Health care video fails to make case for universal, “socialized” medicine

A video that’s getting some viewers on Youtube (235,000 as of this moment) serves as an illustration of how wrong the left is in its diagnosis and prescription for health care reform.

As a way to diffuse the actual implications of turning over control of medicine to government, the narrator uses the phrase “universal, socialized, whatever you want to call it.” This is repeated several times throughout the short video.

This is a common technique used to divert attention away from a negative aspect of an argument or position. By using the “s” word — “socialized” — early on, and by using it several times in a dismissive fashion, the speaker hopes to take this issue off the table. It doesn’t work.

The video makes the case that since many things are already provided by government, why shouldn’t health care also be the responsibility of government? The New York Times’ Nicholas D. Kristof made this same argument recently, and he didn’t do much better. The argument that because government currently provides a service, it means that government does it well, does it efficiently, and is the only institution capable of doing it is a fallacy.

As to the high cost of being sick, the video states that “very, very, very few people” can afford health care when someone gets “really, really, really sick.”

(I might have been persuaded if the narrator had used “really” just one more time. This condescending technique of repeating words several times — as if each time adds more truth to the speaker’s position — is another favorite tactic of the left. It doesn’t work.)

This argument — that it’s expensive if you have a serious illness — is true. But most health insurance plans don’t address this need, which is to provide inexpensive coverage for the relatively rare cases when people need expensive care to get well. Instead, most health insurance plans are really pre-paid medical care plans, where the plan pays for routine, foreseeable events like an annual physical exam, flu shots, obstetrical care for women of child-bearing age, etc. Plans that pay for expensive disasters like a heart attack without paying for routine care are quite inexpensive. These are generally known as high-deductible plans.

The video states that 10 to 20% of what we pay to health insurance companies goes to administrative costs, contrasting that to the 2% to 3% commonly given for Medicare. The video doesn’t state that Medicare is overrun with fraud because of these low administrative costs. As Malcolm K. Sparrow, an expert on fraud in health care said: “The rule for criminals is simple: if you want to steal from Medicare, or Medicaid, or any other health care insurance program, learn to bill your lies correctly. Then, for the most part, your claims will be paid in full and on time, without a hiccup, by a computer, and with no human involvement at all.”

The video also condemns “pure profit,” stating that one of the best ways to increase profits is to deny paying claims. Stories of health insurance companies refusing to pay for treatment are common. We need to ask a few questions, however. First, are all these stories true? But more importantly, we need to recognize that most people have little choice in who handles their health insurance, because they receive it from their employer. They can’t shop for health insurance in the way they can shop for auto or homeowners insurance.

If it became known that an auto insurance company failed to pay the claims it promised to pay in its policy, what do you think would happen? Would customers continue to patronize that company, no matter how clever their advertisements?

The difference is that since people have to purchase their own auto insurance, companies compete for business on a variety of factors, including price and claims service. That’s not the case with health insurance. The lack of a robust market for personal health insurance leads to this situation. It leads to another problem, too, where the video complains about lengthy, complicated insurance contracts.

Topping off the video is a ridiculous comparison of health insurance to fire-fighting insurance. The two markets are not comparable at all, especially in the dishonest and disingenuous way this video strikes a comparison. For one, few people set fire to their own house. Yet many people do just that to their health by failing to follow simple health guidelines. Second, fire fighting services are something used only in an emergency, and most people take great care not to need this service. Health care services are used for a variety of reasons, such as annual physical exams, that are not emergencies.

These are the major problems with the arguments used in this video. It’s simply not credible.

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