Friday, July 8, 2011

Giving the Poor Access to Health Care Increases Quality of Life

You would think a no-brainer like this would catch on:
When poor people are given medical insurance, they not only find regular doctors and see doctors more often but they also feel better, are less depressed and are better able to maintain financial stability, according to a new, large-scale study that provides the first rigorously controlled assessment of the impact of Medicaid.
While the findings may seem obvious, health economists and policy makers have long questioned whether it would make any difference to provide health insurance to poor people.
Common sense tells me that if you provide stable, cost-effective methods of taking care of the needs of people, without wasting billions of dollars on programs which eliminate self-responsibility, you can see the results if that's what you are willing to see. If you refuse to accept that any sort of assistance program for the poor can help, then that's exactly what you're going to see no matter what happens. Critics of this sort of program are going to:

  • Talk about the cost
  • Talk about the waste
  • Talk about rationing health care
  • Talk about eliminating the choices for health care
  • Talk about the poor people who "defraud" the program

And nothing else is going to be considered. Success is something we don't associate with government programs because we're always looking for failure and scandal. Yes, the program costs money, there is waste, and I'm sure that there's going to be cases of fraud. I'm almost sure of it. But this is true of agricultural subsidies, corporate subsidies, and Veteran's benefits. Do we throw those out as well? No.

The fact that people question whether giving health care benefits to the poor will even work should tell you that we live in a society where dishonest arguments are allowed to flourish because we don't do enough questioning of the ideological viewpoints of the advocates. If you're a small government advocate, no amount of data and no evidence can convince you of the fact that giving poor people health care benefits will work unless you can be moved to modify, change, or update your views. Ideological rigidity is paralyzing this country. And it's getting worse because ideology is not properly factored into how we look at where an advocate or opponent of government programs is coming from. It just doesn't seem like anyone on the left or the right can properly explain themselves. But, results don't lie. Especially when they challenge a widely-held belief that all government programs make poverty worse. The truth is, no government program can eliminate or solve poverty, but some government programs can mitigate the effects and allow more people to escape from poverty.

We should work to improve, streamline, and make programs more efficient. In an ideal world, all programs would have the ability to shift and transform without cutting off the people who need a little assistance. I'm a strong believer in streamlining government functions. I'm also a strong believer in the idea that when you talk about "streamlining," it can be manipulated by people into "eliminating" or "reducing" what a program does.

Giving health care benefits to people works. That's what's important. Everything else is just static.
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