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What’s the real reason people oppose universal healthcare? The fear of helping “losers”

8:41 am by | 17 Comments

50th anniversary of the march on WashingtonIn honor of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington this week, Dan Munro wrote a wonderful column on Forbes about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s views on healthcare. Munro reminds us that King saw healthcare as a civil right.

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.” Martin Luther King, Jr. – Second National Convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights – Chicago, March 25, 1966

Munro nails the reason Americans find it so hard to support universal healthcare: fear. He eloquently explains the three drivers behind this reaction. The first is the wrong idea that universal coverage = government-run healthcare. Check out healthcare in Germany for an example of a multi-payer system that provides universal care. The second reason is American exceptionalism, in other words, “No one can teach us anything.”

It’s the third reason that is driving the talk of charging women more for healthcare and the refusal to expand Medicaid in too many states. There is a real meanness in the conversation about who should have healthcare, an implication that people who need help somehow don’t deserve it, or that they are taking advantage of “the rest of us.” Munro links this sentiment to the idea of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps (which is easier to do in Europe than America):

3) …the myth that literally anyone – through hard work and determination – can rise out of any poverty and become rich and prosperous. We salute, praise and deify everyone who does. But there’s a dark side to this myth. Anyone who doesn’t isn’t working hard enough – or doesn’t have enough determination. In effect, they’re a loser – and nobody wants to pay for the healthcare of those losers.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether these “losers” are old people or little kids or bankrupt people or people who’ve lost their job or people who have serious health problems through no fault of their own. People who are afraid of helping “losers” talk about impeachment or defunding the government or killing Obamacare root and branch. Instead of figuring out Obamacare, they stall and hope that a Supreme Court decision or an election or Mitch McConnell will stop progress and let them keep worrying about helping losers.

It’s ironic that Munro also quoted a white businessman in his column who went farther than King in advocating for universal healthcare:

“I think the biggest problem with healthcare today is not its cost – which is a big problem – but for all that money – it’s not an expression of our humanity.” Jonathan Bush, CEO of athenahealth

He’s right. Healthcare is a civil right and we should focus on making it available to everyone as a point of American pride. We should want to provide care to everyone instead of being afraid of the small percentage people who might cheat the system. We need to flip the conversation so that we are focusing about helping people who need it, instead of seeing people who honestly need help as losers.
[Photo by flickr user Ted Eytan]

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Veronica Combs

By Veronica Combs

I am the editor in chief at MedCityNews.com. I started writing and editing in the print world and joined a dotcom right before the 2000 crash. I was at TechRepublic/CNET/BNET for 7 years. Health was more interesting to me than the latest version of Windows, so I left for a startup tracking prescription drug news. A year later, MedTrackAlert was acquired by HealthCentral, so I shifted to audience research. The fun of daily news and interviewing smart people brought me to MedCity News in February 2012.
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17 comments
Anne
Anne

Hm. I wonder where this author is getting his information. Demeaning the character of those who disagree with you without evidence to argue for such an action is weak. Also, I do not see where in king's quote King is found saying the words "Health care is a universal right." Just because he saw significant discrimination in who received health care doesn't mean he thought the government needed to force new health care programs on everyone. As a professional who is now back in school, I will, through the Obama plan, be forced to receive Medicaire, a medical plan that very few doctors are wiing to receive, because I am making less than $15,000 per year. If I wanted better coverage, I will have to pay over $400 a month, which is impossible for me. Because I am a nursing student, I will be exposed to all kinds of infectious diseases, yet now I will be forced to be on the worst plan in the country. I am losing my ability to go to all the doctors I have always gone to. Please help me understand how, after years of working 70-80 hour weeks and paying lots and lots of taxes, now I am delegated to a drastically inferior plan that will be practically useless to me. What good is "medical coverage" when no doctors will see me because they can not break even on what my "health care insurance" pays? No, dear author, I suggest you find the more accurate reasons why the majority of Americans now oppose this ObamaCare plan.

WayneCaswell
WayneCaswell

I think Fear of Helping Losers is a smoke screen – part of an intentional misinformation campaign among those with a lot to lose from a universal healthcare system. The real fear in my view is the loss of revenue if such disruptive ideas are implemented and successful. Here's my reasoning...

CORPORATIONS measure success in business terms like Profit, ROI, and Payback Period and thus look at relatively short-term investments that show strong shareholder returns. Corporations, by their very nature and even their legal mandate, have a primary objective of serving the interests of shareholders, not the interests of society. That’s why, if viewed as a person and evaluated based on personality profile testing, they generally behave as sociopaths. (See http://www.mhealthtalk.com/2012/07/corporate-behavior-and-rising-health-care-costs/.)

GOVERNMENTS in place to serve society measure success from investments differently and generally over much longer time periods. That’s why infrastructure investments (highways & bridges, sea and airports, public utilities, public education, basic research, etc.) often make more sense for governments – both to benefit all of society and to promote competition, which again serves all of society. If FedEx built the roads and charged tolls, for example, could they price out their competition: UPS & US Postal? If American Airlines built the airports, would Delta even be allowed to land there?

