or $930.24 per year) for a basic plan with a $2500 deductible. Using that combined amount of $3430 annually, the government could provide healthcare for 8, 255 people for the cost of ONE fully-functioning drone. We can clearly afford to spend a little less on military and a little more on our healthcare system, and for the health of our citizens, we should make it a priority to do so.
The Affordable Care Act that Obama put in place is actually benefitting the American people in ways privatizing insurance cannot; specifically: many more people are insured, people can’t be turned away from getting insurance due to a pre-existing condition, young adults can stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26, and women’s services are protected. Right now under the ACA, birth control is covered by all employers, but under a privatized system it can cost $40-$75 per month (kidshealth.org), which could have serious consequences for women, especially those who are young or poor. Also, free preventative care is offered annually, so patients aren’t coming in just for emergency visits, but for care and well-being. Privatizing health care would literally diminish all of the change that has occurred and people would not only no longer feel protected, unless they have a high income and no pre-existing health conditions, they will literally be less protected.
No healthcare system will be perfect, but the quality of life each human being who lives in this country, regardless of income level, should matter. All people deserve the necessity of care and the support they need to live happy and healthy lives. Privatizing our health care system would put many Americans at risk, especially those who need the help and healthcare the most.