Posted by: eseeders | December 14, 2009

Exchanges Over Healthcare Cont.

Returning to the topic of healthcare reform, the aforementioned Commenter made a return recently. Below you will find the ongoing discussion, the only edits being the removal of contact information in personal exchanges. The article which the first comment refers to can be found here. Significantly more below the fold.

Commenter:
Healthcare reform? Yes. Does the “as is” healthcare bill that will be debated on the senate floor need to be passed? absolutely not. Polls are out that show less than 40 percent of Americans want government involvement in our healthcare system. The American people pay the bills for this country, not the politicians.

Myself:
Can you post the link to the polls which you refer too? It should also be noted that not everyone out there is as informed on healthcare matters as perhaps you or I am, but the government is ALREADY involved in the healthcare system (medicaid, medicare, VA). Additionally, ill mention that the public option is not the government taking over healthcare (i.e. single payer), merely providing much needed competition to current insurance companies.

Commenter:
The Rasmussen shows that 38 percent favor reform and 56 percent appose reform, according to the Nov. 21-22 report. The Gallup poll shows a 58 percent against to 38 percent for reform. If you read the emails I sent to you, you would already know that I fully understand that some aspects of our healthcare system and nation are socialistic. It doesn’t make it right or financially sustainable. All of these systems have cost tremendous amounts more than were originally estimated largely because Medicare/Medicaid has more acts of fraudulent claims than private insurance. Government-run insurance systems have more waste and also turn down far more claims than the private sector, by as much as 50 percent. The amount of claims turned down usually depends on how much of a deficit our nation has during a fiscal year and our yearly budget has been in the red for years now. This is scary because the baby boomers born in 1946 will be turning 65 years of age in 2011. They will experience rationed healthcare and long waits because doctors get paid very little and wait months to get paid through Medicare. Ask your doctor what they think about the bill on the senate floor, all 2074 pages of it.

Experts say a “public option” will put insurance companies out of business in 5 to 10 years and I believe they are correct. It is not a fair competition if the American taxpayer is funding a public option and it does not “level the playing field” as Harry Reid says. The government-run public option would be like a baseball player who takes steroids. He would have a huge advantage over every other player in the league. All the government would have to do it raise taxes to lower the cost of the public option until private companies couldn’t compete any longer. Reform needs to take place in the private insurance sector, not start a government public option to create competition.

Sorry it took so long to get back to you, I was busy Thanksgiving weekend. I hope you had a good Thanksgiving.

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/healthcare/september_2009/health_care_reform

http://www.gallup.com/poll/122969/Many-Americans-Doubt-Costs-Benefits-Healthcare-Reform.aspx

http://www.swamppolitics.com/news/politics/blog/2009/10/healthcare_reform_show_me_4_in.html

Myself:
First of all, thanks for providing links to the articles you’re referencing, it helps to clarify things I believe. Before I dig in, I’d just like to note a few things about the poll numbers you’re using. I might suggest to begin with that you be careful when using data from individual poll days. As you may have noticed, I could just as easily point to the next data point on that Rasmussen poll for the 29th and say that support is turning around as it jumps to 41%. Individual data points in polls aren’t terribly useful in my opinion as they only provide only a small snapshot that is highly susceptible to change based on a huge number of factors. Instead what one should focus on are trends in the data, that would seem to be far more powerful to me.

Second, regarding the use of the Rasmussen poll itself, as noted in the article i’ll link to below, that particular organization tends to have a reputation as a bit of an outlier in most polls due perhaps in part to slightly different methodology. The exact details of that are covered in the article if you’d care to look it over.

http://www.pollster.com/blogs/why_is_rasmussen_so_different.php

Also, about the Gallup numbers you reference (at least if they come from the link provided) they don’t seem to reconcile with what is on the actual page (the question asked is not the one you claim) and on top of that, that data is nearly three months old now. While useful for historical purposes and to some extent long term trends, this data hardly applies to what is ongoing at the moment.

Finally before tackling your arguments, there is also the issue that the article from The Swamp which you reference contradicts your lack of support claims in its own text. Here’s the exact quote, from the fourth sentence of the article:

“The controversial “public option,” a government-run alternative for those who cannot find acceptable coverage in the private insurance market, has the support of just 50 percent of those surveyed – with 46 percent opposed.”

