Universal health care does not mean government health care.

I’ve seen this note that I wrote a while back at ThinkProgress.org popping up here and there on the Internet. I’m glad that people have found it useful. Since it is currently locked up in a horrible Facebook-based dynamically transcluded comment thread thingy, I figured that I would re-copy and re-print here, so that the point, if it was worth making, can have a something of a real home on the Internet. The comment was in reply to a reply to Matt Yglesias’s reply to Roderick Long’s reply to a conversation between Wolf Blitzer and Ron Paul about healthcare policy. Roderick (rightly) thought that Paul’s answer to the questions betrayed a serious mistake about how to think about free-market healthcare. Yglesias (wrongly) thought that Roderick was encouraging libertarians to avoid the important question. A commentator called ds_at_yglesias chimed in:

If you oppose universal health care, you by definition support letting people who can’t afford health care die.

Most conservatives are socialized to not say such things in public, but of course they believe it.

—ds_at_yglesias, 15 September 2011, 7:39pm

Of course, I don’t give a tinker’s cuss about saving the reputation of political conservatives. But there’s an important conceptual issue for anti-authoritarians. So I replied (emphasis added):

Maybe so. (Certainly, there are plenty of conservatives who are all too comfortable with — or even enthusiastic about — a lot of needless suffering in the world.)

But I hope that you realize that not everyone who supports universal healthcare supports government healthcare, and not everyone who opposes government healthcare opposes universal healthcare. The one might follow from the other if the only way to get universal coverage were by means of a political guarantee of coverage. But that’s not so: there are folks who oppose government healthcare because they think corporate healthcare is awesome and they don’t mind if people die; but there are also folks who oppose government healthcare because they support non-governmental, non-corporate universal coverage through grassroots social organization and community mutual aid. (See for example http://radgeek.com/gt/2007/10/25/radical_healthcare/ or the closing sections of http://www.thefreemanonline.org/headline/health-care-debate-meaningful/.)

Of course, that leaves open the question of whether they (we — I’m one of ‘em) are right about the best means for getting universal coverage. Maybe social means are inadequate; or maybe there is some reason, which has yet to be mentioned, why governmental control is preferable, as a means for getting it, to voluntary associations for mutual aid. But whether the position is right or wrong, it’s certainly not one that can be answered simply by defining it out of existence, as you do when you pretend that the only alternatives available are (1) corporate coverage of only those who can afford it; or else (2) universal coverage by means of government mandates; as if there were no (3) universal coverage by non-governmental means.

—Charles Johnson, 16 September 2011, 10:32pm

Also.

6 replies to Universal health care does not mean government health care. Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Discussed at www.bign.ws

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2012-05-28 – Universal health care does … | news update for you life:

    […] the original post: Rad Geek People's Daily 2012-05-28 – Universal health care does … « Boxer Paul 'The Punisher' Williams likely … – WRDW News 12 Using […]

  2. Jerome Bigge

    The high cost of US health care is created by government regulation. By “prescription laws” that were “sold” to Congress by the American Medical Association as necessary to “protect the public”. Of course the real reason for these laws was that doctors were well aware that having a monopoly over the supply of medicine would be to their benefit. This is the same reasoning that licensed professionals have used to create professional monopolies that considerably increase their income over that which they’d earn under true free market conditions. My estimate of the cost of this is at least one trillion dollars a year, or about $3,000 for every man, woman, and child in the US!

    Let give an example of this: I take a blood pressure medication that I buy at Walmart for a total of $40 a year. This is actually half of what I’d pay if I used my Medicare Part D insurance, so both I and the taxpayers are saving money here. However, since this is a prescription medicine, my doctor requires twice year office visits and twice yearly lab tests. This office visits and lab tests cost about $300 under Medicare Part C (Priority Health Medicare Advantage). I have a total co-pay of $40 for this. So in effect the insurance company is paying out $260 a year, I pay out an additional $40 a year, all of which is in effect just a way that the doctor earns some additional income, the hospital lab doing the tests earns some additional income. In a Libertarian society I’d be paying $40 a year period. In our Statist society I’m paying out $80 a year, the taxpayers are coming up with an additional $260 a year. I realize this is a simplication of what goes on in our health care system, but it does show very clearly the cost of a “statist” health care system as opposed to a Libertarian one. What applies here also applies elsewhere. Our drug laws cost us about two hundred billion dollars a year. Our aggressive military policies add up to almost another trillion dollars a year. (a figure of $931 billion for fiscal 2013). All told, the “dead weight” of government probably costs each of us several thousand dollars a year over and above what we pay in taxes! It isn’t just what you pay every April 15th, its all the rest of government rules and regulations that takes money out of your pocket. Unfortunately, only a few are willing to consider these truths…

    • Rad Geek

      Sure, I agree with you about most of that. I discuss some of the ratchet effects that government has on healthcare costs (or rather pharmaceutical costs specifically; but there’s plenty of other things to say about how State monopolies drive up other kinds of medical costs) toward the end of There’s No I In Health Care Reform. I don’t specifically discuss the anticompetitive effects of the prescription system there, but How physicians learned to stop worrying and love Big Pharma may also be relevant (both to your point and to the discussion of expenses from the FDA trial process). The expense of virtually everything, and fixed costs of living in general, are massively ratcheted up by the privileges that the State grants to well-connected capitalists.

— 2013 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2013-01-23 – ¡Traducciones anarquistas!:

    […] no es Sanidad Estatal (29 October 2012), a translation en español (castellano) of my brief note Universal health care does not mean government health care (28 May 2012). The post also includes some commentary and elaboration on the strengths and […]

  2. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2013-03-23 – Toward A Really Social Safety Net:

    […] GT 2012-05-28: Universal health care does not mean government health care. […]

— 2014 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2014-01-28 – Welcome, Reasoners:

    […] healthcare reform (25 October 2007) and Universal health care does not mean government health care (28 May 2012), on corporate healthcare and grassroots […]

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