Politics with Pavlinec: Healthcare for All

Our individual health is an essential part of our existence, no one argues that. The arguments of today focus on the best ways of maintaining quality and universality while maintaining low prices. Our current system needs to change, we have a poorly mixed system of private and governmental healthcare. Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris announced in her town hall address that she is in favor of ending private health insurance coverage, which constitutes 67.2% of current coverage for Americans. She supports Medicare for all. Virtually no one is against everyone having healthcare, except, many understand that there are unfortunate limitations in resources to do so. A recent poll demonstrated that most Americans love the idea, but up to 70% disapprove in light of higher taxes, increased waiting periods and the elimination of private insurance.

This extreme, unprecedented overhaul of the system will not produce higher quality healthcare, wide ‘coverage’ or low costs. In fact, it will do the opposite in most cases.

Quality of anything increases through competition. This is reflected in the quality of  our consumer goods increasing drastically over time. This may seem to downplay the value of healthcare compared to a TV set or car, but the rules that govern scarcity of resources apply to both equally. This is why we have the highest 5 year cancer survival rates. Switzerland, who is not too far behind, also relies on private systems in that regard. Everyone wants healthcare, and there is no way to ensure both increasing quality while, at the same time, maintaining universal coverage, all at a low price.

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The Nordic countries, esteemed by proponents of universal healthcare, have working systems. These systems have successful capitalist foundations, ‘free-riding’ homogeneity and exorbitant taxes. The Nordic countries have been powered by free market innovations and wealth of the past, but are now slipping into debt. The free-riding phenomenon is that European countries benefit from our innovations. The US creates more than half of all medical patents, and our citizens pay almost three times the amount for prescription drugs as our European counterparts. We use more expensive medications, which are newer and stronger than European countries. Most crucially, foreign government agencies make ‘take it or leave it’ deals with pharmaceutical companies forcing them to sell at lower prices, or lose all of those potential customers. These costs do not disappear or get siphoned off from profits (which are relatively small), but instead are pushed to domestic consumers, us.

In Denmark, citizens making around $43,000 per year pay 45% in taxes. This works in a culturally and ethnically homogeneous society with a small population insulated by strict immigration laws. We are the complete opposite, and should remain so.

Our current system is not capitalist or free market, far from it. Government regulation breeds fraud, corruption and waste. The government workers are not at fault, but they are isolated from competition. The incentives are all backwards. An FDA worker has more incentive to let a potential life saving drug be denied than to allow a bad drug to go through, which would risk their career. In the first case the costs are invisible, but they are certainly there. Ultimately, failures in institutions are necessary to build new ones. Otherwise, insulated industries become stagnant and reduce in quality, like public schooling and the post office. When corporations fail, they go bankrupt. When government projects, ‘solutions’ and programs fail, they get bigger. We should not go down this path.

 

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Chris Pavlinec is a junior studying Political Science with a Concentration in Politics, Philosophy and Law. He hails from New Jersey and spends his time reading economics, playing guitar and prepping for law school.


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