National Health Care: A Disaster or Promise of a Better Future?

The topic of national health care is a frequent topic of political speeches and some presidential candidates think they have found a subject that could help them win the White House. But selling the public on a national health care system may not be that easy or may not be something many people want. Many readers have serious reservations about such a system while a smaller number think a national health care system would cost less and provide better health care for some.

The topic of national health care is a staple in the speeches of some presidential candidates who see the subject as a stepping stone to a four-year term in the White House. And, from seeing frequent news reports on the subject, a casual observer might think that a large majority of Americans are clamoring for a national health care system.

The topic is very important to many people but, in a recent survey, readers are divided on its importance, the form it should take or who should pay for any such national program. In fact, most readers indicate they are not willing to pay any additional taxes for a national health care program. Among at least some readers who support such a program, they are willing to pay more in taxes and at least a few think that such a program would not cost any additional money–at least no additional money from those who may benefit the most from such a program.

The politicians advocating a national heath care system may find that some voters think a federal program is a good idea but they are likely to find that many voters are strongly opposed to a national health care program. By a small margin, readers indicated they were against establishing a national health care program and a majority think that establishing a national health care program will have a negative impact on the quality and availability of health care in the United States.

From the hundreds of comments submitted, readers generally fell into two broad categories. Many were opposed to a national health care system because of the cost, a fear that socialized medicine would be detrimental to the quality of health care in America and their negative experience with a universal health care system in the military or in other countries.

Another group generally felt that there was too much profit in health care and if companies were not making money from it, there would be enough to pay for universal health care. Other variations on this theme were that not getting involved in foreign wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.) would save enough money to pay for a national health care system or that not having insurance companies involved in the process would save money and provide better health care. Others took a more philosophical view that the country has a moral obligation to provide health care for everyone and we should do so for that reason alone.

Here is a quick summary of the survey results compiled in the past few days:

What form, if any, would you favor for a universal health program?

  • Opposed to program to provide universal health coverage: 40%
  • Voluntary program open to anyone: 17%
  • Program to cover all Americans regardless of current insurance coverage: 30%
  • Program limited to covering uninsured Americans: 12%

How important is the issue of universal health coverage:

  • very important: 49%
  • important: 19%
  • not very important: 13%
  • unimportant: 19%

How much in additional taxes would you be willing to pay for a national health care program?

  • Whatever it takes: 10%
  • Not willing to pay more taxes for such a program: 55%
  • Up to $1000 per year: 8%
  • Up to $500 per year: 14%
  • Up to $100 per year: 13%

Do you think establishing a national health care program will have a negative impact on the quality and availability of health care services in this country?

  • yes: 53%
  • no: 37%
  • not sure: 10%

Do you favor establishing a natinoal health care program?

  • yes: 45%
  • no: 47%
  • not sure: 8%

Here are written comments sent in by readers to expland on their views on this topic.

A personnel specialist from NASA wrote: "This is not a Socialist country, we do not need a universal health care program and certainly not one run by the Government. We have Medicare and look how difficult it is for that program to function. Furthermore, if everyone is so interested in health care for those who can’t get insured either do to their employer or they are considered a high risk, then let Congress craft a program that employers could take advantage of."

An Army employee living in Atlanta, GA says: "I’m part German, with relatives living in Germany. Although my relatives have good care when they require it, the costs for everyone are very high. And then I read about the mess in Canada and how long it takes some people to see doctors, or schedule surgery for critical reasons, and I know that’s not the answer."

An attorney with the FDIC in Chicago, IL wrote: "I’m hesitant to endorse a national plan. I think it might be better to have a national program administered by the states so it can be more reflective of local conditions and leave open the possibility of local experimentation and innovation."

An auditor with GSA in Atlanta, GA does not think that a national health care system would work: "To have the government take over more of our life would be a huge mistake. Look at the war on poverty, for example. Every year since the war began more and more people fall below the poverty line. Look at government education. Each year we fall short of the mark for education excellence. How about our tax structure? We have 50 percent of the population paying 97 percent of the income tax to the IRS. The government does not have a very good track record of handling our daily life. To turn over responsibility for our health care to a bureaucracy would prove detrimental to both our fiscal and physical health."

A retired financial manager from DoD in Warner Robins, AFB has a similar view: "Considering the mess the government has made of taking over airport security; Medicare, immigration, Social Security, and war – we do not need it meddling in medical care!!"

A manager with the Marine Corps in Camp Pendleton, CA also has strong views about a national health care program: "I’ve lived in Canada and England so I have experience with socialised medicine. In one word: It sucks!!!!!!!!!!!"

A purchasing agent with the USDA in Kansas City, MO is concerned about the cost of such a program: "This country can not afford national health care!! Everyone wants free everything, who do they think is going to pay for this?"

