Obama vs. McCain 2008: Round 9: Health Care

This is the ninth of a weekly series of public forums on TMB. Watch for a new round every Monday. The schedule and comment policy are available here.

This week’s forum is on a topic that seems to have not received as much attention lately as it did in the primaries: health care.

Here are summaries of the candidate’s positions, according to CNN’s Election Center:

McCain:

Opposes federally mandated universal coverage. Would increase awareness and promote the use of existing children’s health insurance programs while expanding community health centers. Supports health care tax dividends for low-income Americans, medical malpractice reform, improving electronic record-keeping, expanding health savings accounts, and encouraging small businesses to band together to negotiate lower rates with health care providers.

Obama:

Would create a national health insurance program for individuals who do not have employer-provided health care and who do not qualify for other existing federal programs. Allows individuals to choose between the new public insurance program or from among private insurance plans that meet certain coverage standards. Requires employers who do not provide health coverage for employees to pay into the national health insurance program. Does not mandate individual coverage for all Americans, but requires coverage for all children. Allows individuals below age 25 to be covered through their parents’ plans. Cost estimated between $50 billion and $65 billion, to be paid for by eliminating Bush tax cuts for those earning over $250,000.

Something else to keep in mind. A recent L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll (June 19-23) asked 1115 registered voters the question:

Obama says that he would ensure that every American has the opportunity to purchase affordable health insurance similar to the coverage enjoyed by members of Congress, regardless of pre-existing conditions, with government subsidies for those who cannot afford the premiums. Employers who don’t provide health insurance would be required to help fund these plans for individuals which would be portable across different jobs. McCain proposes giving tax credits of $2,500 for individuals or $5000 for a family to help those who do not have employer-based health insurance buy coverage on the private market. He would also increase the funding of the states’ high risk pools that assist people with pre-existing conditions. Based on what you know, do you prefer Obama’s plans or McCain’s plans?

The results: 53% said Obama’s, 26% said McCain’s, 11% said neither, and 10% said unsure. (Sampling error is +/- 3 points; source is CNN’s Election Center.) These figures are in keeping with just about every other poll I’ve seen, even before the primary and general elections, which shows that Americans clearly prefer some kind of national health care program.

What are your thoughts?

I’m especially curious: How do you your own values, including your religious beliefs, inform your thinking on this question?

Next week: Faith and Family Values

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38 Responses

  1. Obama does not care about Healthcare when he didn’t care enough to visit the wounded troops to make sure that they are being treated good. http://xrl.us/okzqi

  2. If this turns out to be like the other health care discussions that I’ve seen in the Bloggernacle, it’s going to be a long one. :)

    The lack of universal health care in the US is something that amazes me. OK, I have lived all my life in countries with socialized health care, in Canad and in Europe, and so maybe I am a bit biased. However, I think I can be fairly objective because I’ve seen problems first-hand with socialized medicine, and as well I’ve been in the US a lot and have strong ties to the US, so I see that health care in the US is not “all bad.”

    Forgive me if some of you have already read my comments in other blogs, but I will only include points that I think are pertinent to this discussion.

    I will never claim that the socialized health care system is perfect. Yes, there are waiting lists. Yes, you might have to wait a few hours in an ER someday (though that would rarely be the case in a true, life-threatening emergency). Yes, the hospitals are perhaps less-posh than the private ones in the US. You probably won’t find flat-screened TV’s or necessarily get a private hospital room. But the system works wonders for the VAST MAJORITY of people, in contrast to the American system which only works for those who can afford it. And even those who can, can be wiped out financially during a medical crisis such as cancer.

    I’ve always said that in America, you will get the world’s best health care and most up-to-date technology — IF you are one of those priviliged few who can afford it. So unless you’re one of the elite, socialized health care is the way to make sure that Joe Blow is waiting 6 hours inside the ER instead of dying outside of the ER because he doesn’t have insurance.

    I like Obama, but I actually liked Hillary’s plan of universal health care better. Still, I think that Obama’s plan is a step-up from McCain’s.

    I think that Obama really has his work cut out for him. I honestly have my doubts that health care in the US is going to change, regardless of how hard he tries. I’ve been amazed at some of the comments I’ve read from other discussions regarding socialized health care and just how hostile many of them are to the concept. Many Americans think that socialized medicine is a scary, bad idea. Some describe it as dangerous. Because of the resistance, I have my doubts that the system will work in the US.

    If Americans do move in the direction of socialized health care, they have to be realistic. Those who have a very good income and excellent health coverage may be disappointed by some of the problems such as waiting lists. (Perhaps they will be offered the option of private clinics, which some countries with socialized medicine offer to those who want to pay for it.) However, those average Americans who have no or poor coverage will be amazed at what they are entitled to under the law. Socialized health care will level the playing field and everyone will be guaranteed a minimum standard — which isn’t as bad as many Americans think it is.

