Universal Health Care Opposition Research, Is It Worth Reading?
After spending years studying the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and related health care reform proposals, I am on a journey to explore the other side. While I've made a point over the years to read the health care reform opinions of Obamacare opponents, I never took seriously their prescriptions. But with the dreaded feeling that the country is on the path to indefinitely postpone the next level of health care reform, I decided to read and reread the writings of those who think our most recent health care reform efforts were a big mistake.
So this past weekend I read a lot of Michael Cannon articles and blogs. Cannon is the Director of Health Policy Studies at the libertarian Cato Institute and an avowed Obamacare hater. Cannon is famous for his many attempts to sabotage the Obamacare law in its early stages by mounting a legal challenge of the subsidies provided to federal exchange enrollees. He also encouraged states not to create their own exchanges (this approach went hand-in-hand with his legal challenge as to whether the federal government could provide subsidies to non-state exchange enrollees). Of course Cannon does not view his fight against Obamacare as sabotage, and although I think it clearly was, I am setting this aside for now.
Today, I'm more interested in understanding the health care reform viewpoint of single payer and universal health care opponents. But not just any opponent, more specifically, I am interested in comprehending the beliefs of the policy wonks, the die hard free market crusaders that oppose government playing any role in providing or paying for health insurance and health care. Consequently, I am reading the works of Michael Cannon and Ron Paul. Free market conservatives draw many negative conclusions about universal health care, including:
- forces people to buy a product that they don't want or need,
- creates regulations that make health insurance and health care more expensive,
- treats health care as a right,
- promotes socialism,
- stifles innovation,
- allows government, not patients, to control health care dollars, etc.
And now that I have a better, but still incomplete, understanding of the conservative intellectual case against universal health care, I've drawn some conclusions of my own that surprised me. First, not everything these conservatives believe about the problems with health care reform is wrong. For example, tipping the scales away from the politically influential, powerful and wealthy health care industry and towards individuals when designing health care policy is something I support. Also, I support greater health care price transparency, removal of unnecessary medical licensing that restricts the number of medical professionals and keep doctor salaries high. I even support greater use of health savings accounts (HSAs), but with limits (much greater than Cannon and Paul) on favorable tax-treatment.
Still my support for universal health remains strong. And not because I belong to the Church of Universal Coverage—Michael Cannon's derogatory term for what he describes as, "those whose support for universal health coverage is impervious to reason." I'm a reasonable person that believes we can have a health insurance program with many of the features that Cannon supports, but is available to all, financed by those that can afford it, administered by the government and includes limitations on care. I understand that we cannot have free, unlimited health care for everyone; we can however, have basic care for everyone paid by not everyone, and that's where Cannon and I part ways.
I'm still looking for Cannon's prescriptions on how to specifically address health care access and affordability for the poor; so fare I haven't found much. He once made a vague reference to having a debate about paying for care for the really needy. I also found a document attributed to Cannon titled, Health Care's Future Is So Bring, I Gotta Wear Shades. The article is part satire, but appears to accurately represent Cannon's vision of the future of health care, yet still it is vague on what to do with the poor. Bottom-line, Michael thinks that everyone can and should pay for their health care even if it means they will go bankrupt.
I will continue to read Cannon and his supporters' take on health care reform to look for openings for consensus. Meanwhile, I hope Cannon eventually focuses on outlining a specific and real world plan to address the health care costs of the poor. He must know that lumping the poor in with everyone else when debating health care access and costs makes him look like villain to so many. My impression is that he likes the characterization. That, or this man honestly does not have a single close relationship with anyone who is poor, in need of medical care, wouldn't qualify for a loan or is already bankrupt; or he conveniently believes that no one is denied medical care due to inability to pay.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Michael is in the minority, as libertarians to be, in not having an intimate relationship with a poor and sick person. Most people have a close connection with someone struggling with financial and health problems, and it is this condition, not people's inability to think logically that will ultimately decide if and when America will choose universal health care.