Perhaps the Gallup numbers you were referencing come from the very next line in that article? If so, that still doesn’t support your argument of Obama lacking support for the public option or indeed reform. To me, that next sentence suggests a difference of time frame not a difference of goals (i.e. that question doesn’t represent anti-reform).

Now moving on to your arguments against reform, let’s take it last to first shall we. Where exactly does this notion that private entities can’t compete with similar government operations come from exactly? Our countries private colleges seem to compete just fine with public universities why can insurance not do the same? I feel that particular argument is simply designed to hold on to a greater profit margin for insurance companies and nothing less. After all, isn’t the idea of the private sector (and indeed capitalism) is that it can out compete the government and provide better service since it doesn’t have the overhead or extra costs? I’d think they’d want the competition just to demonstrate how much better capitalism is than “socialism” so they can put the whole matter to bed once and for all. You also reference some heretofore unknown “experts” (Paul Krugman or Thomas Friedman perhaps?), could I ask you to provide a citation or two in that regard?

That brings me to your other argument that the government system is far more wasteful than the private system. Do you see a bit of a contradiction here cause I sure do. If what you say is true (again please provide citations) then I return to the above, allow the competition, the private sector will clearly win.

To end, I’d like to ask you one more question. You noted in your argument that the use of socialism in some aspects of our society “doesn’t make it right or financially sustainable”. Now I can understand attacking it from a financial standpoint, there could possibly be an argument made there. However, what exactly makes socialism wrong? Is that a moral argument you’re putting forth and if so what is your basis for it?

Commenter:
Regardless of what you believe about polls, the numbers still show that most Americans do not like or want the current senate healthcare bill to pass. Polling data should always be taken with a grain of salt and many different sources should be looked at before making a decision. The point is The Gallup, Rasmussen, Quinnipiac, etc., are scientific polls, and scientific polls show raw data. These polling organizations are much more accurate and reliable than news organization polls largely because the methods they use are non partisan and don’t have a bias viewer base. You can find articles all day long that discredit every poll due to opinion, but most of the polls were dead on in the last few presidential elections.

If people for or against the healthcare bill was within a percentage point or two of each other, I would say that Americans are divided on the healthcare debate. This is not the case with the vast majority of polls. Let me ask you some two questions. If every registered voter in the U.S. voted and 55 to 60 percent of people voted against the senate healthcare bill, would you still want the democrats to push this bill through and get is passed? Do you have private insurance through a place of employment? Even if you don’t answer these questions publicly, it will determine a baseline for how many individuals’ views are formed. This will also determine why people are for the healthcare bill when it will benefit them by receiving a handout from the government no matter what it will do to our economy. Max Baucus stated on the senate floor Wednesday that the bill would actually cost 2.5 trillion over 10 years, what happened to the 849 billion that the CBO determined it would cost? This bill is an intertwined ball of lies with no transparency buried in a 2074 page bill. They even have the audacity to call substance abuse a “disorder” in this healthcare bill. As if it’s a “disorder” to drink alcohol, put powder in your nose, or inject something into your veins. Read HR 3269 if you don’t believe me.

The private and public college analogy is a great talking point. With the trend of all the bailouts, public universities have the mentality that the government will be there to bail them out at a moments notice with taxpayer money, should they be careless with the finances. The same would be true of a “public option” and private insurance competition that I spoke of because tax dollars will be thrown at any government funded entity because they will be “too big to fail” or because they would lose too many jobs. My point is that if this bill passes, it will never be scrapped. It will be an endless money pit constantly in the red and accepting taxpayer money because of the shortcomings of the individuals who run it. The people who would run the “public option” would be government bureaucrats with no business or healthcare experience telling an American citizen what they need or don’t need medically.

The references that I showed were about the polling data, not the “experts”. I’m not going to get into a citation war with you because just about anything can be proved or disapproved merely by experts who only cite information that supports their theories. Much of what I say is opinion based and I don’t need an expert to tell me how to form my thoughts. I read what they have to say and make an informed decision.