    To me, socialized medicine, despite its flaws, is the best system for the largest amount of people. Those who have the bucks will always have the advantage of being able to go anywhere in the world to get the best care. But the rest of us should be able to see a doctor when we need to, even if we can’t really afford it. America needs to level the playing field when it comes to health care and I can’t see John McCain doing it. Obama has a chance — maybe. I think that health care is the area where the class divisions in America are most evident. I don’t think the Lord intended us to deny our fellow man basic care that every human being should be entitled to — especially when the resources are there. The only thing that’s lacking is the will of the people — those who already have what they need and don’t want to see it change.

  3. FD:

    Wait a few hours in the ER? That’s the situation in the U.S. right now… :)

    I wonder, though, how much a universal health care system would mean increased waiting in the ER — if anything, it would mean less, considering that ERs are already clogged by those who do not have insurance. If they had insurance, less of them would be going to the ER. It certainly could make a difference regarding waiting lists at medical offices, however.

    A few other things to consider. First, I wouldn’t call Obama’s health care plan “socialized” medicine, considering that it would retain private health insurance. I suppose in a technical sense you could say it is more “socialized” according to certain criteria, but you could also say that the current health care system is already somewhat socialized (considering Medicaid and Medicare, for example). By calling Obama’s health care plan “socialized,” critics are simply using a pejorative label that plays into the fears Americans already have about socialized medicine. In this respect, it also doesn’t do well to compare Obama’s health care plan to Canadian health care. Two different things.

    It’s also important to recognize, whatever you believe about the government’s role here, that certain countries with universal health care have MUCH better health care systems than the U.S. Norway is a good example (albeit a slightly disingenuous one, considering they have nowhere near the poverty that the U.S. has — still, though, it shows to certain economic critics that universal health care is not inherently bad).

    Also, FD, I don’t think there’s as much resistance as you might think. The American people in general certainly favor universal health care (as shown by the poll results included with this post), and from my experience, so do most health care practitioners. The main opponents will be insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies — who you can bet are contributing highly to the GOP fund right now. Obama, on the other hand, will not be bound to these special interests.

    One last thing (to everyone). I was never sympathetic to universal health care until I got married and was no longer covered by my parents’ insurance. For the first time I realized how insurance companies care about one thing only: the bottom line. As a student, I didn’t have a cushy job that would pay medical benefits for me, and I started to sympathize with the millions of Americans who don’t, some of whom have health payments that are half of their income! Others are in a hopeless state due to “pre-existing conditions” — the blackest sin of the insurance industry, if you ask me.

    Last last thing (I promise). One thing I really like about Obama’s plan is that it puts pressure on large companies who don’t offer insurance to employees. Don’t even get me started on how awful it is that so many businesses are not offering benefits to most of their employees (the WalMart approach). Many of these employers hire two part-time employees rather than one full-time employee to avoid doing so. These practices make the “trickle down” rhetoric from the right somewhat laughable.

  4. One other thing (to all you economic folks):

    There are a sizable number of people who own respectable small business but also work another job (such as being a school teacher) for the sole purpose of receiving health benefits.

    This is ridiculous. We might call it bondage.

    But from an economic standpoint, wouldn’t it be better for these individuals to put more time into growing their businesses? The fact that they don’t do so and take low-paying government jobs instead certainly doesn’t help the economy.

  5. Preventative medicine is very important. Ironically, my American sister-in-law was convered for something under her insurance if she should get diabetes (it runs in her family), but nothing for preventative care. So basically, she only got her money’s worth if she got diabetes. An aunt of mine living in the US didn’t get her kids the vaccinations they were supposed to have. Simply couldn’t afford the doctor’s visit. It’s ridiculous to wait to treat a patient until the end of the line — when it’s often too late.

    In my 24 years in Canada, I don’t think I paid a penny for any health care that I can remember. I’ve been in Norway for the past 6 years and here there is a small deductible (to a max of about 300 USD per person — not including pregnancy, which is free — keep in mind that average wages are about double of that in the US, so it’s a small amount of money for most). Norway is slightly different from Canada in that there are a few private clinics, which are also sort of connected to the public ones (perhaps to alleviate waiting lists, I’m not sure how it works). I have a heart arrythmia and my doctor recently sent me to a private cardiologist, at the same price of the public one. Kids under 18 and seniors in a care facility here even have free dental care (excluding things like braces). Sweden takes that a step further and dental is covered in the public health care system for all.

