A Conservative Argument From Principle Against Universal Healthcare

Domestic Policy — By on September 23, 2009 at 6:05 pm

The nature of the current debate surrounding the implementation of universal healthcare in America is troubling because it is comprised almost entirely of pragmatic arguments void of concern for the principles behind the project.  Before one asks how much a thing will cost, how it will be organized, or whether “the uninsured” will benefit, one should ask whether enacting universal healthcare is in keeping with the values and principles of the American experiment.  In other words, is universal healthcare good for America?

Universal healthcare is not good for America.  In America, universal healthcare would undermine principles important to the functioning of society; specifically, it would undermine individual liberty, free enterprise and free markets, and the right to life.

Inasmuch as the government bureaucracy mandated by universal healthcare makes decisions concerning the health habits and medical treatment of individual Americans, it undermines individual liberty.  The purpose of government in America is to provide a defense of the people’s right to life, liberty, and happiness.  By concerning itself with the health practices of citizens, the government extends its reach beyond defense into offense.  Instead of defending a free society wherein people are empowered to choose for themselves the manner and nature of their medical treatments, the government would become an active agent making decisions on behalf of individuals.  The government would do this by shifting personal medical decisions away from individuals to bureaucrats who would debate and decide which treatments each citizen ought to choose from.  If universal healthcare is enacted, one’s personal belief about the best treatment for oneself would become only a small variable plugged into a great calculus of statistics, studies, best practices, and popular political beliefs; an equation constructed to create stability for a medical system meant to care for all.  By the very nature of systems individuality gives way to universality, liberty to a supposedly benevolent tyranny.

As universal healthcare undermines personal liberty it causes our free market economy to malfunction.  In free markets, personal liberty provides two important functions.   First, it enables people to choose the products and services they think are best. Second, it empowers entrepreneurs to solve problems and meet needs, medical or otherwise.  Universal healthcare would render entrepreneurs unable to meet the medical needs of their neighbors.  Within free markets, competition serves as a mechanism to refine and reward good ideas while removing poor ideas.  Competition, being critical to the maintenance and preservation of free societies, would be eliminated in a system of universal healthcare where the government could not fail and other competitors, which could fail, would not be able to compete.  Instating universal healthcare would effectively remove free market influence from 1/6th of America’s economy; a large segment of our free market economy would no longer be free.  If 1/6th of a system is no longer functioning as designed, how can one reasonably expect that the entire system will remain stable?

Finally, universal healthcare would cause the government to violate its constitutional duty to defend the right to life.  Though intended to provide medical coverage to its citizens and therefore protect their lives, universal healthcare would make the government an active agent in deciding when to end patients’ lives.  End of life issues are an inextricable part of medical practice, whether they are related to elderly care, life-altering diseases, or controversial issues such as abortion or euthanasia.  Instead of making a principled defense of its citizens’ right to life, universal healthcare would force the government to make pragmatic, cost based decisions regarding the perseveration of life.  One can already see evidence for this in current debates about the cost of medical care for the elderly and serious discussions in the halls of congress about the economic value of euthanasia and abortion.  Such debates ought to act as a warning for all regarding the means by which life will be measured and valued in a system of universal healthcare.  Instead of defending one’s right to live, government would decide if one ought to live.  And even if universal healthcare permits one to live, that one would find himself living in a less free and entrepreneurial society; a society that is supposedly good for everyone else. ‘


Tags:
  • Michael

    Interesting article and definitely one of the reasons I watch this site. However, I would like to take issue with the points you make:

    You posit that universal health care will undermine individual liberty, free enterprise and free markets, and the right to life. I tend to disagree to varying amounts on these and here’s why:

    1) Free enterprise / Free markets

    Will universal healthcare cut back on some aspects of free enterprise, yes. If you end up with one major customer (the government), it could cause the higher margins to erode. And would companies like Cigna or Aetna suffer, yes.

    However, what about smaller businesses or single entrepreneurs? One thing holding back people from changing jobs or moving to different careers is that they can’t get health care or it’s too expensive. If I were to start a small business, I’d lose my corporate health care. How many good ideas never take off because people can’t afford the risks of losing their coverage? How many small businesses never start because they can’t afford to cover their employees?

    Also, what about big businesses? Right now, American companies have to compete with foreign companies that don’t have to spend money on private health insurance to recruit workers. How much does that affect the bottom line and free enterprise?

    Anecdotally, I’ve chatted with a guy from New Zealand. He pointed out that because of their universal healthcare, they have invented more extreme sports and the industries surrounding it than other countries. They can do this because everyone is covered and the legal risks of someone being injured are less.