Please explain what contradiction you see in regard to a wasteful government system. It seems to be a globally known fact that government doesn’t run with a cost cutting mentality like a privately run business would. There is no incentive for making good cost cutting business decisions because they know they have the taxpayer ATM to draw from should they get in a bind. They get brand new things every couple of years and sell the old items at auctions for pennies on the dollar. The government needs to take a course on “living within their means” by not borrowing from any and every country that will lend us money. The NY Times wrote a great article about the debt our nation faces and the interest payments that will be expected.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/23/business/23rates.html

Many people in America have the mentality that the government will be there to “spread the wealth”, i.e. take from someone who earned it and pass it on to someone who didn’t. This is a purely socialistic mentality that promotes mediocrity. People who work and try to make a better life for their families will be taxed disproportionately and people who don’t want to work will be taken care of. This is backwards to what our country was founded on and why so many of our forefathers gave their lives protecting this great country. Socialism may not be morally wrong, but it is a wrong system for this country. The bills being proposed by the executive branch of our government are socialistic (Cap and Trade and the Healthcare Bill) and if things don’t change, the risk of a collapse is very high.

Myself:
Firstly, the article I cited does not discredit Rasmussen, it merely demonstrates that that particular organizations polls tend to be an outlier in the majority of trend lines and thus one should be extra skeptical of its results when it comes to judging the public opinion, Now if I may, let’s return to the subject of polls in general, the thing with polls, you see, is that you can almost always find a poll that will contradict another poll. Take this one for instance that shows people favoring the public option:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20091203/ts_nm/us_healthcare_usa_poll;_ylt=AlUJk9wl7y3UdurBbC_1ZUKs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTM1azI5cWh2BGFzc2V0A25tLzIwMDkxMjAzL3VzX2hlYWx0aGNhcmVfdXNhX3BvbGwEY3BvcwMzBHBvcwMxMARwdANob21lX2Nva2UEc2VjA3luX3RvcF9zdG9yeQRzbGsDbW9zdGludXN3YW50

Polling data is only useful insofar as it gives a glimpse of public opinion. Sometimes that opinion is with the government, sometimes it is not, that does not necessarily mean it is correct or that those polled are properly informed on the matters at hand. Yes polling should always be taken with a grain of salt but i’d like to add that governing should never be conducted solely based upon poll results. Indeed who’s opinion is more valid when determining the efficacy of a policy, someone who has spent years studying that particular field or someone who caught an episode of Glenn Beck one day? I’ll talk a bit more about this later though.

In response to your two questions, 1. it depends and 2. no nor do a number of people i’m acquainted with however there are some that do have employer provided healthcare. Now to elaborate on the first part, the publics opinion should of course be considered, but more so than that, those studied and well versed in these subjects should be consulted before anything is passed. If the majority of experts in the various fields related to the bill agree that it would be beneficial for our country and the people living within it then yes of course I’d want it passed even despite of negative public opinion against it. If I had employer provided health insurance would I still support creating something akin to a public option? Yes I believe I would. Sure ones status can influence what sort of legislation they support but its hardly the only factor determining that support. There are probably more than a fair share of multi millionaires who support a public option, I’m sure it wouldn’t benefit them in any way, in fact they’d probably end up paying more taxes, but that doesn’t stop them from supporting it.

Regarding the cost of the health reform legislation, the quoted price of it will probably continue to fluctuate as various amendments are added and subtracted. I can’t speak for Senator Baucus, but the Center on Budget and Public Policy Priorities demonstrates that what is currently out there will in all probability be paid for and will not in fact increase the deficit despite claims otherwise. Additionally, other studies have determined that if put into effect, the bill will help reign in long term healthcare costs. For more information, check this link out:

http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3022

Will all of it work? It’s possible that some of it will not and one would hope that those items that don’t work would be removed and new ones added as necessary. But this is where we get to the crux of the issue. The fact is we spend more on our military than almost all other nations in the world combined.

http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world-military-spending
http://www.armscontrolcenter.org/policy/securityspending/articles/fy09_dod_request_global/

Would it really hurt us all that much to take a bit of that and put it towards assisting the poor and destitute in our society? I mean we as a country spend over $500 billion yearly on the military and we’re complaining about spending $900 billion – $2.5 trillion over ten years for healthcare? Come on, where are the priorities here? Don’t get me wrong, I love lasers and big guns as much as the next guy, but I think I’d be ok with a few less lasers and a whole lot more people with insurance allowing them a better chance to make it in our society.