    It’s true that Norway doesn’t have near the poverty that the US. However, in the early 1900’s, Norway was the poorest nation in Europe. The discovery of oil was undoubtedly an enormous boost, but I think even more than that, it’s the socialist system that has done most to keep poverty at a minimum. Norway went from one of the poorest countries on earth to one of the richest in a relatively short time. The other Scandinavian countries, all who have a very similar welfare system, enjoy pretty much the same standard of living and they, along with Canada, have consistently topped the UN’s list of the best countries in the world to live in the past few years. Health care is a huge reason for that.

  6. I think a hybrid system is the way to go, and the hybrid we have right now is the wrong one.

    This would be my plan – every citizen under the age of 25 receives a government health care plan. Private clinics still exist and operate for those fortunate enough to have the resources to elect for care outside of what the government provides, but everyone 25 and under is provided a baseline health standard. Pregnant women and mothers with children through the age of 2 are also covered (one thing I find troubling is the infant mortality rate in the US, and I believe this provision could bring that to a better level). After the age of 25, citizens are free to purchase health insurance as the market makes it available to them and health insurance returns to being something not provided by an employer directly, although if the company offered an insurance bonus or something like that to offset out of pocket costs I think that would be a fair compromise. Citizens may also elect to not insure themselves. I’d also like to see some sort of government provided HSA account (maybe untaxed) with a high deductible that citizens could join into and possibly begin contributing to before turning 25 with an option for parent contributions before the citizen turns 25. If in a given year the citizen surpasses the deductible, they are offered different payment plans with a low interest rate to cover the cost after they return to health. Now, this program does not kick back in at retirement. Citizens are expected to plan for their own health care as a senior citizen as well, and so the programs that provide health benefits to the elderly would need to begin to be phased out. For that reason, I do not believe such a conversion would work.

    I realize my plan has all kinds of holes in it, and I’d welcome criticism of it so that I can refine my thoughts on this issue, so if anyone has any ideas or questions, I’m willing to talk through them and see if a better idea emerges.

    As for Obama vs. McCain on this issue, I think Obama brings us closet to what I propose than McCain would, so Obama is my pick here. I think the one point that’s very hard to debate is that there isn’t a lot of room for improvement in our health care system. I could go on another rant on that, but this isn’t the place for it.

  7. To clarify my above post after a re-read, the government provided HSA would be something citizens could join after turning 25 as an alternative to private health insurance.

  8. Dennis,

    I can see how Obama’s healthcare plan could help the economy by freeing employees. However I am concerned that employers who don’t give benefits would end up paying too little into national health care. This might have the effect of many companies choosing to dump their benefits and more affordably pay into the government’s system passing costs onto our increasingly indebted government. On the other hand I am also concerned that small businesses might end up having to pay too much.

    Another concern I have is that companies will cheat the system as they already do, hiring more part-time and temporary employees. What will be the criteria for companies who don’t give their employees adequate benefits?

  9. Just read in the news that McCain had a skin biopsy done and what he said made me sort of chuckle.

    McCain urged people to stay out of the sun and wear sunscreen, particularly during the summer.

    “If you ever have any slight discoloration please go to your dermatologist or your doctor and get it checked out as soon as possible,” he said.

    I wonder if that applies to the residents of L.A.’s Skid Row. I’m sure their doctor or dermatologist will be glad to look at their spots. :)

  10. Clayton,

    Those are excellent concerns. The devil is in the details, I suppose. Honestly, I’m not confident, off hand, at what Obama’s plan does to address these issues. The first concern is simply a matter of how much employers should have to pay into the system, and how this compares to what they are currently paying. It wouldn’t be fair to charge them what they are paying now if this amount is more than what each citizen pays. And if this IS the case, then it says something about the poorer quality of the government service. Something tells me, though, that this wouldn’t be the case — it seems like it would be pretty high quality insurance. Ideally, costs would be comparable.

    Your second concern shows how implementing Obama’s approach, in good faith, might entail more extensive government oversight regarding business hiring policies. Good and bad can be said of this, but I’m all for bringing down the Wal-Mart approach. If there are penalties for hiring two part-time employees instead of one full-time employee with benefits, then certainly many part-time employees would be laid off. This is probably a good thing, though, for the working class.

  11. Senator Obama cared enough about the troops and about healthcare to visit the wounded at Walter Reed without fanfare. He cares about the troops, and not just to use them as political props. The Pentagon raised concerns about mixing politics and a visit to the hospital in Germany. I consider this criticism as a cheap shot by the McCain campaign unworthy of Senator McCain.

    You may recall the sad state the Walter Reed had fallen to under the current administration, which uses the troops as props all the time. I once served at Walter Reed and take its decline quite seriously.

