Here I am at the health care debate between the UW College Republicans and Democrats. I'll be posting updates on this post throughout the evening. If you're following this blog during the debate, simply hit "refresh" every few minutes to see what I've added. Hopefully, readers can fact-check any controversial or questionable claims made tonight.
The program is sponsored by Kappa Kappa Gamma, AAPISA, UW Debate, Criminal Justice Club, Forensic Science Club, Cardinal Key, Alpha Epsilon Delta, Freshman Senate, Student Health Advisory Committee, and FaceAIDS.
Eric Blomfelt, director of Risk Management at UW, is moderating the debate. There are three debaters on each side. Curiously, nobody thought to ask representatives from the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, or other third parties.
I probably won't be able to designate each speaker by name. Instead, I will hold the entire GOP team responsible for everything said by that team, and apply the same standard to the Democrats.
As this debate begins, I wonder if someone will raise the point that, according to today's news, "57 percent of all Americans now favor a public insurance option, while 40 percent oppose it."
College Dems Opening Statement:
120 people die every day because of lack of adequate health care coverage. 62% of bankruptsies. 178,000 small business jobs lost to high health care costs. Insurance companies seeing record profits while the number of uninsured grows. This is due to seeing health care as a commodity. Motive of insurance companies is to increase profit for shareholders. Purchasing health care is not like purchasing a car. Sometimes the "rational economic choice" is to die. Alternate plans don't address uninsured. A public health care option "is the only way to provide for the public good." No system will be perfect, but can't keep leaving health insurance to private market. "Public health is public good."
College GOP Opening Statement:
Our founding fathers built a system that did not require large government. U.S. Constitution limits the government's authority. "Do you believe you know how to best spend your money, or should the government spend it for you? We believe in personal responsibility."
46 million uninsured figure is inflated: 10 million of those are illegal, 18 million have a yearly household income of 50,000 or more. It's their choice; they buy other things like cell phones and internet and cable TV.
We can have reform without an increase in the size and scope of government or deficit. 4 key strategies:
1. Tort reform
2. Portability from state to state.
3. Health savings accounts.
4. Preventative care provision in all health insurance plans.
Dems are questioning GOP on exaggerated savings of tort reform, in light of CBO report. GOP responds it's only one component [a little evasive here] GOP questioning the CBO report's accuracy.
GOP says "would you agree that our healthcare system is the best in the world." Dems respond by saying insurance companies do the scary things the anti-reform crowd says the government will do.
GOP says we should require insurance because it's not like cars: "Health insurance only affects yourself." This isn't true. Other people's sick kids make my kids sick, etc.
Dems say we need a mandate: People need basic coverage and safety net. This is a weak response: the Dems need to unapologetically point out that we all affect each other. The Dems correctly point out that mandating health insurance WITHOUT a public option just gives insurance companies the right to raise their prices to a captive market. Emergency room visits cost a lot because you're paying for other people.
Dems ask: how can market cover everyone if it's profitable to drop people. GOP replies that their 4-step program will lower costs. Some debate over what the CBO says concerning the deficit.
Dems re-state that "public health is a public good." They concede that people make bad choices (eg smoking) but that there are other genetic problems that aren't fairly distributed.
GOP woman: Let's place responsibility where it belongs, on the individual. According to National Association of Insurance Commissioners, 60-80% of health problems are due to personal choice (did I hear those numbers right?). GOP side favors raising premiums on smokers.
Exciting exchange: Dems are pressing GOP on exactly how their proposals would actually INCREASE coverage. One GOP person sarcastically says poor people are already covered by medicaid and "we've seen how good those programs are" (sarcasm? and if so, how does that help their side?)
The GOP doesn't really answer the question because covering all Americans isn't on their moral radar.
GOP says we can decrease costs by "standardizing care for all." Standardized medical forms too. Price disclosure for procedures and drugs. [Should these all come in the form of regulations?] Currently insurance companies negotiate with drug companies, meaning different people get different prices. We need to standardize prices. [So the GOP is calling for standardized prices? Really? How? Government intervention, certainly...]
Dems concede the need for standardization of care--but says market can't do it. Dems would, it seems here tonight at least, be in favor of a single payer system. But Dems basically concede this very curious admission that prices must be standardized. They point out that people are left out of the negotiation process between insurance companies and drug companies--another curious GOP admission.
So as of now, the GOP seems like they're conceding a lot of points that they don't understand hurt their argument, and making a lot of vague references to cost-cutting without taking a position on the imperative of universal coverage. Although the audience may not necessarily agree, so far the Dems seem much more together, and less doctrinaire, than their GOP opponents.
GOP says: Bureaucracy. Dems reply: Bureaucracy is a "buzz word." A GOP guy says "I agree that there needs to be work done with insurance companies." What does that mean?
Dems switched one of their speakers mid-debate, and this guy seems a little late to the game; he's sort of bringing up a bunch of stuff that was already hashed out before he arrived.
GOP: CBO report was flawed: Didn't include payment increases planned for doctors who treat medicare patients. Policy won't kick in until 2019 anyway, meaning plan might lower the deficit before the policy kicks in, but might increase it later.
GOP says the government will tax "Wall Street stock transactions" which they see as unacceptable.
Dems respond that "every legislator in congress" trusts the CBO report. [Is this true? It doesn't seem like this is true?]
The GOP has tagged a new guy in too. As a debate coach, I don't think this is a good strategy.
GOP says a public option will only increase access at the expense of everyone else.
GOP now says that the public option will push private insurance out of business. There will be no private insurance companies left.
Dems: Millions are uninsured or underinsured now. GOP cost-cutting measures don't go anywhere near covering people. The new guy on the Dem side says insurance companies won't be driven out of business.
GOP says "It's not government's job to cover everybody." The person in poverty "made a lot of bad decisions that everyone else in this room shouldn't have to pay for." We shouldn't establish a precedent like that.
Dems respond: Some things are important enough to be a public good. Police example.
The GOP is concerned about privacy. Cited Canadian wait lists--average time of 17.3 weeks over 12 areas of specialization. Canada's "priority list" means this will violate privacy, as well as letting the government decide who should get care. We SHOULD be afraid of government bureaucracy, GOP says. Will lose privacy if we adopt any plan. Then he says "it'll be just like Canada" after prefacing their point by saying "I'm not trying to say that what you're proposing will be just like Canada."
Dems say to GOP: tell me how your 4 point plan will cover every American. GOP replies "we don't need to cover every single American."
Somebody asked a lame question: "Although facts play an undeniable role in policy propositions..." how do each sides' proposals reflect "values."
GOP answers: "To a degree, we need to take care of the poor." The choice to help people should be individual, not governmental. Support programs like medicaid, but Constitution was written as "protection from big government." Anothert GOPer "where does that stop? Electricity...vehicles...money...where does government control stop?"
Dems: This is a slippery slope argument. Right now, the market system doesn't provide health care to individuals. Everyone must be covered. [I still don't think they are making the public good argument very well] Majority support the public option.
Lots of back and forth on most of the points I've already listed. I might not update again until the summary statements.
GOP rightly points out that Baucus bill leaves 25 million Americans uninsured.
Dems are spanking GOP in crossfire section--that insurance companies will continue to cut people from their coverage in the status quo.
GOP: This debate comes down to the question "what is the role of the government?" Democratic proposals will "increase people's taxes exponentially" [really? "exponentially?"] We should make healthy lifestyle decisions.
Dems: Do we believe in the social contract? We have fire protection, military protection, police protection, etc.