The wrong debate

So, Dave Weigel tweeted this about health insurance:

Chait responded– correctly:

And Ron Brownstein backs Chait up with the numbers

As many point out, a lot of people who like their private health insurance may not like it so much once they have a major health problem.  But, fortunately, most of us don’t have major health problems most of the time.  Also, my son has a major, expensive, health care problem and Blue Cross/Shield of NC has generally been great.  I do like my private insurer.  Now, I’d happily give that up for a solid Medicare for All program.  But a lot of people wouldn’t, and I don’t necessarily blame them.

But, you know what?  This is the wrong debate!  The problem with American health care is not the health insurance companies.  And if you think it is, you haven’t been paying sufficient attention.  Start with Elizabeth Rosenthal.  American health insurance companies are not great.  And we would be better off without profit-driven private insurance.  But what keeps our prices so high is profit-driven producers (and don’t think for a second that “non-profit” hospitals and such aren’t actually out to make every dollar they can; “non-profit” is a technical term that does not at all describe their approach to making money) that are not all kept in check by our government.  Many other wealthy countries actually have some forms of private insurance.  They are decidedly not all single-payer.  What they all do, however, is use the power of the government to keep costs down.  Whether that’s through a single government run insurance (i.e., single payer), strict regulations on providers or insurers, etc., the point is there is not actually an effectively-functioning free market in health care and without the power of government to strongly intervene, we’re left with the highly-dysfunctional American system.

We can absolutely still have a way better system even with a significant role for private insurance.  What we cannot have is a way better system without government taking a much more active role (seriously, that is the lesson from around the world).  So stop arguing so much about private insurance or not and focus on how government will make the system better.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

2 Responses to The wrong debate

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    If Americans who have private health insurance policies are mostly happy with the, then those demanding a one payer system are going to start their campaign with 160,000,000 opponents.( I heard that figure on several news programs.) That doesn’t seem like good odds for the passage of such a measure.
    I’m think Joe Biden’s health plan sounds more doable and less scary for the voters who can push Democrats over the top in 2020. We all know that the ACA had a lot of popular and effective parts. There’s no reason why it can’t be much improved if Democrats get the chance. And this time around, we should have learned that any Republican proposed amendment is a poison pill designed to weaken the plan and should be voted down.
    Of course this means that Democrats must win the House, the Senate and the Presidency!
    Yes, we can!

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