    Compared to every other industrial country, our lack of national health insurance is a disgrace. It is a pity that neither candidate is proposing a single-payer plan.

  12. Socialized healthcare, like any other socialist enterprise, eventually fails. Socialism is not self-sustaining. Individual freedom and personal responsibility are the only lasting principles upon which a nation, a state, a community, a church, or a family can build. The first person who proposed universal coverage was for cast out of heaven for rebellion.

  13. Bob,

    The first person who proposed universal coverage was for cast out of heaven for rebellion.

    Jesus Christ was hardly cast out of heaven for rebellion :)

  14. I up the Dennis’ ante and state that God didn’t toss himself out of heaven for his plan. (Add the “we all submitted a plan for earth 101” to the folklore list if it isn’t there already.)

    I have a hard time believing that it ought to be expected that corporations pay for employee benefits. So many expenses are already incurred simply by hiring that employee (the most obvious of which being salary and employment taxes and the least obvious of which being that ergonomic wrist pad.) Why should the government mandate that benefits be offered as well? It would be within reason for the government to carve out another chunk of taxes to be purposed for universal health coverage. I don’t think it’s reasonable to mandate how a company’s revenue ought to be spent.

    That being said, I incredibly dislike working for a company where I don’t receive benefits – often because I am not salaried enough to afford decent benefits on my own. Given any opportunity, I avoid the scenario. I’m lucky to have the skills that allow me to be a little more picky about where I work.

    Speaking of prevention vs cures. If the government were to enable more people with that same ability to discriminate companies with enticing packages vs the crummy packages, would that not be an indirect way of influencing the availability of health insurance? More so, wouldn’t the increase of skill and/or education and/or training etc be an even better benefit to the country?

  15. Some useful links, first one on socialized medicine:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialized_medicine

    Norwegian Health and Social Services (in English):
    http://www.helsetilsynet.no/templates/ArticleWithLinks____5520.aspx

    Bob, I don’t know how long Norway’s health system has been going (it’s been many years), but it hasn’t failed yet. How is the American system going?

  16. Dennis,

    Jesus Christ never proposed “universal coverage.” It was Lucifer that claimed his plan would cover everyone. It was Lucifer who said, “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it.” (Pearl of Great Price | Moses 4:1) His plan was a lie and he was cast out for rebellion.

  17. TheFaithfulDissident,

    It sounds like failure to me…

    “There are significant waiting times for many procedures. Many Norwegians often go abroad for medical treatments. The average weight for a hip replacement is more than 4 months. Approximately 23 percent of all patients referred for hospital admission have to wait longer than three months for admission. Also, care can be denied if it is not deemed to be cost-effective.”

    Source: Tanner, Michael D. (2008) “The Grass Is Not Always Greener: A Look at National Health Care Systems Around the World” Cato Policy Analysis no. 613.

    How is the Anerican system going? I can be admitted to the hospital within the hour. No 3-month waiting period.

  18. Bob,

    Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death. . . . and we shall be brought to stand before God. . . Now this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil. (Alma 11: 43-44)

    Seems to me that Christ gives a “universal coverage” pertaining to a restoration of any kind of bodily problem (and more — we are spiritually redeemed as well, universally, in that we all will return to the presence of God — whether we stay depends on us).

    I’m mostly having fun with you, Bob. I think I get your drift. I’m simply saying that I can just as easily say that Christ was the first one to offer “universal coverage.” And when we’re talking about the body (the domain of medicine), this actually seems to be the better comparison than Lucifer’s plan, which was a lie about a “universal coverage” of a whole lot more.

    Of course, this doesn’t say that universal health care in the United States in the year 2009 is right or wrong. But neither does the Lucifer connection that you have made. That is my point.

  19. Dennis,

    Point well made. Point well taken. I understand what you’re saying and I agree. I also think you understood the point I was making.

    I recently discovered this blog. I like it. So, I thought I’d put something out there worthy of debate. Thank you for a doctrinally sound and respectful response.

    As to the issue of universal healthcare and the U.S. presidential election – I am in favor of an approach that will fix what is wrong (high cost) without breaking what is right (high quality.) Neither candidate understands how to do it. McCain comes closer than Obama.

    My own values, as well as my religious beliefs, point me toward individual freedom and personal responsibility. Regarding healthcare, that means a consumer-driven system in which I have control over where and from whom I receive healthcare services.

    The first step is to eliminate insurance companies as they now exist; as well as any other third-party payer. Healthcare providers should be paid at the time of service – not when some third party gets around to processing a claim.

