Wednesday, September 9, 2009

AP Political Science Assignment 9/9/9

First Assignment
~Watch the President's nationally televised speech tonight that focuses on health care.

~View the following videos
It is said that there are only two reasons government doesn't do something; money or politics. Which one of these do you believe is keeping health care reform from becoming a reality? Defend your answer.


  1. After an extensive look into the nature of the "Health Care Reform" debate, I have seen divisions based both upon politics and economics. However, my observation is that, outside of certain political extremists, the majority of political conflicts on this issue stem ultimately from economic issues, leaving money as the root of any chance at blocking health care reform. If one asked even the most conservative of Republicans, I am sure they would not object to the very idea of universal health care--no sane person WANTS another being to be left uninsured and unable to receive adequate care--they would merely object to the fairness of the various financing provisions and/or the potential to run America further into the black hole of an increased national debt. On the other hand, one might argue that since the Democrats have control of both houses and the presidency, if no reform is passed, there must be some political factor influencing the outcome, in particular, one largely involving the Democratic party. In part, this is true, however, further analysis lends us insight into the true nature of this political dilemma. Most of these newly elected Democratic representatives come from either swing districts, or potentially even districts that normally vote Republican. As such, we can now see that these newcomers, most of whom will not have the typical incumbent advantage of being strongly seated merely due to their newcomer status, must satisfy the demands of their constituents lest they risk being thrown out of office after only one or two terms. Yet again, however, the average constituent is only concerned about one of three things: unchecked government spending, health care rationing (or some other fear of decreased quality or negative impact on their own health treatment options), or increased taxes. At the core of all three of these issues we can easily see that money is the most important determinant. Not to discount the significance of the irrational fears about a health care overall, but if it could be clearly demonstrated and agreed upon that a single bill would not do any of those three things, these fears would melt away. The President has done his best to try to dispel these fears, but as the President himself has yet to submit a bill or plan, some citizens take the stance that his promises mean nothing until they take the shape of writing. Overall, economics is the largest barrier I can see to comprehensive health care reform, even though economics may sometimes manifest itself subtly through politics. If any reform is to be passed, first sound economics and spending must be demonstrated.

  2. I actually take the opposite side on the issue of politics versus economics, as the idea of universal health care is so ambiguous that various suggestions from all political parties conflict in an attempt to create "perfect" health care reform. Granted, all ideas have their flaws, which has obviously fueled heated debates in the political world, but overall, the main ideas for health care reform are beneficial to America's economy. Any political fears due to economic concerns would stem from the fact that the bill would be costly in the short term, and cause a large blow to an already fragile economy. An estimated cost this summer by the Congressional Budget Office of a pending government health bill of 1.6 trillion dollars over ten years only amounts to less than one percent of the nation's GDP. One idea to pay for a bill this expensive would be to increase taxes for household with incomes over $350,000. The idea is not as onerous as critics claim because the tax hike would only be a partial reversal of the $715 billion in tax cuts on these households during the Bush administration. For the most part, the largest debate has been on whether the health care reform bill should involve a single-payer health care system or a publicly run health insurance plan. Many contest that a private system is just not feasible in the modern US government, and that many European countries only have similar systems because previous systems were essentially destroyed in World War II and rebuilt from scratch. On the other hand, most data suggests that this system would lower administrative costs, and control wasteful use of health-care spending. In 2006, Canada's single payer health care system spent half that of the United States per capita. For the second idea of publicly run health care program, which in essence a combination of private and public programs by a new Democratic approach. Many say that by adding a public component to the small mix of private insurers would boost competition in a market where recently competitors have diminished. The system would also lower administrative costs, and spread cost saving measures quickly through this new health care system. Thus, arguments over economic issues are actually few and far between, with the bulk of concerns stemming from what system will work best for the United States going forward.