In your next part, you bring up bailouts and I for one was against the TARP program in particular and to some extent the auto bailout as well. Just as a bit of an aside, as the following link notes, the TARP program appears to be somewhat successful:

http://motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2009/12/tarp-unbound

Following that though, you noted this, something I believe to be a slightly fallacies argument,

“My point is that if this bill passes, it will never be scrapped. It will be an endless money pit constantly in the red and accepting taxpayer money because of the shortcomings of the individuals who run it. The people who would run the “public option” would be government bureaucrats with no business or healthcare experience telling an American citizen what they need or don’t need medically”

You may indeed feel that way and could even be correct in the future regarding the public option being in the red, however, unsupported statements of opinion and prediction are hardly persuasive. On top of that, what evidence do you have to provide that the people picked to run the public option will be individuals inexperienced in the medical and healthcare fields? The bill hasn’t even been passed and you’re already saying its poorly administered, how does that work? I’m detecting a bit of a warmed over version of the Palin death panels argument which is just plainly silly if I may be so bold. You want evidence of death panels? Here you go:

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2009_06/018667.php

Continuing on, you are very correct that you do not need experts to form your opinions for you, but as I mentioned earlier, certain opinions hold a bit more weight than others. I was asking you to provide links to your sources that quoted your experts as saying that the public option will put insurance companies out of business. The reason for this was that I wanted to see for myself who your experts were and if they did indeed deserve the title of expert in their particular field or in relation to health reform. When you make a solid claim, you must provide supporting evidence for it simple as that. Certain people will claim to be experts when they in fact have little or no knowledge of the subject. A persons credentials add weight to their opinions, that doesn’t mean they’re always correct just that they are more likely to be. You can choose to cite articles or not, that’s up to you, though speaking for myself, I certainly grant a bit more gravitas to those arguments which can demonstrate good foundations and supporting evidence.

Regarding the contradiction I was attempting to point out, you’ll find it in the argument you provided. On the one hand, you say that private companies will never be able to compete with the government as they have an unfair advantage and then you say that the government is too inefficient to run a successful program. Here are your quotes from the previous post:

“Experts say a “public option” will put insurance companies out of business in 5 to 10 years and I believe they are correct “

“Government-run insurance systems have more waste and also turn down far more claims than the private sector, by as much as 50 percent.”

And one from this last one:

“It seems to be a globally known fact that government doesn’t run with a cost cutting mentality like a privately run business would.”

Note that one quote asserts that the government is an unstoppable giant that insurance companies simply cant compete with while the other two say the government is incompetent and will simply run things into the ground. If the latter is indeed true, then what do the insurance companies have to fear from the government entering the fray? People may try out the public system only to find better service in the private. If the former is true than shouldn’t we just have a government only system if they’re truly that good? I’m afraid you can’t have your cake and eat it too in this particular instance.

I won’t really speak much on deficit spending as I’m not much of an economist, though I’d note that you aren’t one either so how you can make statements about how the government should handle deficit issues is beyond me. The government doesn’t work on the same principals as a four person family would that much I can say for certain. If I come across some economic policy stuff in the future i’ll be sure to bring it up in future conversation for both our benefit.

To conclude, I’d like to point out that I am far from advocating a wholly socialistic society by supporting insurance assistance via a public option for those families and individuals unable for whatever reason to afford coverage on their own. There are hardworking families out there that can’t afford healthcare or that have healthcare but are having to spend so much on it as to seriously risk bankruptcies. Why should you care about them? Well one day you could very well find yourself in a similar position who knows and wouldn’t you like there to be a safety net there to help you out if the worst happens? Will there be unscrupulous individuals who take advantage of the system? Probably, but again I return to something I brought up earlier, if one more innocent child is saved via this system than would have otherwise happened then I’m all for it. A few unscrupulous lazy people and slightly higher taxes are a small price to pay to save a life in mind. What if it was yours?

By the way, there are true democratic socialist societies that are thriving without the fear of collapse, just look at all of Scandinavia. This bill won’t come close to making our country like theirs so I’m thinking the whole fear of collapse thing is more than a bit exaggerated on your part.

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