Universal Health Caring

Michael Millenson asserts in today’s WaPo that the primary obstacle to universal health coverage in the United States is that “Those of us with insurance simply don’t care very much about those without it.” Dave Schuler is a wee bit skeptical:

[I]magine how wonderful a perpetual motion machine would be. It could easily be converted into a generator and would produce energy forever at no cost. For that matter how about a universal cure that could be produced easily and inexpensively? That would be sure to keep costs down!

He goes on to list six other obstacles more “major” than dearth of empathy that would be necessary to achieve universal coverage.

Clarification (Dave Schuler)

The author of the WaPo op-ed conflates universal coverage and universal access. They’re two different things. I think that improving access is more important than extending coverage for the simple reason that poor access lowers the worth of universal coverage and at worst renders it economically unsustainable.

To effect the sort of systemic change required for massively improved access to health care would require compassion at a truly enormous scale not merely on the part of lawmakers and people who already have health insurance but on the part of health care professionals, medical educators, and many, many more. Even with compassion at that scale it takes some tough decision making and level-headed planning.

The very first session of the very first economics class I ever took was on the old guns vs. butter example. That’s what I thought was missing from the op-ed.

FILED UNDER: Guns and Gun Control, Uncategorized, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    I am reminded of the old Russian saying that everyone wants to be equal….. with the rich.

  2. Al Bee says:

    We didn’t have health insurance. I was 20 before I got free health care courtesy of the Army draft. In 1949 I required an appendectomy. Doc Wells came to the house, examined me, made the arrangements from the phone. My father drove me to MT. Sinai in Cleveland. I spent the next ten days in the hospital. Upon leaving the hospital I signed a note promising to pay $XX dollars per month until the bill was paid. I think I paid it off in four months. Try that now.

    Nowadays there are so many government supplied benefits that were not available to us oldsters. I think we deserve reparations ;>)

  3. Our Paul says:

    James, I tried to submit this little screed a couple of days ago when Steve Verdon posted on health care. I could not get it through your spam filter. There is a reason why my cutter rigged Krogen 38 was named “Perseverance”… (No cheap shot to your spam filter intended, it just kept rejecting the following post:

    I sympathize with Steve Verdon, Dave Schuller, and others when it comes to issues related to the financing and delivery of health care. They are going to have to examine John McCain’s proposals, and defend them against criticism. Bleating, hollering, or foot stomping about “socialized medicine” is not going to cut the mustard.

    Setting ideological constraints aside should prove helpful. For example, Dave Schuler’s myth:

    “The limiting factor on the number of doctors produced isn’t high tuitions. It’s the number of available positions in med schools and that is controlled by the AMA”.

    This inanity truly boggles the mind. Once you give the AMA omniscient power over the number of medical students, you have found the cause and effect lesion. Further discussion on any facet of the health care problem is over. First we have to solve this AMA problem.

    Fortunately, the Medical Insurance Industry is providing innovative cost cutting and cost sharing initiatives. A few examples can be found here, here, and here.

    Steve Verdon recently had a post on the problems encountered in the Medicare program. As usual a premises is floated out, and then becomes irrefutable. To wit:

    “In other words, the party is about over and either taxes have to go up, expenditures have to be curtailed or both. The idea that we can have more health care (i.e. universal coverage at current levels of care) and lower costs is simply not an option. Anybody who says otherwise is either a liar or an idiot.”

    Count me in that either or crowd. And to prove it, two questions:

    (1) The current United States Health Care system is more expensive, by any index, than any other industrialized country in the world. The question is why?

    (2) Why are we paying 2x more for any given medication than any industrialized country in the world?