The Problem with the Healthcare Debate: An Analogy

The GOP Senate healthcare bill was released this week, and by all accounts it is as bad, if not worse, than the House bill. Particularly worrisome is the adjustment to Medicare growth over time, and it is that point in particular that is, no doubt, an incendiary point to far-left progressives that constantly cry out the refrain of “single payer!” at any possible juncture.

It is somewhat amusing, if a bit annoying, to read these interactions on Twitter. A conversation among Democrats will be going on, bemoaning Trump and the GOP agenda, when the resident progressive in the room will bust out with a statement like, “When will they realize that a single payer system is the only way to solve this?” The protracted awkward silence this meets is predictable, with perhaps another far-left tweep finally rushing in to save the situation with a sympathetic reply.

There seems to be a very real divide on this issue even among the left, with an equally vast gap in understanding to match. Progressives seem to believe that the “establishment” Democrats are too tied in with Wall Street to embrace what they see as “real change” solutions like single payer. They feel that the answer is obvious and beneficial, and any objections are short sided and likely financially motivated. The “establishment” Democrats, for their part, seem to fight against a feeling that this is just another example of the far left being unable to provide realistic answers and instead arguing for something that would never be popular enough to get done and would not work in real life anyway. Neither side seems to be able to bridge the divide and understand what the other side is going on about.

I often want to chime in during these situations and try to provide some perspective, but Twitter does not offer the space to explain such complex thoughts in 140 characters, and it is quite possible they would not want such an explanation from a Christian independent anyway. While I can’t address the second of those concerns, I can move to a “medium” (pun intended) that allows me more space. In fact, it would not be untrue to say that I started this entire account to provide this explanation.

The situation really goes back to Obamacare. The entire argument for why we are having this conversation about healthcare in the first place is that healthcare costs in the United States are ridiculously high, way higher than other nations without comparably higher quality of care. So, to solve this problem, the Obama administration sponsored the creation of the Affordable Care Act. The goal of this was to balance out inequality in the ability to pay for these exorbitant healthcare costs. Basically, it was attempting to subsidize and pay for expensive health insurance for those that could not pay for it. The Republicans, being Republicans, disapprove of what they see as a redistribution of wealth and wanted to reverse it even before it went into effect.

The issue that both of these groups have is that they are addressing the wrong problem. You might have identified the issue if you read closely to the previous paragraph. At one point, I was talking about healthcare costs, and then all of a sudden I’m talking about health insurance. Both of the solutions are attempting to address how to help people pay these exorbitant costs, while neither of the solutions actually address the real health care cost issue itself.

This is where the progressive ideals of Bernie Sanders comes in. The concept of single pair is designed to directly address this issue. The goal is to force cost control by allowing only a single payer insurance program, the federal government. If you have ever taken basic economics, you know that if there is only one buyer on the demand side of the equation, they get to set the cost. The issue with the solution is that it opens up a ton of other problems. It addresses the real issue at hand, and is the only solution being discussed that actually does that, but it does it in one of the most problematic ways possible.

To explain what I mean by this, I thought up a little analogy. Now, I have been watching way too much Supernatural and Criminal Minds lately, so it is a bit grisly, but bear with me here.

Imagine if you will that a group of people have been kidnapped by a psychopath. They awake to find themselves trapped in a dark concrete room with water dripping along the walls and the faint smell of despair wafting throughout. Some people awake to find themselves sitting on couches or chairs, while others are sprawled on the floor. There is a single doorway, and if anyone were paying attention, they’d notice immediately that it was open.

However, no one notices, because everyone is transfixed on the single most identifiable feature of the room: the steel eyelet riveted into the floor.

Through this large eyelet run heavy chains. These chains connect to a cold metal band around each person’s right ankle. The people are divided in pairs this way, with one person on the ground near the eyelet and the other person in one of the chairs or couches near the edge of the room.

“What do we do?” someone panics.

“I know what to do,” says a calm, measured voice from the back of the room. Into the light walks President Obama. “My friends, it isn’t fair that some of us get to sit in relative luxury while others are huddled on the wet, hard ground. I’ve given up my seat so that we can all sit in fairness. Let us take this moment to stand together.” He then makes everyone stand up and spread out until the chains are even, with people equidistant from the eyelet in the center. They all sit down.

Immediately, people start grumbling. Those that were next to the eyelet are better off than they were before, as they have more freedom to move, but they still can’t reach the chairs because they are too far away for them to reach. Indeed, no one can reach the chairs now and everyone is now sitting in a circle on the floor.

“This won’t work,” says a sharp voice from another corner. Paul Ryan steps forward. “Things are much worse now than they were! Why did we ever do it this way. Let’s go back to the way things were before.” This, of course, is met with an uproar of protest, because even though those that were on the floor originally still can’t sit on chairs, they don’t want to go back to being forced to sit right next to the eyelet with no freedom of movement. Things get cantankerous, with people arguing about which of the two bad plans is better.

“Stop!” says a raspy voice. Bernie Sanders raises a hand. “Don’t you all understand that we’re trapped in here? There’s the door right there! It’s open!”

“But we’re tied to these chains!” someone objects. “What do you suggest we do about it?”

“I have the answer, and it is a simple one. I pulled this piece of sharp metal from the frame of this couch here. It’s not as sharp as a knife, but it will work. Everyone cut off their right foot. It will be easier if we work together. Then, we can take the chain off and drag ourselves to freedom!”

Everyone looks at him like he’s crazy. His voice is quickly drowned out by others who point out that they’d all die from blood loss before they got anywhere, and that most would just faint from the pain anyway. “Haven’t you read your history?” asks one. “Check the survival rate of Civil War amputations.”

The group then summarily turns away from Sanders and returns to arguing about whether to sit in a semicircle on the floor or sit unequally so some can sit on chairs. Sanders tries to chime in, but every time he says, “We’d all be able to sit on chairs at home if we’d just chop off our foot!” he’s ignored.

That is basically the state of the healthcare debate at this point. Neither solution is very good at doing what their supposed to do, and they both ignore the real problem at hand. And the only real solution to the actual problem is just as likely to kill us by economic exsanguination.

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