    Therefore, I establish a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) funded with monthly premiums deducted on a pre-tax basis together with matching contributions from my employer. The account is tied to a debit card which doubles as my health insurance I.D. card. I pay with the debit card at the time services are received. I decide at what level I contribute to the HRA. I decide levels of coverage. I decide which providers to use. It is my health. It is my money. It is my responsibility. I don’t want my government tampering with that freedom. Obama’s plan erodes more of that freedom than does McCain’s.

  20. Bob,

    “There are significant waiting times for many procedures. Many Norwegians often go abroad for medical treatments. The average weight for a hip replacement is more than 4 months. Approximately 23 percent of all patients referred for hospital admission have to wait longer than three months for admission. Also, care can be denied if it is not deemed to be cost-effective.”

    Yes, some Norwegians go abroad for treatment. Why? Because it’s a smaller country than the US and sometimes a certain surgery or procedure is not available in Norway. So yes, a Norwegian could go to the US for example. But that person doesn’t usually pay for it out of pocket. It’s covered as if the surgery was performed in Norway. So you have to look at the reason why they are going abroad. It’s not because the system in Norway has necessarily “failed” them. As for waiting for something like a hip replacement operation, sure, it can suck to wait 4 months. (And no one would have to wait 4 months for an EMERGENCY hip operation. I work with old people who break their hips all the time and they’re operated on usually the same day.)

    “How is the Anerican system going? I can be admitted to the hospital within the hour. No 3-month waiting period.”

    Lucky you, you must have insurance! Your neighbour might not. He might never be able to get a hip replacement.

  21. The thing about comparing the Norwegian health care system vs. the American system, we have to realize that there is no perfect system. Neither publicly nor privately-funded health care will ever satisfy EVERY patient 100%. There are going to be problems and challenges in both systems and people are going to complain. As I’ve said before, health care in Canada or Norway is not perfect. It never will be and there have certainly been problems and small failures, though I disagree with Bob that the entire system has been a failure.

    I’ve always said that America has the best health care in the world — for those who can afford it. And that is only a select few, unfortunately. As long as hospitals and clinics are run for profit, it will never be possible to give the best possible care to every citizen in America. In order to make a profit, you have to try to keep the sick people out. It’s as simple as that. And that’s what we’ve see with HMO’s in America.

    The mindset of countries like Canada and Norway is that every citizen/resident should be guaranteed a minimum standard of care. It is excellent for the vast majority, but not perfect. There are constant challenges and problems in the system, and improvements need to be made, but the point is that people can see a doctor when they need to and not have to worry about how they’re going to pay for it. Many in America are guaranteed absolutely nothing. No one is there to support them when they’re sick. Not the government, and certainly not the insurance companies.

    As I said before, I have a heart arrythmia that has caused me some problems. Though benign, I needed to see a cardiologist because of the trouble it was causing me. My case was not urgent, but I was able to see a heart specialist within a month and I received excellent care at a very minimal cost. And I know that if I need to see the doctor again, it will be the same. That is a huge load off my shoulders. I think about how it would have been if I were an uninsured person living in the US and couldn’t afford to see a heart specialist. Where would I be now? Wondering if I was dying because I couldn’t get a diagnosis or care? But that’s the reality for many, many people in America. And some, sadly, lose their lives simply because they couldn’t afford a trip to the doctor. Not everyone is as lucky as Bob and can be admitted to the hospital within the hour.

  22. I’d like to see some sort of health savings account set up. The current system doesn’t work since we are insulated from the costs of treatment through our insurance policies. Encourage us to shop around and find the best deal, to follow better health habits (because it directly affects our bottom line), etc.

    We’ve also got to end the practice of “Defensive Medicine” which just wastes money as doctors try to avoid lawsuits. The best way to fix this would be to round up all malpractice lawyers and relocate them to a deserted island far from civilization. A pay-per-view feed would be provided to watch “The Lord of the Flies” in action with all proceeds going towards cancer research. Everyone wins.

    Universal Healthcare is a doomed concept. Unless money grows on trees you are going to end up either running out of money or giving people undesirable options. This is already seen in places like Oregon where terminal patients are being told that the state will not fund their treatment anymore, but it would be happy to pay for their euthanasia:

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,392962,00.html

    Sorry gramps but you are too much of a burden on society, time to go…

  23. For anyone who’s interested, here’s a new op-ed that touches on the economic/political feasibility of universal health care:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/11/opinion/11krugman.html?hp

  24. Vote for the man who promises least; he’ll be the least disappointing.
    Bernard Baruch

  25. If universal health care is a “doomed concept,” it’s strange how most of the industrialized nations of the earth have kept it going for so long by providing all their citizens with better health care than the average American is getting.

