Is Universal Health Care Really the Best Medicine?

With the election looming around the corner, we should glance over the controversial issue we will inevitably be seeing on the ballots in November – a national health insurance program. Is it a good idea?

Advocates in favor of the nationwide program say it could save approximately $150 billion on paperwork alone. Because of the administrative complexities in our current system, over 25% of every health care dollar goes to marketing, billing, utilization review, and other forms of waste. A single-payer system could reduce administrative costs greatly.

These advocates address the ‘myth’ behind the idea that implementing such a program will bring our country closer to socialism, stating that with a Single-Payer system the health care delivery system remains private. As opposed to a national health service, where the government employs doctors, in a national health insurance system, the government is billed, but doctors remain in private practice.

Do most of us believe that a national health insurance program will lead to better medical care, and a better America? So far, politicians pushing the idea are disappointed after legislatures strike down the plan everywhere from Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to Illinois, and California. Spectators report that the fool-hardy plan is actually more expensive to implement than anticipated.

It’s starting to sound like the only thing that is “universal” and “national” is the idea that health care needs to be improved.

On the other side of the tracks, advocates in favor of the privatization of the health care system argue that universal health care is false advertising for politically controlled medicine, with government as the “single payer” insurer. Having coverage does not guarantee getting medical care.

These advocates also address the idea that universal health care will save our money. Brian Schwartz comments,

“Since patients prepay through taxes, medical care under such systems appears to be free. This gives patients strong incentives to over-consume, while providers need not compete on price. To contain costs, governments restrict access to life-saving treatments. In countries with such universal coverage, patients die waiting for treatment.”

Nontheless, the Colorado legislature is dipping their feet in the pool of health care reform. Reports state that the 208 Commission for Health Care Reform has selected four comprehensive health reform proposals. The 208 Commission is required by statute to hold public hearings in each Colorado congressional district this fall. Perhaps representatives from both sides of the tracks can gather and decide on something we can all agree upon.

Nikki Skaggs
Law Clerk
J.D. Candidate 2009
University of Denver