    2) Right to Life

    To me this argument always comes down to who’s making the final decision on what to cover or not. Today we have corporate attorneys and accountants at the large insurance companies who are making those decisions. And they often include dropping coverage on people who need the most care because they “lied” on their application for insurance. Listen to the former executive for Cigna Wendell Potter talk about the internal drives within the major insurance companies to rid themselves of anyone who would cost the company money.

    Does this qualify as denying someone the right to life? Once they’ve been dropped from their insurance, they will never be able to get insurance again.

    Contrast this with a government plan where everyone will get coverage. Now will there be government accountants and bureaucrats involved in the coverage decisions, yes. But who are they ultimately accountable to? Us, the American public. Not the shareholders who expect a return on investment (at all costs), but the voting American public.

    I would also ask that if it takes 1/6th of our economy to provide what by many measures is the 37th best healthcare in the world, is the market really working? By many measures, the French currently have one of the best (if not the best) system in the world and it costs the French at most 66% of the cost we pay.

    Finally, I would like to point out that the whole reason we’re having this discussion is because we as the church have failed the poor and the needy. It’s our God-given responsibility to care for those less fortunate than us. If the government feels they need to help the poor, then shame on us. We’ve failed society.

  • http://grendelkhan.livejournal.com grendelkhan

    The problem with the sort of argument from first principles that you’re attempting here is that it works equally well against any sort of collective action. A simple rephrasing of a key sentence illustrates this rather well:

    Inasmuch as the government bureaucracy mandated by government-run fire departments makes decisions concerning the construction habits and disaster reactions of individual Americans, it undermines individual liberty. Inasmuch as the government bureaucracy mandated by government-run libraries makes decisions concerning the reading habits and leisure time of individual Americans, it undermines individual liberty. Inasmuch as the government bureaucracy mandated by a standing army makes decisions concerning the national defense and foreign policy of individual Americans, it undermines individual liberty.

    This kind of argument is meaningless posturing. People put on a facade of absolute, Randian, “A is A” libertarianism to denounce some particular program. The exact same sort of language was used to argue against Social Security, but for some reason we don’t hear much of it nowadays.

    The purpose of government in America is to provide a defense of the people’s right to life, liberty, and happiness.

    One might think that living longer, healthier lives might be somehow related to the right to life, or that being free of the terror that illness or injury could destroy one’s middle-class existence and plunge a family into penury might be related to one’s happiness.

    Instead of defending a free society wherein people are empowered to choose for themselves the manner and nature of their medical treatments, the government would become an active agent making decisions on behalf of individuals. The government would do this by shifting personal medical decisions away from individuals to bureaucrats who would debate and decide which treatments each citizen ought to choose from.

    We don’t have the system you handwave into existence in the first sentence. Insurance companies already tell people which doctors they can see, which treatments they can have, and, frankly, when they’re getting too expensive and should just die.

    We already have those bureaucrats, but apparently they don’t count because they don’t have the word “government” on their business cards.

    As universal healthcare undermines personal liberty it causes our free market economy to malfunction.

    The market for health insurance is not a free market. There is a tremendous imbalance of power between the insurers and their subscribers. It’s laughable to complain that a public healthcare system would somehow cause a now-perfect system to malfunction.

    The fact of the matter is that healthcare in the United States is a shocking disgrace. People live shorter lives, receive worse treatment and pay more for it than in countries that have universal healthcare of some sort. The bogeymen that you’re trying to invoke are fully imaginary; we can simply look at other countries that have implemented these reforms and note that none of these disasters have taken place. Attempting to deduce a position from lofty principles, when that position is clearly and presently harming people in the real world… it’s profoundly grotesque. It reeks of disingenuous pandering.

  • ex-preacher

    In the interest of sticking to your principles, are you prepared to advocate for the abolition of Medicare, Medicaid, the VA Health Care System and the Children’s Health Insurance program?

  • Kristofer

    Your argument hinges on health care being a commodity like any other in the free market. However, health care is not a commodity. Free markets work well for products and services which can be deemed optional. The laws of supply and demand function because consumers can ultimately decide to simply not buy a product if it’s not good enough, or too expensive. Health care is of a different order than a hammer, a car, clothing. I know of parents who will opt to not buy new clothes for their children if they can’t afford it, but I know of no parent who would willingly opt to not treat their sick child because they can’t afford it.

    Because health care impinges on our own, and loved ones’ ability to continue to exist, it gives the providing side of the market (health care professionals and insurance companies) an incredible amount of leverage with regard to supply and demand, an amount of leverage that is tantamount almost to blackmail.