  26. I am against the concept not for practical reasons, but moral reasons.

    And also, everyone I’ve talked to from these other nations agree that U.S. health care is of a higher quality. Perhaps their experiences are unique, but I can find no evidence that other nations have “better” health care.

  27. TFD,

    As luck would have it the UK dropped a perfect example in my lap:

    “Patients cannot rely on the NHS to save their lives if the cost of doing so is too great, the Government’s medicines watchdog has ruled for the first time.

    The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) has said the natural impulse to go to the aid of individuals in trouble – as when vast resources are used to save a sailor lost at sea – should not apply to the NHS.

    The disclosure follows last week’s controversial decision by Nice to reject four new drugs for kidney cancer even though they have been shown to extend life by five to six months. ”

    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-wellbeing/health-news/nhs-should-not-save-patients-lives-if-it-costs-too-much-says-watchdog-891501.html

    We’re dealing with limited resources and a growing demand. Someday you’re going to have to cut, and later you’re going to have to cut more. Like I said, it’s a doomed concept. I agree with Jeff that there are moral problems with it as well, as there are with any government forced social welfare program. But even ignoring those and just looking at it logically, it doesn’t compute, not long term.

  28. I’ve said before that the US has excellent health care, perhaps best in the world, but for only a few individuals. By “better” care I mean that most in countries with universal health care are getting excellent health care — despite the few horror stories that people who are against universal health care want to believe is the norm — while many Americans are getting no care. Good, yet imperfect, health care is “better” than no care.

    Part of the burden of universal health care is when individuals don’t take care of themselves. I agree that no one should rely entirely on their gov’t to save their lives. That’s ridiculous. People need to take care of themselves and unfortunately, people who don’t are a great burden to the tax payer — i.e. smokers, drug addicts, the obese, etc. But it’s their business to live as unhealthily as they want and we certainly can’t turn them away just because of their poor choices. And even the biggest health nut can suddenly get cancer. None of us are immune and you just never know.

    I am also troubled when gov’t doesn’t approve medicines or treatments because it deems them experimental or for whatever other reason. I think that’s one thing that needs to improve big time with universal health care. Of course, if I had cancer and if my gov’t wouldn’t cover a treatment that I thought would extend my life, I’d be devastated. But my point is, if America has those drugs for kidney cancer that you listed above, how many Americans can get them? How many Americans can even get the standard treatment for kidney cancer that someone in the UK would, and at the same cost?

    I still don’t understand why it’s a doomed concept. It’s been going since 1946 in Canada. Yes, it’s had its ups and downs and problems that need to be solved. Yes, there have been cuts. The population of Canada has grown to over 30 million and it struggles with cancer, diabetes and obesity much like in the US. But if it’s doomed, why hasn’t it collapsed? And why hasn’t it collapsed in Japan, Norway, Sweden, and all the other countries that have similar systems?

  29. I’m quite disturbed that people want ME to subsidize the medical bill for THEIR bad habits. Let everyone pay for their own care, or let private charities foot the bill. I’ll contribute, but please don’t force me to do it. I’ll contribute voluntarily, but forcing it from me via taxation is forced charity, which is an oxymoron.

    I believe as much as anyone that we should contribute to help the poor get health care. However, I think it is a crime against humanity to take money by force from those who earned it in order to do it.

  30. Jeff, who decides who’s poor enough to get free health care and who’s rich enough to pay for it themselves?

    I would never wish this on anyone, but what if you need heart bypass surgery even though you’ve lived a healthy lifestyle? What if you get lung cancer even if you never smoked? Maybe you were exposed to asbestos without knowing it? If you have the money to pay for your own treatment, lucky you. As for the average Joe who makes minimum wage, what charity is going to pay for his surgery or chemotherapy? The Salvation Army?

    “A crime against humanity to take money by force from those who earned it.” Is it a crime against humanity that you have to pay taxes to fund the police or your local firestation? Your money is going to pay guys who fight crime you don’t commit, put out fires you don’t start. What about roads? Is it a crime that the gov’t uses your tax money to pave roads that you’ll never drive on? Or fight a war abroad that you might not agree with? So basically it’s every man for himself. My life, my money, my problems, I solve them myself. That sounds like a society of hermits to me.

