Archive for September 1st, 2009

What ‘hope & change’ voters need to understand about Obamacare

The Unablogger

The Unablogger

The most common response I get to the defects of the President’s health care proposal from everyday people who still support it is,”But we’ve GOT to do SOMETHING about health care.” The inference is that doing anything is better than doing nothing.

Common as that feeling may be, it is based on a major fallacy. That fallacy is the automatic assumption that change is always good. It’s based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the mathematical concept of negative numbers.

Most people understand that zero (0) is nothing. Small numbers are a little more than nothing, and large numbers are a lot more than nothing. All positive numbers are better than nothing.

But zero isn’t the smallest number! Minus one (-1) is less than nothing. All negative numbers are less than nothing.

Zero is like “no change.” Change for the better is like a positive number.  But there can also be change for the worse, which is like a negative number.

Let’s apply that dull math to real life. A lonely single person may want change. A marriage to an ideal spouse would be really positive change. But a marriage to a spouse who then steals from you or makes your life miserable would be a negative change. Remaining single (no change) would have been better than marrying the lousy spouse.

And so it is with health care. The United States currently has excellent health care resources, including plenty of doctors, good established programs that provide medical care for seniors (Medicare) and the poor (Medicaid), and successful research and development that constantly creates new drugs and procedures that extend and improve our lives. People from other countries come here to get it. The President’s health care proposal would change health care by redistributing our health care resources. That would be a big change. But we need to determine whether the change is good or bad before we sign on.

A change that creates shortages in health care by simultaneously increasing the demand for health care services while reducing the number of providers of those services is also change, but it is a negative change. Creating “savings” to pay to insure the uninsured by causing doctors to receive smaller “reimbursements” for the same service will reduce our supply of doctors to satisfy the greater demand, as more doctors retire early and fewer new doctors are available to replace them because fewer students will be willing to sacrifice their time and money to become doctors and earn the diminidhing financial rewards of doing so. Not changing anything is better than making that change.

A change that prevents drug companies from including research and development costs (including costs of researching “blind alleys” that didn’t produce anything worthwhile) in what they charge for drugs will reduce the availability of new treatments and medications, because there will be no further incentive for companies to invest in the research and development necessary to make the new discoveries. A cure for cancer? Forget about it if Obamacare becomes law. Not changing anything is better than making that change.

And a change that reduces Medicare services now provided to seniors in order to spread health care around to others who are uninsured is a negative change, at least to the seniors who paid into Medicare for years in order to be eligible for it now, only to have it taken away from them and given instead to others who paid little or nothing for it. Not changing anything is better than making that change.

So, no, we don’t have to do SOMETHING. Not until we come up with a positive change.