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Pros and Cons of Government Healthcare

By Deborah White, About.com

Pros of Government Healthcare

Iconic American consumer advocate Ralph Nader sums up the positives of government-funded healthcare1 from the patient’s perspective:

  • Free choice of doctor and hospital;
  • No bills, no co-pays, no deductibles;
  • No exclusions for pre-existing conditions; you are insured from the day you are born;
  • No bankruptcies due to medical bills;
  • No deaths due to lack of health insurance;
  • Cheaper. Simpler. More affordable;
  • Everybody in. Nobody out;
  • Save taxpayers billions a year in bloated corporate administrative and executive compensation costs.

Other important positives of government-funded healthcare include:

  • 47 millions Americans lacked healthcare insurance coverage as of the 2008 presidential campaign season. Soaring unemployment since then have caused the the ranks of the uninsured to swell past 50 million in mid-2009.Mercifully, government-funded healthcare would provide access to medical services for all uninsured. And lower costs of government healthcare will cause insurance coverage to be significantly more accessible to millions of individuals and businesses.
  • Doctors and other medical professionals can focus on patient care, and no longer need to spend hundreds of wasted hours annually dealing with insurance companies.Patients, too, under government healthcare would never need to fritter inordinate amounts of frustrating time haggling with insurance companies.

Cons of Government Healthcare

Conservatives and libertarians oppose U.S. government healthcare mainly because they don’t believe that it’s a proper role of government to provide social services to private citizens.Instead, conservatives believe that healthcare coverage should continue to be provided solely by private-sector for-profit insurance corporations or possibly by non-profit entities.

In 2009, a handful of Congressional Republicans have suggested that perhaps the uninsured could obtain limited medical services via a voucher system and tax credits for low-income families2.

Conservatives also contend that lower-cost government healthcare would impose too great of a competitive advantage against for-profit insurers.

The Wall Street Journal argues3, “In reality, equal competition between a public plan and private plans would be impossible. The public plan would inexorably crowd out private plans, leading to a single-payer system.”

From the patient’s perspective, negatives of government-funded healthcare could include:

  • A decrease in flexibility for patients to freely choose from among the vast cornucopia of drugs, treatment options, and surgical procedures offered today by higher-priced doctors and hospitals.
  • Existing patient confidentiality standards, which would likely be diluted by centralized government info that would necessarily be maintained.
  • Less potential doctors may opt to enter the medical profession due to decreased opportunities for highly compensated positions. Less doctors coupled with skyrocketing demand for doctors could lead to a shortage of medical professionals, and to longer waiting periods for appointments.

Where it Stands

As of late June 2009, the struggle to shape healthcare reform has only begun. The final form of successful healthcare reform legislation is anyone’s guess.The American Medical Association, which represents 29% of U.S. doctors, opposes any government insurance plan mainly because doctors’ reimbursement rates will be less than those from most private sector plans. Not all doctors oppose government-funded healthcare, though.

Political Leaders on Healthcare Reform

On June 18, 2009, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi told the press4, “I have every confidence that we will have a public option coming out of the House of Representatives — that will be one that is actuarially sound, administratively self-sufficient, one that contributes as to competition, does not eliminate competition.”

Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus, a centrist Democrat, admitted to the press, “I think a bill that passes the Senate will have some version of a public option.”

Moderate Blue Dog Democrats of the House “say the public plan should occur only as a fallback, triggered if private insurers aren’t doing a good enough job on access and costs,” per Rob Kall at OpEd News5.

In contrast, Republican strategist and Bush advisor Karl Rove recently penned a harshly dire6 Wall Street Journal op-ed in which he warned that “… the public option is just phony. It’s a bait-and-switch tactic… Defeating the public option should be a top priority for the GOP this year. Otherwise, our nation will be changed in damaging ways almost impossible to reverse.”

The New York Times wisely summed up the debate7 in a June 21, 2009 editorial:

“The debate is really over whether to open the door a crack for a new public plan to compete with the private plans. Most Democrats see this as an important element in any health care reform, and so do we.”

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©2009 About.com, Inc., a part of The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.

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