A human resources specialist with the Department of Interior in Denver, CO is also concerned about the implications of setting up a national health care system: "I pay high premiums for excellent health coverage. I would very much resent if my HMO were required to take in any and all patients who would have universal health coverage. The folks who don’t have health coverage, or who have minimal health coverage, positively know where they’d like to go if they would be accepted. I suffered through the military health care fiasco in the 80’s & 90’s – socialized medicine at it’s worse!"

A human resources specialist from Chicago, IL recalls the debate that occurred during the early years of the Clinton administration: "Time to dust off the 1994 Harry and Louise ads, it seems. Seriously though, the issue was throughly thrashed out during the debate on the the disastrous Clinton proposal. Do we really want to have governmental control of our nation’s health care programs? All the experience we’ve seen in other nations that have gone down that road has been essentially negative, with de facto rationing resulting for high end treatment procedures in particular. I’ve been in government service for many years and worked for a number of agencies. Their universal lack of managerial competence was frightening. I don’t think that we really want our health care system to be run by the equivalent of a combination of the Three Stooges and the Keystone Kops – because that’s what it would come down to."

A mechanic with the Bureau of Land Management in Denver, CO does not see health care as a problem: "HillaryCare would have forced medical students to possibly work in a field not of their chosing. This plan will eventually do the same thing. Anybody can walk into Denver General Hospital and get treated as it is now. Most communities have a similiar plan."

A PASS specialist with the Social Security Administration in San Diego, CA echoed this point of view: "The bleetings of Michael Moore not withstanding, universal health care is a very bad idea. Take the dual budgetary/service nightmare that Medicare and Medicaid has become for both the federal and state governments and multiply that by 300 or so million and you might get some inkling of just how impossible providing cradle to grave health coverage for each of us would be."

An administrative assistant with DoD in Grand Prairie, TX thinks a national health care system would lead to inferior health care for everyone: "Universal healthcare will take away the incentive for striving for excellence. Our capitilist system promotes competition to attract customers, hospitals, clinics, doctors and insurance companies now compete for our business and our dollars by providing customer service that the consumer demands. This drive for excellence brings about innovations that keep the healthcare in this country second to none."

Not all readers are opposed to a national health care system. Here is a representative sample of comments from readers with a more positive view.

A senior program officer from Eugene, OR commented: "Every citizen should have access to healthcare and should pay according to his or her income. Unfortunately, the problem is so complex and expensive, the answer may have to be socialized medicine. The priority should not be corporate profit margins. It should be the health of all Americans."

A retiree from the Department of Interior in Kingsport, TN thinks a national health care system is a good idea: "It is shameful that we do not already have universal coverage. we surely must be laughed at in other countries who do. Disgraceful!!"

A librarian with the Army in Washington, DC wrote: "Our current health care system is a disgrace. We need to take care of our own citizens before we try to tell the rest of the world how they should operate."

A program analyst from the FAA in El Reno, OK thinks a national health care system would not cost any more money than the current system: "I believe it is important that each and every single American be entitled to healthcare coverage. If we were not set up as a profit for medical care then we would not have to raise taxes to pay for it either. We can have some control over medical expenses and still afford to pay the medical field personnel. Maybe Congress and the Senate should look at their salaries compared to what the medical field makes and see what the difference is in salaries!! We, as Americans, need to take a stand together instead of being divided as we are right now."

A revenue officer with the IRS in Oakland, CA wrote: "If we can spend billions in support of wars (and provide) accommodations to countries all over the world, we can certainly, first, ensure the health of our own people."

A clerk with the Dept. of Veterans Affairs in Oregon thinks he or she has the answer to the national health care question: "The way I see it, if we had national healthcare coverage available to one and all, why would there be any need for health insurance anymore. I believe if the insurances companies were done away with, the cost of healthcare would drop dramatically AND the care would be much improved because there wouldn’t be somebody sitting in an office somewhere saying yeah or nay as to what they choose to cover or choose not to cover. I would be willing to pay way more taxes for the coverage if the insurance companies were outta here!"

A secretary with the Corps of Engineers in Kansas City, MO is of the view that profits in the health care industry are exorbitant: "Better to restrict the profits of hospitals and pharmacies to less than 1000% and/or have all hospitals community owned. Medical care is nothing more than big business killing off many more than they help."

A management analyst with Health & Human Services in Rockville, MD sees a compromise that he believe would work: "I support a voluntary program comparable to the Federal Benefits system where the government negotiates rates with various carriers and makes these available nationally. The thing we do not need is another medicaid or medicare system. The fact of the matter is that some persons are going to play russian roulette with their health and the health of their families to spend income on something other than healthcare, and not purchase health care coverage."

Our thanks to the many readers who took the time to participate in our latest survey and a special thanks to those who sent in their written comments.