  31. A man I respect a lot, Ezra Taft Benson, put it better than I can:

    On the surface this may sound heartless and insensitive to the needs of those less fortunate individuals who are found in any society, no matter how affluent. “What about the lame, the sick and the destitute? Is an often-voice question. Most other countries in the world have attempted to use the power of government to meet this need. Yet, in every case, the improvement has been marginal at best and has resulted in the long run creating more misery, more poverty, and certainly less freedom than when government first stepped in. As Henry Grady Weaver wrote, in his excellent book, THE MAINSPRING OF HUMAN PROGRESS:

    “Most of the major ills of the world have been caused by well-meaning people who ignored the principle of individual freedom, except as applied to themselves, and who were obsessed with fanatical zeal to improve the lot of mankind-in-the-mass through some pet formula of their own….THE HARM DONE BE ORDINARY CRIMINALS, MURDERES, GANGSTERS, AND THIEVES IS NEGLIGIBLE IN COMPARISON WITH THE AGONY INFLICTED UPON HUMAN BEINGS BY THE PROFESSIONAL ‘DO-GOODERS’, who attempt to set themselves up as gods on earth and who would ruthlessly force their views on all others – with the abiding assurance that the end justifies the means.” (p. 40-1; P.P.N.S., p. 313)

    By comparison, America traditionally has followed Jefferson’s advice of relying on individual action and charity. The result is that the United States has fewer cases of genuine hardship per capita than any other country in the entire world or throughout all history. Even during the depression of the 1930’s, Americans ate and lived better than most people in other countries do today.

  32. “Most other countries in the world have attempted to use the power of government to meet this need. Yet, in every case, the improvement has been marginal at best and has resulted in the long run creating more misery, more poverty, and certainly less freedom than when government first stepped in.”

    In EVERY case? I wonder if President Benson ever visited Scandinavia. Yeah, lots of poverty and misery here. I’m sorry, but I totally disagree with him on that, and I think it was just his opinion. He was, after all, a die-hard Republican. I think he was absolutely entitled to speak his opinion, but I don’t believe he was speaking as the Lord’s prophet, just in case any Mormons out there are interpreting his words as sanctioning the Republican party as the Lord’s party.

    “The result is that the United States has fewer cases of genuine hardship per capita than any other country in the entire world or throughout all history.”

    What kind of “hardship” would that be? Are you telling me that per capita, Norwegians or Swedes are suffering less than Americans? Go to one of the projects in Philly and try telling people that. So why is it always Canada, Japan, or one of the Scandinavian countries that top the UN’s Human Development Index? Does it really have nothing to do with their health care and welfare systems? Is it totally bogus? I’ve travelled around quite a bit through different countries and I’ve yet to see anything as miserable and scary and depressing as the outskirts of Detroit. The only thing that can compare is perhaps some areas of Mexico that I visited or some shabby areas of eastern Europe as it was just emerging from Communism. To say that people who live in 8 Mile Road in Detroit or the projects of Philly have less hardship than the average Scandinavian just because they’re not forced to pay as many taxes is preposterous.

    That quote about “fanatical zeal” sounds like it’s referring to the USSR or North Korea. Then I would agree with it. But using it to illustrate the situation in first-world countries that have a system of democratic socialism is wrong. If you don’t believe it, I guess it’s something you would just have to experience for yourself.

  33. “I think he was absolutely entitled to speak his opinion, but I don’t believe he was speaking as the Lord’s prophet”

    Did I ever claim he was? I’m sick of people shouting down his opinion merely because he later became a prophet.

    As far as socialism, I believe it is an evil. A moral evil… Satan’s counterfeit to genuine charity. I also think everybody needs to stop running to Big Brother to solve all of our problems for us. This is OUR responsibility, not the government’s.

  34. In a perfect world, I would totally agree with you. But how many people do you know who are charitable enough to fund your chemotherapy when there’s nothing in it for them?

    So, socialism = Satan. I’m not about to equate Republicanism with Satan, but what about the division of classes and neglect of the poor due to the current system in the US? Would that be God’s plan?

  35. I’m NOT a republican. I think it is just as wrong that people neglect the poor. I think Capitalism is a pretty corrupt and misguided system as well. However, I have no intention of righting a wrong with a wrong. The fact is, yes, there is a bunch of junk happening in our nation. The solution? Perhaps it is the message of the Gospel—basic Christian charity. Sure, it isn’t going to solve the world’s problems. Simply put, I don’t think we CAN solve all the world’s problems on our own. But we can certainly try. We can persuade, persuade, persuade people to help. But the moment we steal from them to do it, we’ve crossed the line and we do them wrong. And if they choose not to help? Then WE help any way they can, and the blood is on their hands.

    Let me repeat, I am not a republican. I don’t think two dimensionally about the issue… I think the republican response is as unchristian as the democratic response. I think the Christian response is a focus on voluntary charity… not the “let them suffer… every man to his own” response we get from the Republican party. The world’s problems can be solved if we sacrifice voluntarily to help solve it. However, the moment you try to correct all the problems with government force, you just create new problems. A totalitarian regime where all my money goes to the State, and then the State decides what to do with it. It is as if the government says: “We can’t trust the people with their own money (because if we do, there will be problems), so we’ll take it from them and do what WE think is best (and let us forget that we are human too).” It mirrors Satan’s plan: If people have their agency, there will be problems. Evil is an inevitable result of agency. So I’ll take it from them, and prevent the problems.

