The Intermittent Kevin

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Health care pt. 2: Chuck Norris Facts

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One of the oddest leads I got when asking for health-care data from people was via my high-school buddy (and staunch conservative) Christie, who pointed me to a series of articles by none other than Mr. Chuck Norris. Chuck, if you didn’t know, is something of a political celebrity in right-wing circles. In between punching bad guys, he pitches for presidential candidates:

And, turns out, he’s written a series of articles over at humanevents.com, the self-described “headquarters of the conservative underground.” Several are about “Obamacare.” Let’s pull the Walker Texas Ranger lever, shall we?

6 Reasons Obama-Care Is Bad Medicine

Here Chuck offers empathy for millions of Americans who are without health care—thank God for that—then lays out why he thinks the current proposals aren’t the right ones. I’m gonna tackle the six points in two parts.

1. “Universal health care unwisely is being rushed.”
Well, it’s inaccurate to describe the current proposals as universal health care… we can debate wording and such, but the actual fact of the matter is, nobody’s currently proposing any kind of universal system similar to what the UK has. But let’s just change it to “Health-care reform is unwisely being rushed” and move on. (Fixed your adverb placement too, Mr. Norris.)

Chuck argues that the reform is being enacted in “world-record time,” which is inadvisable for such sweeping reform. Here me and Chuck just might agree; the New York Times posits that Obama tried to act while still in his “honeymoon period,” only to take a political loss by seeming to rush the whole thing into action. In Obama’s favor, the different Democratic policy solutions are more-or-less set, and there can be political value in placing a deadline on your legislators. Still, though, the whole August-deadline thing came off as arbitrary, and raised suspicions of those who opposed Obama anyway.

2. “Universal health care clearly would drive our country deeper into debt.”
Chuck, we’re gonna have to have a discussion about your use of the phrase “universal health care.” It does not jive with my rule of being as factual and spin-free as possible.

Okay, this is a HUGE one. Health-care reform costs a trillion dollars? A trillion dollars of whose money? Aren’t we, like, into crazy-debt already right now? Strangely enough, I’m in favor of only buying things I can afford. I’m going to look into debt separately and write a different blog post about it.

3. Universal health care would impersonalize health care and ration medical services.
It’s quite tricky to say that medical services would be rationed. Let’s say you have advanced kidney cancer. It will kill you, probably in the next year or two. A drug called Sutent slows the spread of the cancer and may give you an extra six months, but at a cost of $54,000. Is a few more months worth that much?

That’s actually the opening line of this excellent NYT Magazine article discussing the concept. In short, rationing health care is necessary. It’s impossible to avoid. It helps ensure value for the dollar. “Pharmaceutical manufacturers often charge much more for drugs in the United States than they charge for the same drugs in Britain, where they know that a higher price would put the drug outside the limits [set by the health-care system].” They gotta pay their bills somehow, right? Well, call me crazy, but that doesn’t seem like the way to do it.

Regarding impersonalizing health care, that point would only be worth discussing if Congress were soon to pass universal health care. Which it isn’t.

4. Universal health care ultimately would limit the competitive market of health care.
I’m realizing that I’ll actually need to tackle each of Chuck’s points on its own, but let’s discuss this in brief. Chuck feels, like many conservatives, that the public option is a sneak attack to take down the private insurance industry, to the point that it will eventually become the only option. Liberals then politely ask what Chuck and company are smoking, since the entire point of the public option is to create competition, not remove it. I get the right wing’s point, though. Will the government have unfair advantages in the marketplace? Simply existing as a non-profit institution is a huge advantage over for-profit insurance companies.

But then, there’s plenty of public/private dichotomies that are doing just fine (USPS vs. Fedex, public vs. private K12 schools, public vs. private universities, NASA vs. SpaceX). Plus I’m sure some of us would LOVE it if Amtrak got some private competition. So there’s plenty of precedent for private industry doing just fine for itself in that kind of environment.

This of course raises a different concern—wait a minute, don’t the postal service and public schools suck? But let’s not change the subject… at first blush, it seems inconclusive whether a public option would spell doom for giant profitable insurance companies.

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Written by Kevin Miller

September 9, 2009 at 9:38 am

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