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Two weeks ago, conservative columnist and member of the Rocky Mountain News Editorial Board Vincent Carroll attacked the "Medicare-for-all" universal health care proposal which you can view on my website.

This week, the Rocky Mountain News ran my response.

It’s important to address the misconceptions regarding universal healthcare at all turns.

In this blog I will address:

  1. Conservative populist attacks on the wealthy to disparage universal healthcare and distract from the actual issues
  1. The bogeyman of rationing

Fixation on economic status

In my response in the Rocky Mountain News, which they were kind enough to run, I debunk the fallacy that universal healthcare will lead to more rationing. I decided to write this blog to address the issue of class bias and to further expose the straw-man argument of "rationing."

From time to time, I get unusual reactions from some on the left who seem to resent my business success; this is typically coupled with a grudging admiration from those on the right (who can’t seem to figure out why I’m not more conservative than I am).

In the past, conservative columnist Vincent Carroll has expressed admiration for my success in creating businesses and making money, and, even more meaningfully to me still has been his praise of my most difficult entrepreneurial accomplishment: starting a public charter school serving at-risk youth that now has four locations and serves a thousand students. Unfortunately in his recent column, Carroll buries the material elements of his disagreement with me on the issue of universal single-payer healthcare with cheap shots at my economic status and claims that the wealthy can afford the roll of the dice of a universal health plan.

Carroll in the Rocky Mountain News:

If you're as rich as Jared Polis, you'll enjoy the world's best health care for the rest of your life no matter what happens to the system on which the rest of us rely. You can afford to roll the dice with a "national single payer health care system," which is what the Democratic candidate for the 2nd District congressional seat has announced he favors.

Carroll’s uses the phrase "roll of the dice" in an attempt to invoke fear and uncertainty about systemic healthcare reform. Yet every member of the European Union has universal national healthcare. By global standards of proven methods to improve health, it is our nation that is the outlying experiment; Our current system is indeed a dice-roll that directly affects both the estimated 50,000,000 Americans who live every day without healthcare in our great nation, as well as the rest of us who currently pay for the costs of the uninsured in an extremely inefficient manner.

There will always be wealthy people in our society. Over the past decade, I have worked to provide hope and opportunity to those who are not wealthy, ensuring they receive the tools necessary to improve their situation and achieve the American Dream, and there is much work to do in the years ahead and that is why I am running for US Congress.

Hope and opportunity for all includes health care for all.

Members of Congress enjoy a gold-plated insurance plan. Today’s dice-roll doesn’t turn out nearly so well for the estimated 50,000,000 Americans without healthcare and many more who are underinsured or trapped in their current jobs because of pre-existing conditions or otherwise worry about losing their healthcare insurance.

Whether one is a member of the political elite or the economic elite, the reality is that most decision makers are personally immune to the fear felt by most Amercans about losing their healthcare insurance. However, I strongly believe that with very few exceptions, members of both political parties serving in elected office are doing it for the right reasons and seek laws and policies consistent with their own values of how to make the world a better place. Just because every member of Congress has a great healthcare plan doesn’t mean that Congress somehow lacks moral authority to establish universal healthcare; indeed, they risk hypocrisy if they do not act.

One of my good friends has ongoing mental health disabilities that have prevented him from working a steady job, and as he lost his insurance he had to transition from private care to whatever public care he could find. At the public charter schools I started and ran, the majority of our students lack health care insurance.

As I talk about healthcare on the campaign trail, dozens of Coloradans share tales of the heartbreak and challenges they have faced, are facing, or fear facing with regard to healthcare. The stories are real. The crisis is real. We should provide a foundation of hope and opportunity for every American. That means a good healthcare system including preventative care and catastrophic care for all Americans.

The Bogeyman of Rationing

Carroll in the Rocky Mountain News:

Rationing? That's for people without a dot.com fortune. The superrich like Polis will simply bypass the insurance system, paying whatever it takes - here or anywhere in the world - for the best treatment money can buy.

I think Carrol's point is that even if our system has rationing, "superrich" people with a "fortune" can pay "whatever it takes" for the best treatment "money can buy." While I’m impressed with Carroll’s verbal acrobatics in incorporating four distinct references to my economic status into two sentences, he frankly sounds like a Communist. Conservatives frequently grasp at straws to disparage universal healthcare, and Carroll attempts to somehow turn a populist attack on the wealthy into an argument against a Medicare-for-all approach.

Yes, the wealthy can buy the healthcare they need; heck, they can even buy the healthcare they don’t need. Our debate is about how to cover those who are not wealthy and who lack healthcare isurance. The wealthy are not the ones for whom we need to reform healthcare. My opponents Will Shafroth, Joan Fitz-Gerald, and I, all of us millionaires, will personally do just fine without systemic reform, but we truly do care and that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing and seeking office.