    If you cannot, in good conscience, as a parent, just watch your child die, rather than bankrupt yourself in the pursuit of treatment for your child, the free market mechanisms can longer operate as they should. You are not a consumer operating with your regular amount of choice and “freedom” with regard to commodities. You have, in effect, a gun to your head saying “no matter what the cost, and no matter whether the quality of care is good or not, you must buy.”

    In areas where the subject at hand is no longer a freely optional commodity, the free market can easily become abusive and detrimental to the very freedom you ostensibly are trying to protect.

    There are, in our economy, areas which present themselves in a similar way to being able to get treatment for our health: national security, police force, fire fighting. Imagine having to pay for personal security on the streets of your home town. You would be living in mobsterville, and the poor would be constantly subjected to violence and robbery. Imagine if no one came to defend you or your family because you couldn’t afford crime-insurance, or because the security gang you were paying to protect you decided you were too high-risk and simply didn’t come when you needed them.

    Like most conservatives, you have no problem with socialized defense, socialized police force, socialized fire fighting. Like most conservatives (I’m guessing here) you probably especially have no problem with socialized defense. Our global hegemony remains far more important in your Christian eyes than taking care of your fellow citizens as best you can.

    I know I’m slipping into a possible ad hominem here, but I cannot help but remark that your principled stand appeals to know Biblical foundation. No verses are quoted saying how “freedom is from God and should be defended at all costs” (because there are no such verses), all the while ignoring the literally hundreds of verses commanding us to take care of the poor, the widowed, the orphan, the alien among us.

    But to get back to my original point, health care is not a commodity. Treating it as such gives providers of health care too much leverage in the equation of supply and demand and in effect, leads to extortion rather than a market place. Providing a framework in which some or most of the extortionary power of the providers in this context is not only smart, but, possibly, and act of community-minded love and care that might even be considered Christ-like. Isn’t that worth possibly thinking about at least?

  • http://grendelkhan.livejournal.com grendelkhan

    Kristofer: Your argument hinges on health care being a commodity like any other in the free market. However, health care is not a commodity.

    This is a really good point, because parts of the debate center on treating healthcare like a commodity–for instance, claiming that people will use more of it if it’s made cheaper, and if the marginal cost is zero, then people will consume as much healthcare as they possibly can fit in their schedules. This is transparently ridiculous. People will consume healthcare when they are sick, as they do in countries with universal coverage; currently, many people in the United States don’t get care when they need it, because they can’t afford it. But to think that people would suddenly start spending all their free time in hospitals… it’s patently ridiculous, and it’s flatly contradicted by actual experience in other nations.

    It’s like saying that, if there wasn’t a fee for doing so, people would report crimes to the police constantly, and the system would be overloaded. No wonder the author here wants to argue from principle.

  • http://evangelicaloutpost.com/?fbconnect_action=myhome&userid=3 Dustin R. Steeve

    Thanks for the comments, they provide room for clarity and conversation.

    Health Care needs to be cheaper. Michael, your point about healthcare being prohibitive to launching and running small businesses is absolutely correct. Republicans and Democrats agree, the system is costing doctors, patients, and insurance companies too much money. In an article for the Wall Street Journal, conservative Bobby Jindal shared some smart ideas for cutting the cost of healthcare: http://tinyurl.com/m7u87f. In this article, Jindal discusses Tort reform. Michael, regarding your point about New Zealand, I hasten to add that there are many fewer liability laws in that country and therefore many fewer lawsuits against providers of extreme sports. In this case, it is the laws and not the insurance that are the problem. Following our principles is easy when it costs us nothing, but now we must work smarter, and a little harder, to maintain the principles of our abundant and successful system – Jindal’s essay is a step in that right direction.

    Grendelkhan, in your opening remarks, you suggested that the “problem” of arguing from principle is that you can apply the argument to numerous, assumed goods. However, what you see as a problem I see as a great benefit. Arguing from principle provides one with a framework to consider questions and problems. Take the example you provide about fire codes. First of all, that example could spark (pun intended) great conversations about the balance of power between the federal, state, and municipal governments. I’m concerned that people are beginning to blend “government” into a singular entity (thus FEMA is first to blame for New Orleans) when we all should have a better understanding of the role of state and local governments. Second, we do lose liberty when building codes are enacted and perhaps it is time that we examine exactly how much liberty we are losing to things like building codes, zoning, and other assumed benefits to the community. Often such laws are good, but try building a sidewalk from your house out to the street in California and see how much paperwork and how many permits you have to acquire first – perhaps we have given up too much liberty too easily?

