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In defense of those who disagree

| Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Health care is a contentious issue in American politics. In the Nov. 5 elections, an NBC exit poll found that 41% of Americans polled cited health care as their primary concern, topping even economic concerns. Of the voters, 70% expressed the need for “major change” in American healthcare policy. Democrats are looking to capitalize on these concerns going into the 2020 election, spouting support for Medicare for All. While many Medicare for All proposals are different, the common theme is a single-payer health care program run by the government that covers all Americans. An American Barometer survey found that 70% of Americans support this kind of policy. However, the policy is still subject to criticism from Republicans and moderate Democrats.

The issue has even come to Notre Dame, where a board in North Dining Hall asking, “Should the U.S. enact Medicare for all?” allowed students to explain why they agreed or disagreed with the policy. In their column Wednesday, Show Some Skin accurately describes the frustration caused by some comments, such as “nah fam” or various doodles. Those do nothing to contribute for a productive dialogue. However, the column, entitled “To all those who strongly disagree,” also gives an ill-contrived misunderstanding of those who disagree with implementing Medicare for All. The column argues that those who disagree are “blurred by privilege.” It suggests that a “privileged position” does not exclude one from forming “educated, informed opinions.” Well, I took the time to form that opinion, and Medicare for All does not work.

It is no question that America faces a health care crisis. There are 27.5 million Americans living without health insurance. Show Some Skin is correct to assert the United States is number one in health care spending, but ranks 27th in health care quality. Yet, Medicare for All is not the solution.

The most apparent problem is spending. A recent study from the Urban Institute found that such a policy would cost $32 trillion over 10 years. Financing this policy by taxing individuals or corporations, as Senator Bernie Sanders suggests, would lead to thousands of dollars more in taxes than what individuals currently spend toward health care. Even so, this does not provide full funding for the plan. The rest would likely come from budget cuts, tradeoffs or additional spending, leading to a litany of problems for a nation wrought with other issues and a nearly trillion-dollar deficit.

But assume that Medicare for All does get funding. Even then, the quality of health care would go down significantly, especially for those who need it most. In countries like the United Kingdom and Canada that have adopted universal health care, waiting times are significantly longer than those under the current American model. This has real health care impacts. Sadly, it is estimated that up to 45,000 Americans die annually due to lack of adequate health care coverage. However, a study by the Fraser Institute found that increases in wait times in Canada from 1993 to 2009 “may have resulted in between 25,456 and 63,090” additional deaths among females. Accounting for population differences, this leads to an estimated 400,000 additional deaths if that system were implemented in America. If we truly value the lives of our neediest citizens, Medicare for All is among the worst of possibilities.

Perhaps the most persuasive case study to showcase the detrimental effects of Medicare for All is a domestic example. After the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, Vermont attempted to institute a single-payer system. The effort was led by a Democratic governor, supportive state legislature and progressive voting population. All roads seemed to point to the plan’s passage. In fact, it was estimated to produce significant savings in health care costs at low prices for taxpayers, similar to estimates about a national single-payer system. However, as time went on, the savings dropped significantly while taxpayer contributions increased. This, along with lack of confidence from the public, ultimately led to the downfall of the plan. If a progressive state like Vermont could not implement Medicare for All, its effectiveness on a national scale is highly suspicious.

Medicare for All is not the solution to America’s health care crisis. It only leads to worse health care quality, overspending of resources that are already overspent and places an undue burden on taxpayers. However, I could be wrong, and I invite that discussion to take place. That is the reason this column exists: to spark conversations about important topics. Regarding Show Some Skin’s comments, simply because one disagrees with another’s worldview does not make that person uneducated or privileged. In fact, perhaps alienating and demonizing others for disagreeing is itself a form of privilege, as that precludes the chance to have one’s own worldviews challenged. As a University that endorses freedom of thought and expression, I would hope the Notre Dame community would engage more in dialogue and debate than vacuums and echo chambers. Tackle the health care crisis united, not divided.


Blake Ziegler is a freshman at Notre Dame from New Orleans, Louisiana, with double majors in political science and philosophy. He hopes his writing encourages others to take an interest in politics and government. For inquiries, he can be reached at [email protected] or @NewsWithZig on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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