I cooked a nice meal last night. The TV had the 2020 South Carolina’s debate for the democratic party’s nomination. One particular moment caught my ear, it was one of former Vice President Joe Biden’s responses. At some point he was pressed on healthcare. He strongly opposes social medicine. Somewhere in his defense he proclaimed his intent to spend 50 billion dollars on research for diseases. His comment was followed by a silent consensus, an acknowledgement of it as a solution to a problem. My jaw dropped as just a few minutes difference Mr. Bloomberg, a billionaire running for the nomination, flung communism as a trully baseless attack. As I will show bellow. Stirring the most primal of American instincts to the roar of a synthetic crowd*.
I would be hard pressed to make the conservative case of trusting the viewer to practice profound media literacy and decode that clusterfk of misinformation. — Now, follow me. The expectation is for you to ponder something similar to: ‘How sensible of Joe, he wants to take public funds to research cures. How pragmatic, unlike that social medicine nonsense’. I will show how this argument is malarkey.
This tactic is universal in the senate. It applies across the aisle, research grants and industry development programs are popular bipartisan policy.
The missing link politicians like Joe expect you to overlook lies in the marketing of such research. After decades of work and expense and those cures are introduced to market, their profit goes to the shareholders of the pharmaceutical companies who marketed them. This is a tough disconnect to absorb.
It is important context to note these are the same companies the aforementioned billionaire is invested in. The conflict of interest is automatic and undeniable. I don’t even have to check a billionaire's participation in healthcare, a billion dollar portfolio without healthcare is not properly diversified.
Not surprisingly, financial expertise is a common denominator of wealthy individuals. Ignorance is not an excuse in the ways of finance. So far so good, except for one thing. This conversation is never had. The initial investors who foot the bill. Those who place their money, the tax payer, in the expectation of future returns does not see any of those returns. This is a slap on the face of capitalism. An example of socialized expense but privatized profit. All masked in a thin veneer of idealization of capitalism and patriotic slogans.
To be fair, government intervention in one way or another happens in every sector. Either by regulation, direct expense or any other sort of policy. Industries like energy, agriculture, finance are heavily intervened for different purposes and in different ways.
I will avoid condemning these policies. Their net effect comes with both positive and negative repercussions. The predicament is in the how and the why. Each has their own caveats and implications. In the case of healthcare, most research already comes from the taxpayer-funded NIH. While most of Big Pharma’s budget goes to marketing and lobbying efforts. Creating a chasm between healthcare and business. I am trying to point out is the blatant ideological inconsistencies and weaponization of “isms” in today’s political discourse and our collective ignorance on how our system works. The contempt for the viewer is blatant.
Let’s explore healthcare. I find the red baiting present in yesterday’s debate terribly dangerous. The use of isms as a smear undermining critical thought is nefarious. This comes at a remarkable surprise coming from individuals not willing to dismantle the very structure of state interference present in today’s market. Simply because it is beneficial to them. Private interest crying foul for the use of public funds for social programs is highly hypocritical when in America, private interests are the large benefactors of billionaire concessions and subsidies by the government. This is nothing short of plain gas-lighting and deceit. It is necessary to obscure things because simple understanding of the mechanics is enough to create popular disapproval.
Actually, the economic superiority argument of socialized healthcare is solidly backed by many studies and examples in other nations. The arguments start at a very intuitive beginning; A healthy society brings along a higher productive workforce. A highly productive workforce creates wealth. The reality today is people are dying because they can’t afford medicine. Postponing all sorts of ailments because they can’t afford it. Even with insurance. There is no preventive medicine, which would come with hefty savings specially in times of crisis. It is a lot more expensive to cure than it is to prevent. There is plenty of variations on healthcare systems at work in other countries today. As seen by experience, collective healthcare would come with savings, not expense. The potential for efficiency gains is great.
In the absence of effective antitrust laws. A plan to control the market power of pharmaceutical companies is important. This can be intuitively understood with everyone’s dire need for healthcare. It is literally a matter of life and death. This is clearly used by pharmaceutical companies participating in unrestrained predatory practices. Pricing is designed and engineered in partnership with different insurance companies for their maximum benefit. Thus, not allowing the market to exercise pricing on its own.
