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Feb 1 / Jonathan

Five myths about universal health care

The Truth About Universal Health Care: Tyler Zimmer, writing in Campus Progress, has a concise treatment of some of the most often heard myths about UHC.

Myth #1: It would be too expensive

Rather than cost more money, UHC would actually reduce the cost of health care. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that UHC could save up to $14 billion annually by spreading the risk evenly over the entire population, eliminating deductibles and co-pays and making preventive medicine available to the poor and uninsured. The federal government already subsidizes private health insurance in the form of tax deductions.

Private insurance companies also spend billions on administration and overhead, advertising, and determining and inspecting patient eligibility, all while trying to make a profit. UHC would not be burdened with some of those costs, like advertising, and unlike private business, it could run at a loss and still be viable. The pressures of profitability would no longer close the door for millions of Americans and drive up costs. As a result, Americans would effectively pay less for health insurance than they do now, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Myth #2: It would require a HUGE, inefficient bureaucracy

The current system is already a HUGE, inefficient bureaucracy! As previously mentioned, much of the unnecessary overhead and micromanaging in the system now could be eliminated if UHC were implemented. For example, the bureaucracy and paperwork involved in determining patient eligibility would be completely unnecessary if everyone were eligible and covered. Insurance companies spend an estimated 25 cents of every dollar on administration. Canada, which already has a comprehensive UHC in place and still manages to pay 70 percent less per citizen on health care, spends about the equivalent of about 12 cents of every dollar on administration.

Myth #3: It would restrict patient choice

How can we even begin to talk about choice when 40 million Americans don’t have any health insurance at all? “Choice” really isn’t an appropriate topic for those who can’t afford health care. Many of the chronically sick are simply denied coverage by private insurance companies because they aren’t good financial investments. The concept of choice probably doesn’t resonate much for people in this situation, either. But even for those who are insured under the current system, HMOs and insurance companies alike restrict patients to a strict list of complying physicians. UHC wouldn’t directly dictate what doctor you have to see in order to get treatment and would thus enable more choice in selecting a physician than the current system would for many, if not most, Americans.

Myth #4: It would be a socialist seizure of the medical industry

It would be nothing of the sort. Socialized medicine would entail hospitals and doctors becoming employees of the state. UHC only provides funding for people’s health care, but doesn’t provide the health care itself. The only difference is that health care insurance plans would be funded by the state. Hospitals, physicians, and other health care employees would all remain part of the private sector. Competition between doctors and hospitals would not be eliminated. Although using the “s” word in attacking UHC has proven effective in frightening the populace, UHC would be no more socialist than Medicare and arguably less so than public education. Granted the far-right would gladly see both of those programs destroyed, but the overwhelming majority of Americans would not.

Myth #5: UHC would impede economic growth

An added benefit of UHC would be that private business would no longer have to worry about health-care benefits, and employees wouldn’t have to remain in unpleasant jobs just to keep their benefits. Benefits wouldn’t interfere with wage increases, and employers would have more financial mobility. The recent problems General Motors has been having with maintaining health benefits for its workers while trying to remain financially afloat have been well-documented. GM estimates that health-care benefits account for nearly $1,500 of the price of every car they build and sell. Many other companies are switching to “temporary” or outsourced jobs in order to avoid paying benefits. Not only would UHC relieve businesses of having the burden of providing health insurance for their workers, but the workers would also be unconditionally covered regardless of where they work.

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