    I’m going to push back on claims that America’s healthcare is a “shocking disgrace” and that we have the “37th best healthcare in the world.” The first statement is overblown and I seriously question the standard of measurement on the second. Regarding the second statement, I am skeptical that correlation/causation fallacies are taking place in the metrics. For example, heart disease and obesity are measured when measuring the benefits of universal healthcare. However, Americans eat more fatty foods and work harder (longer hours with less vacation) than persons in other nations. So I ask, what percentage of heart disease is a problem of healthcare and what of habits and diet? Instead, I consider these metrics more valuable: How long does one have to wait to see a doctor? How advanced is the technology? How likely is it that a person can be cured of an illness? How free are people to aggressively fight illness? How free are people to take preventative measures?

    Regarding American healthcare being a shameful disgrace, that statement is overblown and shameful itself. Americans are the global leaders in medical technology advancement. We create the medicines the world uses to fight diseases (like AIDS and Parkinsons). When people need advanced medical attention, they come to the United States more than any other nation in the world. Americans are more likely to survive common cancers, lower income Americans are healthier than their international peers, and Americans (by and large) have more room for innovation and more power to change the system than anyone in any nation with universal healthcare. (source: http://www.hoover.org/publications/digest/49525427.html)

    Healthcare is a commodity; it is not health, nor is it care (as in medical treatment). In the context of the present deabte, healthcare reform really means “insurance industry” reform. Nobody here thinks that one should sit idly by and watch their children, parents, or anyone die. Michael pointed out earlier that the Church shares responsibility for caring for the sick and dying and that we have largely failed. I agree with that assessment. Why do Christians expect the federal government to take total responsibility for that which the Lord commanded His people to do? Not that Church ought to build the infrastructure for universal healthcare, but I fear we turn too easily to the government to save us.

    However, most of the above considerations are pragmatic and technical in nature and don’t directly address the point of my essay. Assuming for a moment that universal healthcare works in other nations such as France and Canada, this does not mean that it will be good for America. The projects and principles of those other nations are very different than those of America. It is as though we are suggesting that because 12 gauge wire works on the 15 amp house across the street, that same wiring will also work on our 20 amp house here. It will not, in fact, I think it will cause our house to burn down once we flip the switch.

    We have many problems to solve, several of them have been thoughtfully raised here by the commentators. America is a nation full of bright people with big ideas and creative solutions to tough problems. I recently purchased healthcare for as little as $200 per month and I believe that the reforms mentioned above will help us bring the cost down even more. In a nation full of people carrying iPhones, watching cable tv and playing X-Box at home, I believe that we can shift our financial priorities and work within our principles to solve the healthcare problem.

  • http://evangelicaloutpost.com/?fbconnect_action=myhome&userid=3 Dustin R. Steeve

    Ex,

    In my response above, I forgot to respond to your question. Regarding Medicare, Medicade, and the Children’s Health programs, I believe that we should find free market and community (religious) based solutions to meet the needs those programs aspire to meet. For example, the Little Sisters of the Poor: http://www.littlesistersofthepoor.org/. Regarding the VA Health system, I believe that we do not eliminate that program as it is in keeping with the government’s responsibility to provide for the defense of our liberties and therefore provide for those who defend our liberties.

    It’s good to have you back, haven’t heard from you in a while. I hope all is well.

  • ex-preacher

    I am well and it’s good to have something interesting (and disturbing) enough commenting on.

    It’s easy for you to say on this site that you favor the abolition of Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance. Why do you suppose we don’t hear that at the town hall meetings or from any major leader in the Republican Party or Religious Right. Why are these people who are so vitriocally opposed to “socialized medicine” are mysteriously silent on Medicare? Because it would be political suicide. Because Medicare is hugely, hugely popular and successful. So why can’t we just expand Medicare to cover everyone from birth (or conception)? Because it would be the end of the world according to your crowd.

    The opposition to reform isn’t about individual liberty. It’s about irresponsible people using fear, ignorance and selfishness to achieve their own political aims.

    If Republicans really believed in this principle you espouse, they would call for the immediate abolition of Social Security. I wonder when they’ll do that?

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Dustin R. Steeve

    Ex,

    Yesterday, Daniel Henninger wrote a piece at the Wall Street Journal wherein he made the argument you deny conservatives are making. From the article:

    Mr. Marmor teaches welfare-state politics at Yale. In a long article written with Gary McKissick when Barack Obama was still in the Illinois Senate, he noted that the idea of national health insurance has been discussed in Washington since before World War I. When Democrats say they’ve been “waiting 70 years,” they are referring to the fact that national health insurance was part of the original Social Security proposal in the 1930s. “From 1936 to the late 1940s, liberals recurrently called for incorporating universal health insurance within America’s emerging welfare state.” It always failed in Congress.