There obviously are pros & cons of the different incentives of public & private organizations, and an ideal healthcare system would recognize that and work to maximize the strengths of both. (See www.mhealthtalk.com/2012/08/hybrid-system/.) If a hybrid public/private model actually reduced our $2.7 trillion/year of healthcare expenses by half, to match what other industrial nations pay, then over $1 trillion could go into the economy elsewhere. But how likely is that?

Disruptive health reform is unlikely since SOMEBODY will no longer get their part of the $1 trillion, and they’ll scream bloody murder. The incumbents will naturally and fiercely defend their current positions and oppose any public health care initiatives. They’ll fight to keep their profits and argue that much of it will trickle down to others somehow. Yeah, right.

Ideally, government would work to serve all of society by developing a skilled, healthy and productive workforce that adapts easily to tech innovation and skills obsolescence. It would also promote wellness and healthy lifestyles to minimize the need for medical care, provide equal opportunities, and drive economic development across all social and socioeconomic sectors. But instead of that, our government subsidizes agribusiness and processed foods, big oil and the resulting environmental contamination, and Wall Street, all of which contribute to rising healthcare costs (profits).

When was the last time our government undertook a major infrastructure project or actually served society instead of plutocracy? Today’s politics, and the corrupting influence of powerful special interest lobbying, has divided our nation to the point that creating the ideal healthcare system, or the ideal government, seems impossible. 

MaryRusso
MaryRusso

I strongly disagree with your idea that getting Healthcare is a right. Nowhere in the constitution of the US is that stated. In no document that lists rights of citizens is that clearly stated. People have inferred in the "pursuit of happiness" clause, but it's not specified. If the will of the US populace was truly to include "Social Justice" as part of our National LAw , then we should be amending the Constitution to do so. What PPACA does is says to the insurance companies - "Here's a way, by extenuation, to redistribute wealth of the below 75K earners - and to the direct Healthcare provider (but not the pharmaceutical companies or medical device/supply providers) "here's a way to mandate your costs". If women want to have babies - they and their conception mate should pay for the PRIVILEGE. Perhaps if that wer the first step in considering whether it's an affordable thing to do, easy, thoughtless sexual activity wouldn'toccur.

RABavasso
RABavasso

Your article causes reflection. While I do not view people who need access to healthcare as "losers." I do view Obamacare as just another redistribution of wealth. A mantra Obama publicly declared in his first oath of office.

There should be equitable access to care for those who require it. There should also be transparency in the cost distribution of ensuring that access. Lack of access does pose a significant cost on society. Dispensing urgent and late stage care is expensive and in many cases could have been avoided with preventative intervention.

Better education of the working public is needed to help change perception of universal access to care from that of a liberal government tax to smart economic policy.

I do not think declaring healthcare as a civil right is the correct approach.

SandyTodd
SandyTodd

@Anne If you are  nursing student you should get health care through your school. If they are smart enough to let you know you will get totally free health coverage through Medicaid (not Medicare), you should be happy to take it. In most states Medicaid provides excellent coverage. If you live in one of the few that doesn't, like Utah, then complain to your GOP legislators. Doctors will see you with Medicaid, it's a flat lie that they won't.

Veronica Combs
Veronica Combs moderator

@Anne I don't know how to ask this without sounding snarky, but I'll try. 

So you wish your tax dollars would go to a better healthcare plan for people who can't afford to buy an independent policy? Or that there was a cheap enough policy that you could buy instead of having to use Medicare?

The general wisdom is that Obamacare improved access to healthcare, but did nothing to address the cost. You would say that the Affordable Care Act hasn't improved access either, if the only access is to Medicare. Is that fair to say?

CharleneLange
CharleneLange

@MaryRusso Maybe universal healthcare is not in the constitution, but for those who claim to be Christian, it surely is, because the Lord command us to "heal the sick", but the right are against Him. "He who says he believes in God yet keeps not His commandments, is a liar". They're lying. It is as simple as that.

bob4healthcare
bob4healthcare

@RABavassoI also don't believe in fighting for a civil right or a human right. But I do believe in our U.S. society doing what makes simple common sense for the physical and financial well-being of individual citizens, families and the country as a whole. That common sense is universal health care, Improved Medicare for All. Sir or ma'am you need to do a bit of reading of the facts, starting with the time period of 1883 to 1972 during which the majority of free-market countries implemented universal health care. Why? Because it makes common sense to not have the long list of unnecessary hardships that Americans have, including the examples of major medical bills and medical-related bankruptcies.
- Bob the Health and Health Care Advocate

SandyTodd
SandyTodd

@RABavasso If there is any redistribution of wealth going on - it's redistributing it back to the workers who earned it, who produced the goods that created wealth. There's absolutely nothing that says an investor or CEO has more right to the wealth than the worker. 

nt1099
nt1099

@Veronica Combs How can Obama IMPROVE the access to healthcare?! Socialized medicine is all about decreasing access to healthcare.  That is why people in Canada and in Europe, as seen by my peers who have lived in those places, that people have to wait 4-5 days in the ER just to be seen, 5 months to have a surgery, and 4 months to have an urgent MRI.  An essential ingredient in healthcare is adequate timing.  Our current system needs work, but I would rather have 85% of the population have immediate healthcare than 100% of the population have to wait 5 months to have a necessary surgery.