According to Miriam-Webster dictionary, "ration" has a surprisingly simple definition:

Main Entry:
ra•tion
Pronunciation:
\ˈra-shən, ˈrā-\
Function:
noun
Etymology:
French, from Latin ration-, ratio computation, reason
Date:
circa 1711

  1. a food allowance for one day plural : FOOD, PROVISIONS
  1. a share especially as determined by supply

Our discussion here relates to the second definition. The bogeyman of rationing should be considered objectively rather than as a stock argument against any meaningful healthcare reform. Today in the United States, the supply of healthcare is shared according to who can and can’t afford it. Not only is there a distinction between the insured and the uninsured, but each specific healthcare insurance program has different allowances and covered treatments.

So, our challenge is really to determine as a society how the total supply of healthcare is distributed to our citizens in a way that maximizes efficiency and health outcomes. Those of us who support systemic reform argue that we can increase the supply of healthcare in two major ways by : 1) Reducing administrative overhead and 2) Encouraging less-expensive and more effective preventative treatment

As I pointed out in my printed response in the Rocky Mountain News:

First, let us not delude ourselves into thinking that we have anything close to a "free market" in health care. A free market would allow the uninsured to die on the hospital doorstep rather than provide them treatment they cannot pay for. Having made a moral decision not to allow people in our great country to die in this fashion, let us discuss how to more efficiently provide for sensible universal health care.
America does not suffer from lack of total spending in health care.

Yes, there is a limited supply of healthcare, but our nation doesn’t suffer from a lack of spending. We spend roughly twice the percentage of our GNP on healthcare costs and yet are in the middle of the pack on health outcomes.

Rationing exists today. We can’t waltz into a CAT scan center and demand a full body scan because we broke a toe. Generally, Americans with good insurance programs have a recommended course of treatment that is covered. Many experimental or extremely expensive treatments of marginal health value are not usually covered. Services are provided to the uninsured in a haphazard, erratic, costly, and rationed manner.

Do you suppose Polis will ever wait in line for elective surgery or forgo a chemo visit that the government refuses to cover?

Me neither. But he doesn't mind if you do.

Actually I do mind that the uninsured and underinsured face healthcare rationing, hence my proposal. If I didn’t care, why not just continue to ration healthcare as we do today so that only the well-insured and wealthy have full access?

It seems like we have been discussing the issue of the uninsured and underinsured in every election cycle for the past fifteen years. Does anyone ever wonder why we are still talking about the problem and don’t have some sort of solution?

In this campaign and in all campaigns across the country, I hope that journalists as well as the public rise above issues like race, gender, economic status, and sexual orientation. Appeals to the worst in us from both the left and the right should be strongly rebuffed at every step of the process.

We must open the door to an honest debate about the issue of healthcare so that the next Congress and White House can ensure that 2009 marks the end of our broken health care system and the beginning of universal health care for all Americans. Let’s end the name-calling and discuss healthcare and how to improve it.

Jared Polis
Candidate for US Congress, Colorado-02
www.polisforcongress.com

Cross-posted on squarestate

Originally posted to Jared Polis on Sun Feb 17, 2008 at 04:50 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Amen! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kck

      Did you see this story earlier in the week:

      Health Insurer's Letter Seeks to Get Coverage Canceled
      California Doctors' Group 'Outraged' at Information Request

      "LOS ANGELES AP - Citing an effort to hold down costs, health insurance giant Blue Cross wants doctors in California to report conditions it could use to cancel new patients medical coverage, it was reported Tuesday.

      The state s largest for-profit health insurer is sending physicians copies of health insurance applications filled out by new patients, along with a letter advising them that the company has a right to drop members who fail to disclose material medical history, the Los Angeles Times reported on its Web site."

      http://abcnews.go.com/...

      •  And they will probably sue if the don't get it... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SarahLee

        because courts have sided with insurers (and employers) on the issue of data, in particular, with respect to cost savings.

        Know what's worse? At least 50% of fortune 500 companies consider their employees' health data when making employment decisions (promotions, offers of permanent or full-time positions, and almost certainly, terminations). And about 20% of them even admit it to their employees (the other 80% are probably too ashamed to admit to doing something legal yet immoral.)

        My company doesn't even need to request the information from our insurer: we're self-insured, so we already have the data.

        ~Doc~

        Just another wine sipping, brie eating, $6 coffee drinking, Volvo driving, over educated, liberal, white, activist, male New Englander for Barack Obama.

        by EquationDoc on Sun Feb 17, 2008 at 06:41:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Under you plan, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nulwee

    would crap like this happen?

    Seriously ill patients are being kept in ambulances outside hospitals for hours so NHS trusts do not miss Government targets.