    In 1952, liberals “formulated a plan for an incremental expansion of government health insurance.” This evolved into Medicare for retirees in 1965. It was supposed to be only the first step. “The strategy’s proponents,” Mr. Marmor says, “presumed that eligibility would gradually expand. They believed that it would take in most, if not all, of the population.” That didn’t happen. The Clintons tried again and failed, and now after 70 years we have the latest version, ObamaCare, which has problems of its own.

    Mr. Marmor’s key insight for our current drama is to note that Medicare for retirees came to life “with no clear philosophical rationale.” In other words, if you are going to pass a Big Idea such as universal health insurance, you need to give the public a Big Reason. The reason given for ObamaCare has already shifted several times.

    This odyssey, notes Mr. Marmor, has left the country “well short of consensus” on national health insurance. That lack of consensus, born of 70 years of politicking, is more the source of Mr. Obama’s problems than “misinformation.”

    (read the article here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204488304574430832455371844.html)

    Medicare is popular among seniors, no doubt, but it is neither popular nor successful among medical professionals. If you think it is popular, what do you say about the numerous letters and calls submitted to hosts like Hugh Hewitt and magazines like National Review wherein doctors, nurses, and accountants in the medical field explain that Medicare bankrupts them? Why do you suppose that doctors and hospitals are refusing medicare patients? How can you read stories like these from the New York Times and declare that Medicare is hugely successful (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/02/business/retirementspecial/02health.html)? We can go back and forth on the details all day. You assert one thing, I assert another, but it is the principle of the thing that matters – it is failing to adhere to our principles that will undermine the American project.

    Could Republican leaders do a better job of arguing from principle as opposed to pragmatics (against an Obama plan that does not exist and numerous congressional plans still under review)? Yes, of course – re-read the first sentence of this essay.

    There is no opposition to reform. Nobody in either party denies that there needs to be systematic reform. There is only opposition to an extreme makeover of 1/6th of the American economy whereby liberty, free markets, and our right to life are endangered (as argued above).

  • ex-preacher

    If you want to know what most doctors think should be done, I wouldn’t look at the letters Hugh Hewitt reveals or the National Review publishes.

    Fortunately, the New England Journal of Medicine has published the results of a thorough and scientific poll of U.S. physicians. Almost 3/4ths of U.S. doctors favor a public insurance option. 63% support a mix of private and public insurance, with another 10% favoring a complete elimination of private insurance. Also, 58% favor expanding Medicare to cover 55-64 year olds.

    http://healthcarereform.nejm.org/?p=1790

    Is Medicare perfect? No. Is it better than what existed before? Yes. Please find the names of principled Congressmen and Senators who are calling for the abolition of Medicare. There are some principles involved among those who oppose the healthcare reforms, but individual liberty is not among them. I think a very strong case can be made that the reforms would enhance liberty. The liberty to make decisions about one’s career without worrying about losing coverage. The liberty to get coverage even though you have a pre-existing condition. And for the 45,000 Americans who die every year due to lack of insurance and access to care – the liberty to live.

  • ex-preacher

    It’s more than a little ironic that the one reform you advocate – tort reform – is one that would clearly impinge on individual liberty. Tort reform is a government intervention to limit the liberty of individual citizens to hold the medical industry responsible for injuries or deaths they have caused. Tort reform limits the liberty of juries to set damages at the level they deem appropriate. How did you conclude that this particular infringement upon liberty is worthwhile?

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Dustin Steeve

    Ex,

    Let’s talk about the NEJM study to which you’ve pointed me. It seems fair to say that the study says: 1) Doctor members of the AMA seem to favor the expansion of Medicare to include elderly age 55 (elderly is their word, not mine – don’t write me angry e-mails!), 2) By a nearly 3:1 margin, a private option only is preferred to a public option only, 3) 90.4% of doctors are against a public option only. It is also noteworthy that the study did not include good ideas like cooperatives or national insurance buying programs (ideas important to Republicans and Conservatives).

    The second point of my argument is that universal healthcare would effectively eliminate the possibility of private market health insurance since companies could not compete against the government. This would create a “public option only” scenario except for the very wealthy who could fund their own healthcare.