  3. Sadly, the economic perspective is not so easily written off. I think we can agree that most of the cost saving measures, like limiting the amount of money that can be awarded in a malpractice suit, are hardly contentious, with both sides actively in advocacy for them. The only really equivocal issue, then becomes the single payer/universal health care idea, or the public option. Universal health care is a Utopian ideal, but not a purely political one. A lofty goal to be sure, insuring every person runs contrary to the basic nature and idea of insurance. Further, I maintain that no one wants uninsured people merely for the sake of depriving people of coverage, there simply must be an underlying economic reason. With that being said, the claim that this bill will ultimately save money is clearly muddy; the only other option here is that roughly half the nation is incapable of understanding this if this statement were true. What citizens must remember is the basic idea of insurance. Insurance was postulated as an idea for a group of people to willingly enter into an agreement to split the costs evenly among them should a tragic incident occur to one party, thus saving each party a potentially significant sum should they be the unfortunate one. However, our society has overextended this idea, and most fear that forced coverage of everyone will destroy the fundamental idea of insurance. No sane group of people is willing to out of the blue cover the medical expenses of a person who just got cancer, and hasn't been paying into the fund for any reasonable length of time, essentially ensuring an UNfair distribution of the costs of health care. The idea of the government forcing you to accept as your own the risks of someone who is willingly participating in risky behavior (i.e. smoking, excessively drinking, etc) seems quite unfair if you look at it from a soles economic perspective. It is sadly, not possible yet for every sick person to receive the top-notch American treatment at cost. It is quite a humanitarian crisis when a person is saddled with million dollar medical expenses that they cannot afford. This is not a fair situation to the individual. However, when this person is allowed to dispel this economic hardship from himself, it forces the system to absorb the bulk of multimillions of dollars. This situation is not fair the the whole. Now, the example of Canada is raised. True, they spend less than half we do per capita. True again that they offer universal health care. But sadly, this system has significant quality issues, and lacks the specialized, expensive treatment the U.S. offers. Naturally better health care is more expensive. Canada also feeds of the American system to maintain its low costs; when prescription drugs in the U.S. reach their FDA approved expiration date, they are often shipped off to other countries, like Canada, who can then buy them for less than a quarter of their cost, saving billions, but risking health concerns. What, then, about France, ranked number one in terms of health care in the world according to the World Health Organization? The problem with the French system is akin to the problems faced by every other universal health care system present in the world today. After the first two years, costs are about at their estimates, and it assumed that everything is going well. However, after that, costs spiral out of control. France, for example, spends on average 34% more on its health care than it predicts on a year to year basis. An often touted figure is that the French system is likely to collapse in a decade or two because at that points, costs will have increased to unpayable levels.

  4. The same story is echoed in every other universal system. An even sadder truth is that none of these systems provides anywhere near the same amount of medical research and advances as the U.S. system does. How often does the President remark that the U.S. is the only modern system in the world that does not provide coverage to all of its members without realizing that not even one of them could do so if the U.S. did not have the health care system we do. If the U.S. converts as well, there will be no system left from which to borrow technology, and the entire world's collective research initiative will steadily decline. The bulk of concerns may be about which system is the best for the U.S. to move forwards with, but these concerns are one and the same with the financial concerns about what can truly be afforded, not just in the short term, but the long term. True, higher taxes on the riches may be able to contain costs and prevent massive increases to the national debt, but this line of reasoning ignores the fact that if we are to survive, we need to eliminate the tax cuts WITHOUT new spending. The national debt is on the brink of becoming America's downfall. Any plan that increases taxes without decreasing that national debt is going to lead to economic ruin. It is far more important that the U.S. as we know it is still here in twenty years than to be able to say that at one point everyone had health insurance. Political? Yes, but economic? Much more so.

  5. Excellent views. Well thought out and articulated. A couple of items stood out to me:

    "Most of these newly elected Democratic representatives come from either swing districts, or potentially even districts that normally vote Republican.”

    This is very true, in the last election cycle we saw the emergence of the Blue Dog Democrats, socially liberal but fiscally conservative. These individuals were able to ride the coattail of change but they knew they had to be more centralist if they hoped to hang on to their newly elected positions. While the Democrats have a new found majority in the House and the Senate they have discovered that not all Democrats think alike (or at least not all of their constituents).

    Andrew also makes the following strong point stating that

    "Many say that by adding a public component to the small mix of private insurers would boost competition in a market where recently competitors have diminished."

    So if we look at this from both a political and economic standpoint several questions arise.

    1. What factors cause the U.S. health care system to be so expensive?
    2. Would a public option increase or eliminate competition?
    3. Could the federal government create a system that is efficient while remaining cost effective?
    4. How does misinformation factor into public opinion?
    5. Who stands to gain/lose the most if this bill is passed?