Regarding Anne's comment, she is snarky because you kept using the word "loser" and "mean" in such a fashion to suggest that anyone who disagrees with Obamacare is somehow morally inferior to those who do not.  That is bullying and is a typical liberal tendency nowadays.  They like to argue character by calling the opposition meanie, hater, racist, homophobic, bigot, sexist. etc without trying to have a rational discussion of the issue.

bob4healthcare
bob4healthcare

@CharleneLange @MaryRusso

I suggest that what matters (no matter what comments are made by anyone pro or con about human rights) is the following:
a) Establishing universal health care , Improved Medicare for All, is common sense, as indicated below, for individuals, families and the country.
b) Most people are good people who would like the best for themselves, their family, their friends, and their country.

Americans need to please keep in mind some basic facts and figures.
1. All other free-market countries have some kind of universal health care.
2. The average cost of their health care per person is 40% of ours. Ours is 2.5 times per person what theirs costs.
3. Even the two free-market countries that are classified as low income, Mexico and Turkey, have been implementing universal health care.
4. Americans undergo unnecessary hardships, including hundreds of 4housands of bankruptcies caused by medical bills.
5. We have roughly a million Americans going to other countries each year for quality care at a decent price via medial tourism. That's lost economic benefits for us.
6. Citizens in other free-market countries live longer than Americans. We are about 30th in rank as per the World Health Organization) and about 50th in rank as per the CIA (which tracks a longer list of countries).
7. Other countries have longer life expectancy NOT just because their citizens can go to the doctor, but because their health care is provided based on the need for care, not on the ability to pay for care. As I explained to a young Canadian (a student in the USA whose eyes were opened due to the chat), some Canadians sometimes wait for care while the Canadians with greater needs have their lives saved, contributing to Canadians living 2-3 years longer than Americans.

I suggest that we go for common sense. When you get a chance to read facts, such as the set of 7 topics above, then read them. When you read or listen to those who are communicating against universal health care, keep the above facts in mind.

- Bob the Health and Health care Advocate

CharleneLange
CharleneLange

@Nero11 @nt1099@Veronica Combs You should read the heartbreaking story of Charlene Dill, a Florida mother of three who collapsed and died while working one of her three jobs because she could not afford the cost of the medicine to keep her alive. Florida's Governor Rick Scott and the Republicans refuse to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act like Republicans in half the states in America. Truly they are murderers. They killed a young mother and left three little children motherless and they have not sorrow or remorse for what they have done. There are many more innocent Americans they have killed also.


I am so happy for you that you have universal health care in Holland, like every civilized nation, except America. Conservatives here are such a cruel and selfish people, they do not care how many die. They believe if they are poor and sick, they deserve death.


I wish I could live in Holland too. I have always wanted to visit. It seems like such a wonderful country with very nice people.


Take care,


Charlene Lange


Nero11
Nero11

@nt1099 @Veronica Combs  4 5 day´s in the ER, Who Told you this do you actualy believe these stories, I live in Holland and healthcare is universal and good, and sometimes you have to wait a bit longer but not months ,and if urgent you will get help right away. I would never wan´t to have a healthcare system like in America where only the rich people get the best care.

Veronica Combs
Veronica Combs moderator

@bob4healthcare @Veronica Combs

When you are trying to understand how something works in another country, you'll get the clearest picture by going to the source. Fox News will pick the anecdotes that support its point of view, MSNBC will do the same. Instead of listening to either one, look for blogs or letters to the editor written by Canadians or Brits about their respective healthcare systems.  

Also, the rationing argument is a deadend, because that was happening in America well before the ACA became law. Regardless of who is in the White House, the country doesn't have enough money or providers to give everyone all the healthcare they want on demand.

bob4healthcare
bob4healthcare

@Veronica Combs Anything to add, Veronica, or does what I wrote do a reasonable job at a reply to the first paragraph posted by nt1099 ?

bob4healthcare
bob4healthcare

@nt1099 @Veronica Combs It is unfortunate, nt1099, that anecdotal input from others about other countries has caused you to develop erroneous conclusions, such as the perception that 100% of people in any country wait months for necessary surgery. Last summer, while I was in Toronto, Ontario, Canada a Canadian told me that his medical problem and need for surgery was identified by the afternoon and he was in surgery that evening. Another Canadian had his heart surgery delayed, but that his health care was excellent, including his heart surgery. Lives of other Canadians were saved while he waited for his turn at getting excellent care, based on his level of need.

Multiple polls document that somewhere between 85 and 92% or higher of Canadians like their health care. A critical ingredient in health care is keeping people alive, which starts with treating those who have the greatest need first. Universal health care, which you have mis-labeled as socialized medicine, is about maximizing access to health care and doing that at a cost that is affordable for everyone ... with no unnecessary hardships, such as the example of no major medical bills and no medical-related bankruptcies.

I lived and worked in other free-market countries, including 4.5 years in Canada. The peace of mind among my relaxed neighbors was incredible, partly because they have no unnecessary hardships.

- Bob the Health and Health Care Advocate