    Regarding tort reform, I see your point but I think you misunderstand my goal. In California, lawsuits and the cost of legal protection are driving good doctors out of the state. Irresponsible people (plaintiffs, lawyers, judges, and jurors) are allowing doctors to be sued much too easily at too great a cost (estimated $100 billion / year) to both doctors and the system. As a result, doctors take expensive and unnecessary protective measures in medical practice – extra x-rays, MRI’s, excessive prescriptions, etc. We’ve all been there. Liberty does not give us authority to act irresponsibly; we should work to make it shameful in our society to sue without just cause and to reform the system so that justice is accessible, but not blinded to the abuses of the greedy.

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Dustin Steeve

    I’ve got some questions for those who favor universal healthcare:

    1) What principles lead you to conclude that government, and not the free market, should be responsible for building the medical insurance and medical practice infrastructures?

    2) Do you believe that instating government funded and operated, universal healthcare demonstrates that we love and care for our neighbors more than we presently do? If so, how so? If so, how are individuals (you and I) actually loving our neighbors more because of universal healthcare?

    3) Some say that healthcare is a right. If healthcare is a right, why not also provide for people’s food entirely? After all, isn’t food more fundamental to a person’s health than medical care?

  • Mike Toreno

    Dustin, the answer to your questions are pretty easy. So it isn’t just your stupidity that keeps you from seeing them, it’s mainly your lack of integrity. Biola graduates are dumb, but they’re not that dumb.

    1. The easiest way to gain income is to borrow money and not pay it back. Insurance companies collect premiums before they have to pay out claims. If they can avoid paying out claims, they can keep the money they collect in premiums. Thus, free market principles dictate that insurance companies will prosper most when they charge high premiums and provide no services. Thus, insurance companies continually increase their premiums and deny care they are obligated to pay for. This is something that’s really true, something that actually happens. It’s clear that you know this in spite of your obvious stupidity, because you avoid reputable sources, confining yourself to sources known for dishonesty.

    A government run system could be constructed so as to focus on providing care, of setting premiums at a level needed to pay claims, and then paying those claims without wasting money on an infrastructure devoted to the avoidance of paying legitimate claims.

    2. Yep. Such a structure would result in better health and would increase the security of people’s lives, assuring them that illness would not lead to bankruptcy. We are loving our neighbors by taking positive actions to provide for their welfare – by acting like a Christian. I think this failure of understanding is based on the nature of evangelicalism. The typical evangelical’s “faith”, such as it is, is based on group identification. You define yourself by membership in a group, and gain entry by reciting a collection of propositions about the Bible. He doesn’t define a Christian as someone who, you know, acts like a Christian.

    3. Why not. Wouldn’t cost much, and would lead to vastly improved health and security for the population.

  • Mike Toreno

    Dustin, your claims about “tort reform” are all lies. Your citation of Bobby Jindal as a source demonstrates that you know they’re lies and aren’t interested in telling the truth. Tort “reform” is a campaign to shift the burden of the injuries caused by incompetent doctors away from the doctors that cause them and onto the people they injure. Can you explain to me how, if high medical costs are a general social problem, the people responsible for reducing them are those injured by incompetent doctors?

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Dustin R. Steeve

    Mike,

    Five questions:

    1) What is the definition of the word “principle”?

    2) What is competitive advantage? Follow-up, where is the competitive advantage in refusing service to paying customers or worse, killing off paying customers?

    3) Can you define “evangelicalism” and its specific claims? Follow-up, can you name 3 influential, historical (must be dead) evangelical theologians and provide a brief synopsis of their contribution to the evangelical project?

    4) What is the difference between being taxed and giving a donation?

    5) Can you name for me the organization from which Gov. Jindal obtained the $100 billion estimate and the authors of the study from which the organization based its estimate? Follow-up, using evidence and reason can you refute the study’s argument?

  • Mike Toreno

    2) ZOMG, you’re dumb. You’re dumber than John Mark Reynolds, aren’t you?

    Insurance companies are *observed* to deny legitimate claims, leading to the death of their policyholders. Various theories about why this should or shouldn’t happen are irrelevant. It *does* happen. Anyhow, an analysis of the situation tells us that for any individual case, the insurance company typically collects the money way before it is called on to pay it out, so letting the policyholder die is to its advantage. It already has a lot of money it already collected, so that in many cases, the money it saves by denying the claim is more than what it might expect to collect in premiums.

    3) What evangelicals claim about themselves isn’t important; what’s important is what they do. What they do, basically, is define themselves by membership in a group based on their belief in an inerrant Bible, distorting the Bible as needed to make it inerrant.