    I agree with Frederic Bastiat when he said:

    Force has been given to us to defend our own individual rights. Who will dare to say that force has been given to us to destroy the equal rights of our brothers? Since no individual acting separately can lawfully use force to destroy the rights of others, does it not logically follow that the same principle also applies to the common force that is nothing more than the organized combination of the individual forces?

    If this is true, then nothing can be more evident than this: The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all.

    I submit it is a violation of my rights and freedoms to use taxation as a means of wealth redistribution… to use tax money to subsidize health care. It was never in the Constitution to give the Federal government that power (or, if you interpret it so generally that you believe it was, then absolutely nothing is outside the realm of constitutional power, and the constitution is render valueless as a document intended to limit the Federal government). It is saying, “I think this person deserves your hard earned money more than you, so I will take it from you and give it to them. My authority? Well, a bunch of people voted for me and told me I could… and, ya know, majority rules.”

    It is absolutely true that the other person may need the money more than me. Come to me, present the facts, and I may be persuaded to contribute. But take it from me without my consent is robbery, regardless of how many votes you have on your side (unless you believe that might makes right).

    You say “No one will contribute? No one will help?” That presumes a very pessimistic view of man… that man is inherently self-interested and will not help unless forced. Ok.. let’s suppose that’s true for a sec… your solution is to give a handful of these inherently self-interested men (the worst, too—politicians) the power to solve all the problems that everybody else won’t? Sorry, that doesn’t follow. Unless you can demonstrate that these men who are taking my money are somehow a different class of men—better, nobler, and above human folly—I’d rather do the charity myself.

  36. “A totalitarian regime where all my money goes to the State, and then the State decides what to do with it. It is as if the government says: “We can’t trust the people with their own money (because if we do, there will be problems), so we’ll take it from them and do what WE think is best (and let us forget that we are human too).”

    What you are describing here is a country like North Korea. I’m talking about Canada and Scandinavia. Have you been to any of these countries? To compare any of them to a “totalitarian regime” where the gov’t takes ALL their money and does what it wants with it is absolutely, unequivocably false. Last I checked, after my taxes are paid, then my paycheque is mine and I’m free to do what I want with it.

    “You say “No one will contribute? No one will help?” That presumes a very pessimistic view of man… that man is inherently self-interested and will not help unless forced.”

    I agree it’s pessimistic, but I think it’s realisitic. I know that there are some wonderful, charitable people in this world. But even if many more people were charitable, they can’t afford to take care of things like society’s health care, maternity leave, disability pensions, etc. Not everyone. Could even just the LDS Church take care of all the needs of just Mormons through their fast offerings? I mean expensive needs like health care. It’s just not feasible because charity doesn’t have the resources.

  37. I’m arguing against the whole philosophy that “the government knows better how to use your money than you do.” Canada, U.S., and Scandinavia each follow this philosophy, as does North Korea… North Korea is just farther on the spectrum. Where do you draw the line? 30%? 50%? 95%? If it is ok at 60%, why not 70%? North Korea is doing the same thing, just *more* of it.

    Let’s abandon the “government knows best” and the “run to government” philosophy and approach the problem differently. Charity doesn’t have the resources, but the government has? The difference between government and charity is that the government can just take your money if you don’t give it, while charity can’t. In other words, the only reason the government has more resources is because they have force on their side. I guess might makes right?

    You are wanting to solve all the world’s problems. Heads up: I’m on your side, but I recognize that one of the byproducts of FREEDOM is problems. As long as there are selfish people in the world, freedom will be accompanied by problems. The only way to stop the problems that freedom creates is to invite people to be righteous (my solution, which I admit doesn’t always work, but such is freedom) or take away freedom (your solution). You may argue that your plan doesn’t take freedom, only money… but one of the basic freedoms we enjoy is the “right and control of property”… and money is part of that. “But it isn’t as much money that we are taking as North Korea.” Well, you are still employing the same philosophy, but on a milder scale. The philosophy is still counterfeit.

    You may say that it discounts all taxation… you are right, it discounts all taxation that takes from one and gives to another as a means of redistribution. I actually disagree with the income tax altogether. I believe that the limited role of the Federal Government could be funded by the tariffs and small taxes originally granted by the constitution. Services we use unequally should be funded on a per use basis… like the post office.

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