Medicare vs. Universal Health Care: An Honest Question for the Right
Over the past two years, our country has raged over the questions surrounding healthcare reform. The Democrats, for better or worse, have taken the need to address serious healthcare system flaws that threaten the country’s economic footing and reframed it as a duty to make sure that even the poor and underemployed have health insurance.
While this strategy has successfully fired up voters on the Left, it has greatly angered others on the Right. There have been some arguments about affordability, of course, but those have been few and far between. (If there have been any well known Right pundits arguing that universal health care is a great idea, and we should implement it just as soon as we get out of our recession I have not come across them.) Far more often, the Right has chosen to argue that implementing universal health somehow transforms us as a people into something different and lesser. It is not simply a matter of needing to make sure health insurance for all be something we can afford. Rather, it is necessary that any attempt to insure everyone be struck down. Except, of course, if that person is on Medicare. It is widely argued by the same people that Medicare is not only acceptable, but a good and necessary safety net.
The most common arguments against universal health care I see are some variation of the following:
- UHC is by definition a socialist (and therefore bad) policy.
- The very act of establishing UHC is an overreach by government – or if not it is certainly an overreach by the federal government.
- UHC forces the rest of us to pay for people who have made bad economic decisions, or refused to take the correct actions to reverse their economic plight. It is therefore unfair to those that make good decisions.
- Related to the above: If there is no negative consequence to bad decisions, people have no incentive not to make them. Therefore UHC encourages and rewards bad decision-making.
- Also related to the above: There is a moral component to making sound choices in a capitalistic society. Therefore UHC encourages and rewards moral failing.
I confess that I don’t personally find any of the above arguments convincing. Despite that, however, I can certainly comprehend the logic behind them. I may not agree with the objections, but I certainly understand them – and understanding one another is the first step in finding a common solution.
But heres the thing:
When I review this list of objections, I cannot see a single objection that is not just as true for Medicare as it is for UHC. It is certainly a socialistic policy that has been enacted by the federal government. If a senior citizen had either been born into different circumstances or made different economic decisions during their younger decades they would not need a safety net – just as is the case for UHC. I have spent some time trying to puzzle out what makes the one Good and the other Evil to half of our country. I can only think of a few potential arguments, none of them great:
- “We’ve never really thought about it that way before.”
- “Old people have won a social prize by living as long as they have that, frankly, a poor child has yet to earn.”
- “We like old people. We don’t like poor people.”
- “We don’t really want Medicare either, but we have to say we do for reasons of political expediency. We’ll be trying to get rid of it later.”
- “It’s just an affordability issue, and we’re in a recession. The other rights/Constitutional/moral arguments are just political tools we’re using to get the votes – we don’t really have a problem with UHC per se.”
- “Europeans have UHC and Americans have Medicare. Since everything European is bad and everything American is good, Medicare is good and UHC is bad.”
- “I can easily see myself being old, but I can’t see myself being poor. So I’m going to lobby for the one I think will pay off for me personally, and lobby against the one I think will pay off for someone else.”
- “If the government won’t pay for Ma when she can’t pay the doctor I might have to. Best to make the government pay for it.”
- “The above arguments are what we always use against liberals on any issue, and we’re too busy to start teaching our base new ones.”
Clearly, none of these seem remotely satisfying, and so I am concluding that there is something I am missing that others are seeing clearly. So my question to those that argue for the continuation of Medicare but the dismantling of any system that grants UHC is this:
What are the differences as you see them? Why is one a Good Thing, and the other a Scourge Against Our Republic?
Extrapolating on whatever those answers are: Would there be a way that we might take the principles behind Medicare as you see them and make them universal? If so, what would those look like?