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March 02, 2013

The Problem with Universal Healthcare

I usually hit the delete key whenever I get a chain email... But this particular one caught my eye enough for me to read the whole thing. This story is probably impossible to prove or disprove (I tried to find the name of this professor), but the overall message was quite intriguing... enough so to share given its applicability to universal healthcare.

My healthcare commentary is provided after the end of the story below (to preface, I believe in a compromise of sorts... I guess I'm a centrist)...
An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama's socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama's plan".. All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A.... (substituting grades for dollars - something closer to home and more readily understood by all).

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

The second test average was a D! No one was happy.

When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.

As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed. Could not be any simpler than that. (Please pass this on) These are possibly the 5 best sentences you'll ever read and all applicable to this experiment:

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!

5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.
Healthcare is complex, but for simplicity's sake, universal healthcare is a type of socialism/communism... Medical care costs a LOT of money... It's not fundamentally free.  As such, if everybody universally can get free healthcare coverage, somebody has to pay... which typically means those who are wealthier ends up paying for those who can't afford it.

This also means that universal healthcare cannot provide "expensive" treatment for everybody... whether it be cancer treatment, the latest robotic throat surgery, or the newest type of test.

Rather, in order to pay for healthcare given to those who otherwise would not have any, healthcare coverage at the top end is decreased which includes the latest and greatest types of medical treatment.

As such, the "wealthy" will not only grow resentful for paying into this universal healthcare, but also because they would not be able to obtain the greatest medical care due to lack of coverage in such a system.

So, the wealthy will flee this system in some way... but with the exit of the wealthy, there will be less money in the system to pay for universal healthcare which would lead to an overall decrease in coverage for everybody else still in the system.

In some ways, we already do have a form of universal healthcare for those who can't afford it in the form of Medicaid and Medicare. Those who work (the "wealthy") pay taxes to fund these programs for those who do not work or are too poor to afford healthcare.

These programs DO provide good BASIC healthcare services. But these programs also do NOT pay for the latest and greatest in medical treatment either... Such treatment even extends to the doctors you are able to see. Some physicians no longer accept Medicare or Medicaid insurance as reimbursement for services are too low.

When looking into the origin of this story (which appears to have surfaced in 2009), I encountered another similar story:
A young woman was about to finish her first year of college. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be a very liberal Democrat, and among other liberal ideals, was very much in favor of higher taxes to support more government programs, in other words, redistribution of wealth.

She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch Republican, a feeling she openly expressed. Based on the lectures that she had participated in, and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt that her father had for years harbored an evil, selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his.

One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the need for more government programs. The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors had to be the truth and she indicated so to her father. He responded by asking how she was doing in school.

Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 4.0 GPA, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew. She didn't even have time for a boyfriend, and didn't really have many college friends because she spent all her time studying.

Her father listened and then asked, 'How is your friend Audrey doing?' She replied, 'Audrey is barely getting by. All she takes are easy classes, she never studies, and she barely has a 2.0 GPA. She is so popular on campus; college for her is a blast. She's always invited to all the parties and lots of times she doesn't even show up for classes because she's too hung over.'

Her wise father asked his daughter, 'Why don't you go to the Dean's office and ask him to deduct 1.0 off your GPA and give it to your friend who only has a 2.0. That way you will both have a 3.0 GPA and certainly that would be a fair and equal distribution of GPA.'

The daughter, visibly shocked by her father's suggestion, angrily fired back, 'That's a crazy idea, how would that be fair! I've worked really hard for my grades! I've invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work! Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!'

The father slowly smiled, winked and said gently, 'Welcome to the conservative's philosophy.'
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids. Google+ Christopher Chang, MD Bio

1 comment:

  1. This story is misguided because we already pay for everyone's healthcare. If a uninsured person goes to an ER legally they must be treated and we all pay for that in higher hospital bills and higher insurance rates. So it makes sense to try to include these people in a system they are able to use. So we make it mandatory to have health care and we go one step closer to paying for what we already have.

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