    5) Yeah, the organization from which Jindal got the number is the American Orthopedic Association PAC, based on a study done in 1996. Here’s part of what factcheck.org had to say about it in 2004:

    ****
    Those claims rest mainly on a single 1996 study by two Stanford economists who said caps on damage awards could hold down overall medical costs by 5% to 9%. They studied heart patients who were hospitalized, compared costs in states with and without limits on malpractice lawsuits, and then projected their findings to the entire health-care system.

    But both the GAO and the CBO now question their sweeping conclusion. When the CBO attempted to duplicate the Stanford economists’ methods for other types of ailments they found found “no evidence that restrictions on tort liability reduce medical spending.”

    “In short, the evidence available to date does not make a strong case that restricting malpractice liability would have a significant effect, either positive or negative, on economic efficiency, ” the CBO said.
    ****

    If you had integrity, you might have examined the study in light of the GAO and CBO comments, not just presented Bobby Jindal’s citation of it as authoritative.

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Dustin R. Steeve

    Mike,

    You’ve pointed out two things:

    First, the free market works best for all when moral virtues are a part of the system. When insurance companies refuse promised payments, people distrust them and the system fails to function as designed. While I think only a cynic could assume that cheating customers plays a primary role in the business model of major insurance companies, simultaneously I think that we should hold dishonest people accountable. The free market is not the problem, bad players in the system and a lack of virtue are the problems. We need to re-infuse the protestant ethic into our free market economy.

    Second, “studies” can say whatever we want them to say. In a debate about healthcare you cite FactCheck.org, Ex-Preacher cites a study found in the New England Journal of Medicine and I cite facts from the American Enterprise Institute, letters from doctors, and a study supported by the American Orthopedic Association. Round and round the healthcare debate the people chase the studies. This is the problem of purely pragmatic debates – the system is a mess and (frankly) nobody can know for certain how to fix it. Debates from principle give us direction and clarity, empowering us to collaborate and solve problems.

    I am troubled by your response to question three. When you say, “What evangelicals claim about themselves isn’t important; what’s important is what they do” it sounds like you are claiming that ideas don’t matter. Ideas do matter and the idea of God (theology) plays a formative role in the lives of believers. The rest of your response to question three does not make sense with the first sentence – you accuse Christians of not caring about “theology” and then you accuse them of doing bad “theology” though you’ve yet to identify any knowledge you have of formative evangelical theologians or their contribution to the evangelical project.

    Finally, you should be ashamed of your conversational manner. I don’t mind if you disagree with me, in fact, I welcome disagreement. However, your continual use of insults make you seem weak, cowardly, and is off-putting. Insults are not necessary and do not advance your point. Further, with the exception of your reference to FactCheck.org, you have not submitted evidence or given me reasoned arguments for why you believe what you believe; you’ve only made accusations and submitted conclusions whose origins one cannot trace. If you want to persuade people of your ideas, you need to make sense and help others make sense of your conclusions. If I see one more insult or juvenile “ZOMG” injected into one of your responses, you’re done here. We keep a clean house and you’re throwing dirt.

  • Mike Toreno

    Dustin, I don’t even know what you’re claiming your principles are. Insurance companies collect money and refuse to pay it back out, they have an infrastructure that wastes 30% of health care dollars on insurance company administrative costs, they reward employees based on how effectively they avoid paying claims, and your response is not to shift power allocations between insurance companies and the people they insure; your response is to express a vague wish that insurance companies should behave more virtuously. You say that the “system fails to function as designed,” but above, your complaint against universal healthcare was that it would cause the free market system in healthcare to fail to function as designed. Okay. . .

    What I cited wasn’t a study, it was an analysis of the 13-year old study, that Jindal found when he was searching for something that said what he wanted it to say. It said the study was wrong, and explained why it was wrong.

    The issue isn’t one of a multiplicity of studies, with every study being of equal value so that each side can cite an equally authoritative study. This issue is one of observing the facts and working through an analysis. And of course working through the analysis necessarily to utterly discredit the “tort reform” arguments takes about two seconds. “Tort reform” shifts the burdens of injury away from those who cause the injuries to those who suffer the injuries.

    That’s an argument from principle.

    Your argument in favor of “tort reform” is a purely pragmatic one, based not on the rightness or wrongness of creating a special protected class of wrongdoer, but on false claims about the financial benefits of creating such a protected class. The falsity of the claims are well known – for example, health care costs have not diminished in states that have enacted “tort reform,” and the costs of “defensive medicine” depend primarily on whether doctors ordering test have financial interests in the testing equipment. But the fact that your claims are false are really a side issue; what’s important, is that you are arguing that the interests of people who injure others are more important than those of the people they injure.

