From Kevin Drum, who I consider one of the smarter folks on the left (but not this time):
A few days ago, during an email exchange with a
friend, I mentioned that I don't usually tout cost savings as a big
argument in favor of universal healthcare. It's true that a national
healthcare plan would almost certainly save money compared to our
current Rube Goldberg system, but I suspect the savings would be
modest. Rather, the real advantages of national healthcare are related
to things like access (getting everyone covered), efficiency (cutting down on useless -- or even deliberately counterproductive -- administrative bureaucracies), choice
(allowing people to choose and keep a family doctor instead of being
jerked around everytime their employer decides to switch health
providers), and social justice (providing decent, hassle-free healthcare for the poor).
Name one industry the government has taken over in a monopolistic fashion and subsequently increased efficiency or individual choice? Anyone? Buehler? In fact, I am not sure I can name one government program that even provides the poor with decent, hassle-free services.
Lets take the most ubiquitous government monopoly, that on K-12 education.
- Efficiency? My kid's for-profit secular private school has a administrator to student ratio of at least 1:15. How many assistant principals does your public school have? Many public schools are approaching 1 administrator for every 1 teacher.
- Choice? That's a laugh. The government and its unions fight choice in education tooth and nail. In fact, in the context of education, Drum and others have effectively argued that choice is the enemy of his last point, social justice, so it is absurd to argue that government monopolistic health care will optimize both. Yes, people may be frustrated their insurance company does not cover X procedure, but this will only get worse when the government is making the choices for us. Oh, and by the way, about the evils of those employers running our health plans? They do so only because of WWII wage controls and decades of federal tax policy that have provided them strong incentive to do so.
- Decent, hassle-free service? Ask a concerned black family in an inner-city school how good their kid's government-provided education is. In fact, I will bet that most inner city parents get healthcare of better quality today despite the admittedly Rube Goldberg system we have (courtesy of years of silly government interventions) than the quality of education they receive from the government education monopoly. After all, most of them walk out of the hospital today with their life, while many of their kids are walking out of worthless government schools with no life.
As to the claim that national health care would "almost certainly save money," that is hard to argue with for this reason: The government, once in charge of health care choices, can simply start denying procedures and care ("rationing"). This is in fact how costs are managed in most socialist medical systems. So while this statement is technically true, it would be very hard for anyone to really believe that for the same quality and quantity of care, the government could do it cheaper.