By Aaron M. Rodriguez
Published in Yesterday's WisOpinion, Senator Russ Feingold wrote an article endorsing Mr. Obama’s universal health care proposal. By doing so, Feingold has joined the esteemed ranks of Senator Herb Kohl in support of universal health care, but has unfortunately joined Kohl in being decidedly wrong. In his piece, Feingold begins the same way Kohl does by arguing for a government-driven imperative in health care reform. Feingold firmly supports Mr. Obama’s “public option,”which means those without private insurance can qualify for public health insurance. In other words, this would represent a substantial leap in the direction toward full blown universal health care.
By agreeing with Kohl, Russ Feingold repeats the same error by confusing universal health care for a “guaranteed, affordable, high-quality health care” service. A few things here: first, universal health care does not guarantee health care service, but rather universal coverage under a health care provider. This the same problem we see in Canada, where everyone is covered by universal health care, but not everyone has access to health care providers. Even Canadian doctors complain that wait times under their universal health care system require critical action, and though the Canadian government has deemed it a priority issue, only slight improvements have been gained in few target areas. Most startling is Canada’s wait time for emergency services. Due to insufficient bed capacity and low staffing, wait times for admitting patients was on average 24 hours. In the U.S., the average wait time is considerably less at about 3 hours. One must wonder if Senator Feingold knows about these regrettable failures.
Second, universal health care is not affordable. Using Medicare and Medicaid as examples of government run programs demonstrates the inefficiency of public health insurance. And that inefficiency can be attributed to a lack of accountability in a government bureaucracy and a corresponding commitment to unnecessary medical service. For instance, a 2006 study on knee replacements illustrates that Medicare beneficiaries had three times as many replacements in Milwaukee as they did in Manhattan. Cost disparities like these can be found across the country in demographically similar regions. More startling is the discovery that regions with the lowest Medicare spending had the best health care results.
Obama’s universal health care proposal also intends to expand Medicaid by increasing the number of its recipients from 80 million to 91 million. The expansion is estimated to cost taxpayers $900 billion over the next 10 years and will result in borrowing from Medicare. This is in spite of the fact that Medicaid has already required an 87 billion dollar bailout due to unsustainable levels of operation. And yet, Senator Feingold still endorses Mr. Obama's health care plan.
And third, universal health care is not high-quality care. As already mentioned, access to Canada’s universal health care system is disconcerting, especially emergency care. This alone is sufficient to refute the proposition that universal health care is “high-quality.” However, excessive wait times are due to insufficient staffing. Both England and Canada have significant shortages in doctors, which can be attributed to increased work load and government enforced reductions in medical school enrollments.
Furthermore, universal health care doesn’t offer a broad spectrum of pharmaceutical drugs as a privatized system does. For example, Canadian cancer patients are traveling to the U.S. for cancer medications not made available in Canada. This is a natural outcrop of government price controlling.
Senator Feingold had distorted the truth and misrepresented the services provided by Obama's universal health care proposal. He claims that Wisconsinites should be able to retain their current coverage if they choose, but neglects the fact that Obama’s universal health care proposal creates a strong incentive for employers to drop private insurance coverage for a public option. This, of course, is similar to the Healthy Wisconsin proposal that would have pushed Americans into full-blown universal health care. Bottom line, universal health care is not the American way. It strives to remove the very free market principle that has made our country the greatest and most successful nation on the planet.