Panel talks on health care crisis in America

By Brook Stallings.
Students and faculty gathered in room C120 last Wednesday for the winter 2009 Coffee, Tea, and Politics discussion, entitled “Health Crisis in America: Politics, Economics, and the Public’s Welfare”.
The moderator was Dr. Aslam Khan, chair of BCC’s Political Science and International Studies program. and the speakers were philosophy instructor Dr. William Payne and Dr. James Maynard, Senior Fellow at the Center for Liberal Arts.
Payne spoke first. He spoke of the influence of English philosopher John Locke on the United States. Locke argued for limited government, property rights, and that property is the result of hard work.
In other words, “If you don’t have any property, you’re not working hard enough,” Payne said.
Payne suggested an alternative philosophy of social justice developed by John Rawls, called justice is fairness. Rawls accepts inequality in society.
“People who perform well should get the benefits,” Payne said.
Rawls also calls for taxation on the wealthy to provide for education, health care, and other social goods. Maynard’s talk followed. Maynard spoke about ideas that self-replicate, or memes.
“Look it up,” he said. An example might be a fashion or a political slogan.
The interesting thing about a meme is that once it gets in your mind, you don’t question it. Socialized medicine, a term used to critique single payer health care plans, is a meme, Maynard said.
In the discussion period, Galen Sheely asked if the quality of care or the number of new drugs would decline under a single payer health care system.
Both speakers agreed that a lot of research that profits drug companies are already publicly funded.
Maynard said that while research and development costs in the private sector have to be passed on to the customer, “that doesn’t explain why the drug companies are some of the richest countries in the world.”
“And it does not,” he said, “explain why three or four companies have just about exactly the same drugs for hypercholesterolemia, or for blood pressure control.”
Maynard also pointed out that drug prices remain two or three times higher here than in other countries.
“The United States cannot continue to be the sugar daddy of the pharmaceutical industry of the world,” he said.
Questioners asked who would make decisions about what would be covered in a single payer system. Payne pointed out that no matter how much money was spent, decisions would have to be made about who got care.
The decisions might not be on a national level, but there would have to be rules. Elective plastic surgery probably wouldn’t be covered, for example. Canada covers abortions, but only the Netherlands cover euthanasia, Maynard said.
Equity of care would have to be addressed, according to Maynard. Some treatments with cheaper alternatives available would not be paid for.
On the other hand, some treatments are essential.
“If you are going to have your hip replaced, or if you are going to have another joint replaced, or you are going to have to go on a heart-lung machine in order to get a valve replacement, … There is only one adequate procedure, only one system of care for that,” Maynard said.