    It’s true that I don’t cite authorities much. That’s because the ability to cite an authority isn’t important. What’s important are knowing and analyzing the facts. The behavior of insurance companies is perfectly in accord with free market principles. The insurance companies are motivated by their own interests, their own interests are best served by collecting money and not paying it out, therefore, they collect money and don’t pay it out. Your principles seem to be that the “free market” is an end in itself. If that’s your principle, so be it. For myself, I hold as a principle that our society should be directed toward efficient and inclusive mechanisms to provide healthcare. To the extent that the free market accomplishes that goal it should be used, to the extent that other mechanisms accompish that goal, they should be used.

  • Mike Toreno

    Where I say,

    “Tort reform” shifts the burdens of injury away from those who cause the injuries to those who suffer the injuries.”

    That’s incomplete, and as stated is not an argument from principle. What I meant to say was,

    A decent society values the interests of injured people at least as highly as we value the interests of those who perpetrate their injuries. “Tort reform” shifts the burdens of injury away from those who cause the injuries to those who suffer the injuries, and therefore is anathema in any decent society.

    That’s an argument from principle.

  • Maire

    I’m following the American health care debate from a European perspective. I live in Ireland, fights re the dangers of “socialized medicine” occurred here in the 1950’s. Ireland then faced a dreadful T.B. epidemic which lead to the provision of a universal health care system as it took major government investment to tackle T.B.
    We now have a mixed system, all citizens are covered but you can buy private health insurance which gets you private rooms as opposed to wards, it means elective surgery etc is done faster. Should you suffer major trauma e.g. car crash you are taken to the public hospital as it has the best range of medical options for your care.
    It is not a perfect system however the overall health and well being of all citizens, be they rich or poor, has risen since its introduction.
    Health care always favours the wealthy who can buy the best treatments however I think a lot of philosophical arguments re health care does not address problems like- should a serious illness bankrupt a family? should a person be denied care because they cant pay for it?
    Europe has had universal health care for a long time, the sky hasn’t fallen in, it is not perfect but it is taken for granted here. Like the police service, free schools etc it is considered part of what a country needs to function well.

  • Gerald

    Been a while since I visited.

    Shouldn’t this site be called Republican Outpost or Conservative Outpost or something similar? Reading a few of the editorials, I find the resemblance striking.

    Are we still having those lively evolution discussions or has that fallen out of popularity?

    Gcaveman1

  • gcaveman1

    Something I’ve been wanting to see for years is evangelicals, Baptists, Catholics….all Christians, put their money where their mouth is.

    You want to get rid of government interference/takeover/subversion of the American health care system? Build hospitals instead of million dollar churches. I get sick when I see these huge buildings dedicated to “the glory of god”, and slick preachers driving Mercedes’ up to their palatial homes.

    If Jesus came back and walked into one of these worship palaces, I believe he’d do more than overturn tables. I think he’d get a can of diesel and a box of matches and burn the place down.

    I’m just saying. That’s if he let his temper get away from him, like he sometimes did. If his more godly head prevailed, he’d move you and your pews out and bring in the beds, the doctors, the nurses, the poor, the AIDS-ridden gays and prostitutes, the veterans, and the immigrants.

    American fundamentalists long for the good old days. I say go back to the clapboard chapel and put your tithes where Jesus would put them, helping your fellow man.

  • Roger

    There is an interesting article in The Atlantic, by David Goldhill, “How American Health Care Killed My Father”.

    This article can be accessed via web http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200909/health-care

    The article discusses a number of important topics plaguing health care and creating the high costs associated with this industry. Extreme government regulation is a contributing factor. The health care industry does not really function in a free market, such as a person owning a retail store in a small town. Unfortunately, the current political debates have not really addressed the underlying problems associated with the high costs of health care. Instead, we are looking for a bigger wallet to feed this beast.

    If we do not address the underlying factors creating the high costs of health care, than we will not be able to truly have sustainable health coverage for all people. Countries currently using the single payer system – are straining to maintain these systems. That is because the factors inflating the costs of health care have not been addressed.

  • http://yahoo Derek

    I have to agree with you on this blog. it was very persauvie, however you failed to mention that with a universal health care system it would swamp the health care industry. We as a nation have a much larger population base than that of most countries in Europe and Asia. As we see in canda (which i might add has a smaller population base then the U.S.) health care system is falling apart they don;t have enough drugs to go around and you have to wait potentially a year or more to get a critical procedure. otherwisr this was a great article.

  • Christiancooley

    Sounds just like what Jesus would say!!!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/OXQF4DAPL5QLSJQZ3FVXLC2HHI Sgt. Goonboy

    Yes, because as we all know, America has a totally free markey economy!