    Thousands of people a year are having to wait outside accident and emergency departments because trusts will not let them in until they can treat them within four hours, in line with a Labour pledge.

    souce:  Daily Mail, U.K.

    •  Does this happen under Medicare today? (6+ / 0-)

      No.

      Medicare isn't perfect, and there are certainly improvements to be made, but overall it works well.

      Jared Polis
      www.polisforcongress.com

      •  Medicare Needs ..... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        opinionated, jimreyn

        Some serious price fixing intervention . With actual costs charged to medicare instead of inflated and double charging there would be enough savings to invoke a single payer plan .

        •  I think you're off by an order of magnitude... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SarahLee, kck

          Total healthcare spending is about $2 trillion. Total Medicare spending is about $400 billion. Even if your cost-saving measures reduced medicare spending to zero, the savings ($400 billion) would be a factor of about 5 off from what we currently spend.

          Of course, you can't cost save your spending down to zero. Let's instead assume cost savings reduce Medicare spending by a whopping 25%, or $100 billion, and you could somehow reduce total cost of health care by 50% (to $1 trillion), which would yield a per person spending rate similar to what is spent in Britain, France, Cananda, Australia, etc (about $3,300/person/year). Then the $100 billion Medicare cost savings would amount to about 10% of total health care spending.

          OTOH, the $400 billion we are spending on Medicare alone just to cover Medicare recipients would be 40% of that $1 trillion.

          Not that we'll ever reduce total spending to $1 trillion. I'm just sayin'...

          ~Doc~

          Just another wine sipping, brie eating, $6 coffee drinking, Volvo driving, over educated, liberal, white, activist, male New Englander for Barack Obama.

          by EquationDoc on Sun Feb 17, 2008 at 06:16:46 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  OK With The Numbers ...... (0+ / 0-)

            ,but I did say invoke a single payer plan . I was not insinuating with cost savings from Medicare oversight we could pay for a single payer plan . The inflated charges to Medicare is a totally different issue . What ever happens in the direction of Universal care there will surely have to be savings , cost cuts , and tax revenues to pay for it .
            Take the insurance companies out of the equation and now we're talking meat & potatoes . People always buck up when they hear the word " TAX " , but they never consider that the cost they pay with the present system is much more than a " transvested " plan where you no longer pay high premiums and surcharges + deductibles , but only a measured tax . You know , The old co-op way . What's wrong with that . To soshy some say .
            [ When things go poorly for the Middle Class down , you know , for old " Joe Sixpack " , they say , "Ah , you can't be a Welder all your life . What made you think that you would always have a job as a Welder . Sorry Son , you're going to have to learn to diversify . ]
            That is what I would like someone to tell Insurance Companies . Ever Changing World , Eh .

      •  The other half of the answer here is... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kck

        but crap MUCH WORSE than this DOES happen to those 50 million uninsured (they don't even get to wait in the ambulance).

        It's really easy to point to insufficiencies in other systems when you are one of the amply insured.

        But that's OK, we'll all be uninsured soon, and then we'll be rioting in the streets for an NHS like system.

        ~Doc~

        Just another wine sipping, brie eating, $6 coffee drinking, Volvo driving, over educated, liberal, white, activist, male New Englander for Barack Obama.

        by EquationDoc on Sun Feb 17, 2008 at 06:20:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  The Daily Mail, huh? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SarahLee

      I forget, are they owned by the Naitonal Enquirer, or does the Daily Mail own the Enquirer? I forget.

      ~Doc~

      Just another wine sipping, brie eating, $6 coffee drinking, Volvo driving, over educated, liberal, white, activist, male New Englander for Barack Obama.

      by EquationDoc on Sun Feb 17, 2008 at 06:18:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Fallacy. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ArtfromMI

        I am tired of hearing that we're lucky we don't have to wait in long queues here in the USA to see a doctor or get a surgery!  Where do these hospitals and clinics exist wherein it is not necessary to wait weeks to get an appointment?!  Send me to them please.
        Here in Pennsylvania my mother was not allowed to schedule an appointment with the dermatologist for SIX months, even though the infection was serious and repeatedly sent her to the emergency room.  I hate our health care system; it's the worst of all worlds.

      •  Yes And I .... (0+ / 0-)

        have talked to Canadians who say that is just a lot of Bullshit , that waiting crap they spread around . And you know who spreads that rumor the most ? U. S. citizens who own property up there . A lot of them professed " Right Wingers " who are mainly jealous of the Canadians .

  •  I am an advocate, BUT: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kck, happy camper, ArtfromMI

    I want to see it not run under HMO limitations of so called "evidence based" medicine (which means cutting edge or different opinions are not honored).    

