Universal health care: a “right” or “privilege.” Wrong question, or already settled?

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Steve’s Take:

Bloomberg’s Ramesh Ponnuru poses the question:

“Is there a ‘right’ to healthcare? Our arguments about health policy frequently highlight the question.”

He goes on to say that “as much as people argue about it, it’s not a very good question–not, at least, in our society, in which nearly everyone agrees that all people must have access to some basic level of health care.”

Yet, when faced with the precise question of right versus privilege, the liberals inevitably answer yes, while conservatives steadfastly reply, no.

Steve's Take: All roads lead back to #Obamacare. Click To Tweet

More to the point, Americans, in general, already support government-provided universal health care, according to Bloomberg. A Pew Research Center survey taken in January found that 60% say that it’s the responsibility of the federal government to make sure that all Americans have health coverage.

Morning Consult/Politico poll in April found that support for a single-payer health system outweighs opposition, by 44% to 36% (with 19% uncertain). A Gallup poll turned up similar results. In fact, support for universal health care was dominant before the grueling political battles over the Affordable Care Act.

Noah Smith at Bloomberg suggests rightly that recent enthusiasm for government intervention is just a return to the status quo ante. He goes on to enumerate the several models of universal health care.

The first is socialized medicine, where the government owns and operates all healthcare providers. Essentially no one in the US suggests doing this.

The second is a single-payer system, where the government insures everyone. As a rule in this sort of system, people can also choose to buy supplemental insurance in addition to the government program.

The third is a public option, where the government offers to insure anyone who wants it, but where people can choose to buy from private insurers.

The fourth type is Obamacare, in which the government mandates that everyone buy private insurance and then provides subsidies for those who can’t afford it.

Back in 2010, some 48 million Americans had no coverage whatsoever; coverage for poor people was shoddy; major employers were unloading costs onto their employees; doctors who treated the poor were poorly treated themselves; many young, healthy people skipped coverage altogether in order to save money; and HMOs definitely didn’t want you if you were sick. (Source: National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)

Health costs were sky-high and growing rapidly; programs for poor children often folded; Medicaid was hit and miss in many places; and finding reasonable coverage was the equivalent of running a marathon, even for the middle class. Naturally, all this turmoil, confusion and waste mystified Europeans, Canadians, Japanese, and other citizens of the Western World.

Under Obamacare, the uninsured dropped from 48 million in 2010 to 28.6 million in 2016.

Great stretches of the planet loathe the US because of our power and global use of it to suit our purposes. But until the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, we were also held in low repute for our healthcare system. Then came Obamacare, and our national IQ was restored.

If you want universal health care for all Americans, but you also want to keep private insurers and private insurance markets around, you’re inevitably thrown back onto some version of Obamacare, contends Jeff Spross at The Week.

The only way to avoid it is to simply abandon the idea of universal coverage altogether–which is effectively what the House GOP did with its American Health Care Act.

But as former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum points out:

“The trouble for Republicans is that the principle of universal coverage has now been accepted by a majority of Americans.”

After some 22 million people gained coverage under Obamacare, and after some seven years of Republican attempts to gut it, the House GOP passed its healthcare reform bill earlier last month, and even most Republican senators still considered it too cruel.

So unless Senate Republicans want to follow their House comrades into political oblivion–or unless they want to do something really revolutionary and propose single-payer–they’re about to swallow a bitter political pill: All roads lead back to Obamacare.