The socialized medicine proposition is one way to achieve a semblance of market balance by dealing with a single entity, the government, whose sole interest is to have the proper amount of care. This means prices for medicines would drop almost instantaneously when the current racket-like mechanic is dismantled and market-set prices be forcefully placed because of a market failure caused in part by the same pharmaceutical companies.
Easily, the efficiency costs alone would render the entire economic exercise as net positive cutting away needless red tape and profiteering. The entire sensationalist ‘socialized medicine will bring a breadline’ narrative permeating media today is unfounded at best.
A very common argument against these policies is the stifling of development for new cures and medicines. The fear mongering of how these pharmaceuticals without those exorbitant and artificial returns would not be able to come up with the necessary innovation is just not true. Luckily for us, these breakthroughs have been nationalized for a long time with public research leading the medical field discoveries for many decades. It is safe to conclude, medical progress would continue in the presence of socialized medicine just as well or even better than today.
I understand the government's track record on institutions is spotty, making for any public proposal start at a disadvantage. The distrust for government to implement a successful healthcare system, although very fair, is odd given we have blind trust in its development. There is no reason to believe we shouldn’t have a proper expectation of a healthcare government program. Specially given the many examples abroad.
To those alarmed by government intervention. Having an attitude of distrust begs participation in the public discourse but more importantly in the implementation of institutions. Any institution. It is my opinion if you share this distrust, we should ‘put our money where our mouth is’ and participate in whichever way it is best in the oversight of public institutions before negative arguments become the reason for choice. How we do this is a field of analysis of its own.
Game theory gives us an important argument for a single payer and against an ‘opt in’ program. It states. For maximum benefit it is necessary the obligatory participation of the entire population. This is due to the imbalances created when an option to ‘opt in’ is placed instead of automatic participation. The so called ‘option’, the case you can choose public or private insurance, makes an interesting steady state manifest. Insurance companies would pick the healthier and more profitable users and refuse the sickly and more expensive users, which in turn, the public system would service at a loss. Furthering the profiteering of insurance companies and increasing the costs of social programs for the public sector.
The raison d’être of certain entities comes to question. Insurance’s sole purpose is to minimize expenditures and increase profits. Which translates to lessening coverage and care for the consumer up to an optimal amount. Effectively extracting as much wealth from the market, us, as possible. On the other hand, a social program’s mission is to cover all necessary expenses efficiently. A simple interest alignment exercise shows the weak proposition of private health insurance. In other industries this is acceptable even wanted. In healthcare it is not.
I personally have no sympathy for jobs lost in healthcare insurance if such plans take place. Other insurance branches can easily bear some of those jobs. Even better, programs to reinstate those workers with statistical proficiency to industries like science would be smart. The workforce inflow in key industries would give us a competitive edge with other economies. Potentially this can be a strategic short term economic and labor policy.
Interestingly to me, the moral argument I have found is the least compelling when arguing. My opinion is applying free markets to healthcare is morally wrong. I find it fundamentally unjust not to celebrate humankind’s accomplishments and under reasonable conditions save as many lives as possible. The partial democratization of human progress in healthcare has the clear moral high ground. To deny a human of care given a clear option of economic viability to do so is in my view is amoral. Socialized healthcare is a good idea for American progress and soul.
I would like to disclose, I am personally not that invested on the issue. I have health insurance. That does not make me insensitive and riled up listening to that ‘debate’. Regardless, there is an overarching situation which I am very invested that permeates the healthcare conversation of today and the very backbone of society — life. I hope this text provoked questions and will further the conversation. Take care and cook more meals. It’s healthier and it saves you some money. Heck, you could even make it a bonding experience with your loved ones.
*By synthetic crowd I meant a suspiciously biased participation of the crowd present in the debate. The tickets to attend the event ranged from two to three thousand dollars, making the crowd conspicuously friendly towards Mr. Bloomberg, shamefully exposing current mass media’s disgraceful betrayal of the core values of journalism.