    This is an extremely important point particularly when dx & rx are NOT cut & dried, as with all those syndromes of unknown etiology...and Lyme disease, where 2 standards of care vie with each other, and there is no conclusive microbiological evidence...since Bb can't be cultured without GREAT difficulty, and so they use antibody evidence as though it were the last word.   (my pet peeve)

  •  my simple take (4+ / 0-)

    I'm a welder. the company I'm working for has an insurance plan for us. But I'll be moving in 2 months & have no idea what I'll do for work at this time.
    I don't worry about stuff like that. Something always works out. I'm a good worker, but I'm 53 & it will be harder to find a job in NC where I plan on moving.
    I personally don't care about insurance. I think it's a ripe off. I'm lucky to get by week to week.
    I'm also single never married, So I live care free.
    But I also know if something happens I'm up the creek without a paddle!

    From reading your diaries over these last few months I see you as a well qualified person to be in congress. you approach things with a different view & it looks like you get it done if your a millionaire!! Looking back at the diaries about your trip to Iraq proves to me you want to see for yourself the problem so you can get the facts to fix it!

    I hope you make the grade Jared
    Good Luck & keep us informed

    your writing is excelllent IMO

    •  Thank you (0+ / 0-)

      When we get a universal healthcare system in place, that will be one less thing for you to worry about.

      Thanks for your kind words.

      It's healthier that you live a "care free" life (less stress), but hopefully when you do need some care you'll find that you fall under a plan at your new job or we get a national system in place. I'll work on #2, in the mean time you work on #1.

      Jared Polis
      www.polisforcongress.com

  •  Was wondering ... (0+ / 0-)

    when you were coming back . See You got your website up and running . Good Job .

  •  its simple, starve the beast (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    opinionated, historys mysteries

    How do you know a Republican is lying? Ask one: If the Republicans can lower gas prices for 60 days before an election, why won't they do it all the time?

    by ca democrat on Sun Feb 17, 2008 at 05:39:36 PM PST

  •  Apparrently none of those 50 million... (3+ / 0-)

    read the Rocky Mountain News. All those "we" vs. "them" comments make "me" wonder...

    Good for you for standing up for single-payer healthcare. The time is here, the time is now.

    I lived in Germany for a while, and had A-OK the entire time. I didn't experience any rationing, nor did any of my housemates, my colleagues, my friends, or any of the people I met at parties. Nor did I ever hear any of my housemates, my colleagues, my friends or any of the people I met at parties even mention rationing.

    In fact, people didn't talk about healthcare at all: everyone had it, it was great, what was there to discuss?

    As total healthcare spending goes from $2 to $3 trillion in the next five years, I see no way for employers to be able to continue offering health insurance. My company already is reaching its breaking point with it (and we're a HUGE company--imagine the smaller ones). My share of my health insurance premiums are going up about $1000 a year. So I suspect most companies will reach their breaking point within that five year time frame, and will begin begging for single payer universal coverage--just to get it off their books and make it someone else's problem. (Just like they did with pensions, the other large item on their books they couldn't control.)

    We need more Congressmen like you to continue to press this--the time is quickly approaching when it will have to happen.

    Thanks for the diary, and your commitment to this issue!

    ~Doc~

    Just another wine sipping, brie eating, $6 coffee drinking, Volvo driving, over educated, liberal, white, activist, male New Englander for Barack Obama.

    by EquationDoc on Sun Feb 17, 2008 at 06:01:58 PM PST

    •  Good posts on this thread (0+ / 0-)

      I frequently talk about the need for universal healthcare as the most important thing we need to do to get our economy moving again. Talk about reducing the number of jobs that are outsourced, etc.

      Thanks for sharing your first-hand disputation of the "rationing" argument from your experience in Germany.

      Jared Polis
      www.polisforcongress.com

  •  watch the latest 60 Minutes (0+ / 0-)

    segment,
    The Pursuit Of Happiness

    govt paid education and health care are the main factors....money isn't everything!

    the pursuit of money leaves little time for what really  matters: healthy relationships with family and friends.

  •  Great response (0+ / 0-)

    Don't you love pushing single-payer? It's like building a case for eating ice cream. Good luck...

    HR 676 or California's SB-840 - the only health reform proposals worth my vote.

    by kck on Sun Feb 17, 2008 at 07:27:13 PM PST

  •  Single Payer Is ..... (0+ / 0-)

    an inevitability . Maybe not in my lifetime , or yours , but certainly will come to pass as an indemnity to our society .

  •  I keep Coming Back .... (0+ / 0-)

    to this forum , as I wish others would . This issue is not over , and I would like to hear some tangible plans to move this issue forward .
    Task : Who would stand in the way of Single Payer Solutions ?
    How can this be achieved by lobby ?
    Where do the " Grass Roots " start ?
    Should this issue be on a state by state ballot initiative ?
    Should we start at the County level ?

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