Winning the health care argument in four easy steps

Gov. Walker recently penned an op-ed for The Washington Post titled “Obamacare is an unhealthy prescription.” I didn’t like it. I don’t like much of anything he does, really, and when he drifts outside his areas of expertise – i.e., scapegoating teachers, convincing voters he’s not terrible at his job, and rockin’ a sweet mullet – I get particularly “miffled” (as Tony Soprano might say).

So when I read his editorial, my first impulse was to carefully study the logistics of scratching my own face off with a commercial cheese grater while sitting down to write a cogent point-by-point rebuttal.

Then I thought, no. That’s what progressives usually do. We’re overly analytical. When conservatives try to muddy the waters, we get down in the mud with them. Meanwhile, out in the real world (i.e., places where The Washington Post and The New York Times are all but invisible and most people’s idea of health care reform is buying the reduced fat Funyuns next time) they’re using misleading buzzwords and phrases like “socialist,” “largest tax increase in history,” and “government takeover of health care.”

So I figured, let’s boil this down to the basics. What can we say to conservatives to counter their relentless stream of piffle? What does the health care debate really come down to anyway?

Simply this:

  1. The U.S. is one of the only developed countries in the world without universal health care.
  2. Despite this, we pay more per capita for health care than any country in the world, by a large margin.
  3. As a rule, we get worse results.
  4. People in countries with universal health care generally like their health care programs.



Now, all the above statements are indisputable, but amazingly enough, they’re hardly ever mentioned within the context of our current health care debate. That’s a little hard to believe, but it shows just how effective opponents of health care reform have been at changing the subject.

Here’s the evidence for statement 1. As the linked article states, “The only developed outliers are a few still-troubled Balkan states, the Soviet-style autocracy of Belarus, and the U.S. of A., the richest nation in the world.” That’s some fine company, folks.

Here’s the evidence for statement 2. The linked article, from Fox News for criminy sakes, shows that we spend far more on health care per capita than any other country. What’s more, it’s not even close. In fact, we spend almost twice as much per capita as France does. In case you were wondering, we also spend more as a percentage of GDP than any other country (17.4%), and that’s not really close either.

Here’s the evidence for statement 3. You’d think that by spending dramatically more on health care than other developed countries, we’d be dramatically healthier. Not hardly. As the list I’ve linked to shows, we lag far behind most wealthy countries in life expectancy. Now, life expectancy is not the only measure of the health of a population, but it’s probably the most important one. And while there are a lot of things that contribute to a population’s relative lack of longevity (our country’s peculiar recent obsession with bacon jumps immediately to mind), our health care system clearly does not make us the envy of the world.

Here’s the evidence for statement 4. While critics of Obamacare are quick to note that the law is unpopular (though the actual provisions of the law tend to get high marks in polls – now why oh why might there be a disparity there?), people in countries with universal health care are generally happy with the programs. Of course, it’s hard to say how unsatisfied people in countries with universal coverage would be if they suddenly lost it, because most of those countries have had it, like, since forever. It’s interesting to note as well that Romneycare, Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts health care reform plan that Mitt Romney now hates, is also popular. A recent poll by the Harvard School of Public Health and The Boston Globe found that 63% of Massachusetts residents support Romneycare while only 21% oppose it

There it is, plain and simple. So the question for conservatives is this: What’s your alternative? Can you propose a plan that covers more people, doesn’t bankrupt families when one of their members gets sick, doesn’t punish people with pre-existing conditions, and isn’t financially unsustainable? Or do you think the status quo is just fine?

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