Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Universal Healthcare Myth: Based on a Lie

Apparently, Democrats have vowed to pass some sort of healthcare reform bill by August. Personally, I am quite upset by the government's insistence on unreasonably interferring with the market and the free-choice of individuals in order to propagate their own socialist agenda. The truth is, the current healthcare reform bill is being enacted on the basis of a lie, it removes choices rather than adds more consumer choices, resulting in a collective loss of freedom for both businesses and individuals, and despite the claims that the government will be able to run a more efficient system, they will end up offering low-quality service at increasingly higher prices.

In the next few weeks, I plan to discuss each of those points and show why a universal healthcare plan will be very harmful to America, but today I just briefly want to talk about the lie that serves as the excuse for even trying to craft such a socialistic reform bill. Well, there are actually two lies. The first lie is that all Americans have a right to healthcare. The second lie is that there are 46 million helpless uninsured Americans who are too poor to afford healthcare. Let's break these down and see the fallacies with both.

The first lie is that all Americans should have a right to affordable healthcare. Do Americans really have a right to healthcare at all? I know that our Declaration of Independence declares that all people have inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. John Locke, the philosopher, suggests that all people have natural rights to life, liberty and property. But, I don't know of any legitmate basis for claiming that people have a right to healthcare. No person is harmed by lacking healthcare. Though healthcare may be a benefit of living in a wealthy and technologically-advanced society, there can be no reasonable basis for claiming that people have a right to healthcase. If we're going to start making up imaginary rights, then I would like to cite my right to own a huge mansion on a 500 acre-property that I am entitled to as an American citizen! I am being unreasonably deprived!

The second lie is that there are 46 million uninsured Americans. The implication is these are underprivileged people who can't even afford the healthcare that they are so desperately in need of. But, as with many manipulated statistics, this is simply not the case. The 46 million that is frequently talked about comes from the Council of Economic Advisors Health Care Report as released in June 2009. It says:

Perhaps the most visible sign of the need for health care reform is the 46 million Americans currently without health insurance. CEA projections suggest that this number will rise to about 72 million in 2040 in the absence of reform. A key factor driving this trend is the tendency of small firms not to provide coverage due to the rising cost of health care.
This statistic is intentionally misleading. First of all, that number includes people who are not American citizens. Personally I think it's stretching the truth quite a lot to claim non-Americans as part of your group of uninsured Americans, don't you? Quoting from a report by the Free Market Project:

However, the Census Bureau report “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2005,” puts the initial number of uninsured people living in the country at 46.577 million.

A closer look at that report reveals the Census data includes 9.487 million people who are “not a citizen.” Subtracting the 10 million non-Americans, the number of uninsured Americans falls to roughly 37 million.
Secondly, the implication is that all these uninsured Americans are incapable of affording healthcare without government intervention of some sort. This is not the truth. The truth is that many Americans who are quite capable of affording health insurance simply don't need it. I can say this with complete confidence because I happen to be part of this group. As a healthy, fit, young person, I have no major health issues of any sort. My employer offers me health insurance but I have continually refused for the simple reason that it is more economical for me to pay for any possible health costs out of pocket than it would be to pay for health insurance. Health insurance would cost me $89 per month, or $1068 per year. In the past twelve months I have not needed to make any sort of visits to a healthcare provider. Therefore, I have saved myself $1068. The only forseeable medical cost I may have in the future is one dental filling, which would cost between $100-$250. Paying that out of pocket would still result in saving over $700 because of not being insured. And, I know for a fact that I am not the only one who is capable of affording health insurance but chooses not to be insured. I just had dinner with a friend on Friday night, and he also could afford health insurance but chooses not to. Recently, he needed some chiropractic work because of a sports incident, and he found a place that provided high-quality care at a very low cost.

To further support my point, let's look at some raw data. My conjecture is that healthy, fit people don't really need healthcare and are much more likely to try to save their money by choosing to be uninsured. What sort of people are usually the healthiest? Typically young adults who haven't been subjected to as much aging, who are naturally more energetic and active, who have stronger bones, and who haven't experienced as many health-affecting acccidents. Now, I would like to show you a graph that was included as part of the CEA Health Care Report:

According to this graph, the age group that has the highest level of uninsurance is Americans between the ages of 18-35. Young kids and elderly people are the most likely to have health coverage but there is a sharp rise in uninsurance at age 18, followed by a steady decline from 23 onwards. At 65 there is a sharp decline, since elderly people often have the most expensive medical needs. To me, this is exactly the sort of data I would expect if I believed that people are choosing to be insured or uninsurance based on economic factors. Children are typically insured under their parent's family plan. Those who are young and healthy want more money in their pockets, but if they start facing health conditions, they will buy health insurance. Also, when adults get married and start raising a family, they are more likely to have a health insurance plan that covers their family, and therefore they are more likely to be insured. This data would seem to be perfectly consistent with that idea that most uninsured Americans could afford health coverage if they wanted to, but choose not to. To provide further support for this conjecture, let me quote the Free Market Project report again:

But according to the same Census report, there are 8.3 million uninsured people who make between $50,000 and $74,999 per year and 8.74 million who make more than $75,000 a year. That’s roughly 17 million people who ought to be able to “afford” health insurance because they make substantially more than the median household income of $46,326.

“Many Americans are uninsured by choice,” wrote Dr. David Gratzer in his book “The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care.” Gratzer cited a study of the “nonpoor uninsured” from the California Healthcare Foundation.

“Why the lack of insurance [among people who own homes and computers]? One clue is that 60 percent reported being in excellent health or very good health,” explained Gratzer.
The truth of the matter is that of the 46 million uninsured Americans only 20 million could even be realistically counted as lacking insurance because they can't afford it. And of that number I would be quite surprised if even 15 million wanted healthcare but couldn't afford it. In any case, what has been clearly shown is that the "46 million uninsured" statistic that is mentioned by politicians and used to show the necessity of health-care reform is a clear-cut case of deception. This number is intentionally misleading and does not reflect the truth. Even supposing that all 20 million Americans really can't afford insurance, it is clear that the numbers reported are 130% larger than life. That's a big lie!

In the end we see that Obama's push towards a health-care reform bill which will require coverage for all Americans is based on intentional deception. By suggesting that people are being denied an intrinsic right and by citing the existence of 46 million uninsured Americans, they are suggesting that the government must intervene for the good of the people. But, no person has such a right, and there certainly aren't 46 million who actually need healthcare. Should all Americans be forced to surrender more of their money and freedom so that the government can provide its low-quality, high-cost care to less than 6.6% of the population? I don't know how you could possibly justify such a thing either on principle or by appealing to the "greater good." Even supposing we use a utilitarian standard it would be better to leave 93.4% of the population alone, than to plunder them for the sake of 20 million people and the political careers of our "positive change" politicians.

1 comment:

  1. you stopped at 500 acres? Why so little? Seriously though the bill must die forever, it is a horrible idea. Canada got to a single payer system the same way Barak has in mind and they generally hate it. Why else would they and everyone else come here for medical services when they are needed?