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:
- Conservative populist attacks on the wealthy to disparage universal healthcare and distract from the actual issues
- 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:
French, from Latin ration-, ratio computation, reason
- a food allowance for one day plural : FOOD, PROVISIONS
- 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.
Candidate for US Congress, Colorado-02