Day 4 and 5 of Universal Healthcare Week will consist of The Weakonomist’s views on the system. As a concerned citizen, I want to address representatives on both sides. The Weakonomist wants to give each side a chance to defend itself. Let’s pretend I’m in a room with a rep for universal healthcare and a rep against. Maybe we’ll have coffee.

To the representative against universal healthcare I would talk about the following:

Has the innovation driven by profit really improved healthcare? Millions of Americans are convinced they must take drugs for cholesterol, restless leg syndrome, chronic heart burn, erectile dysfunction, and lack of tear production. Did we used to suffer from restless leg syndrome? The current business model doesn’t improve health, but rather helps Americans live with their condition. When was the last time we cured something? Polio?

Even with good coverage and an emergency fund, a bout of severe cancer can wipe out anyone short of the wealthy. It sucks that no matter what I do to remain healthy, something can still bankrupt me. I don’t want to go through life worrying about this. What can we do to reduce the costs of treatments? If every sick person is broke, you won’t make money. At that point the government would force you to provide service. Like any other industry, you have to take care of your customers and invest in the future.

Let’s say I go through cancer treatment at age 30 and make a full recovery. No insurance company is going to cover me for a decent price anymore. Too high risk. If I develop another condition I’m screwed. What about a two part insurance plan? One covers the basics and can be offered through an employer. The other (maybe government sponsored) stays with you for life and covers chronic conditions and post-retirement coverage like Medicare. Give me some ideas on how to reform the system. If you lost your coverage today and had no money, what would you want to do?

Now to the universal healthcare supporter:

I believe people should take responsibility for their actions. Most people that can’t afford coverage made bad choices that lead then down this path: drugs, unprotected sex leading to unwanted children, dropping out of school and not having a good job. If I work hard, make good money, and make sensible decisions, why should I pay for the insurance of people that do not?

I’m young and healthy; my health insurance is very cheap. There is no way universal will be cheaper for me. In a universal system, I’ll pay extra to make up for others. Why should I pay for an alcoholic who has liver problems? On the same note why should I subsidize cholesterol pills for someone who won’t make a lifestyle change? I’m happy to help a 9-year old with leukemia, but not a 59-year old with erectile dysfunction. Can you tell me that certain drugs won’t get government subsidies? I doubt the Lipitor and Viagra lobbyists would let that happen.

While we’re talking about government; they’re notorious for wasteful spending in the bureaucracy. Social Security and Medicare are operating in a manner that will bankrupt the funds before I can ever use them. If executed correctly, universal healthcare could work. The government can’t execute correctly. Paying more bureaucrats will only raise costs. My libertarian views do not approve of such additional government involvement.

This is just what I want to know from either side before I make a decision. You’ll have your own views and concerns but I hope this gives you an idea of the kinds of questions that need to be answered. Join me tomorrow for my final take on universal healthcare.

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categories: business, economics, government