The following debate takes place between four individuals as follows: Dr. Barker, a public health sector physician with an experience of fifteen years; Ms. Gomez, a social activist working for improving opportunities and living conditions for immigrants to the United States; Mr. Walters, a journalist who writes on social and political issues in several newspapers and self-professed atheist; and Mr. Bucelli, a modern poet and novelist with strong humanist inclinations. All four are residents of the Green Springs Community and are recognized members of the community. The debate takes place at the community hall where the debaters are taking part in the annual debate challenge where they have been given the topic Should health care be free? Ms. Gomez and Mr. Bucelli support the proposition that health care should be free for all residents whereas Dr. Barker and Mr. Walters are against the proposition.
Ms. Gomez: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. As one who witnesses the daily struggles of people from the lower strata of society in creating a healthy and educated life for their families, I have come to the firm conclusion that there must be free health care for all residents of the country so that everybody may have access to health regardless of economic or ethnic background. People should not be deprived of health and treatment for illness solely on the basis that they cannot afford it. Making health care free is the best way of ensuring that access to health is fair for everyone.
Dr. Barker: Good evening, everybody. I respect the sentiments and charity expressed by Ms. Gomez, but as a professional in the health care sector and having witnessed the challenges faced by the government in administering health care, I seriously doubt the assumption that making health care free for everyone would enable every person to benefit from health care equally. Economic differences are a fact of society and health care resources are not unlimited. Therefore, there is no moral wrong in determining the distribution of health care resources through the market forces of demand and supply as for other productive resources.
Mr. Bucelli: Esteemed guests and respected speakers, good day to you. I have to point out that I disagree with Dr. Barker's desire to put health care resources in the same basket as other economic goods, say cars or restaurant meals. Health care resources are essential resources that are necessary for all human beings to lead a healthy existence. These should be available to all human beings regardless of purchasing power but only by virtue of being members of a society.
Mr. Walters: My respects to all those present. Ms. Gomez and Mr. Bucelli have noble sentiments but they are only looking at it from the point-of-view of a particular underprivileged segment. For the general good of the society, it is important that we look at the big picture and develop policies that will bring about the greatest good for the greatest number. No matter how we word it, health care resources are scarce and need to be distributed in the most efficient way. We are not implying that health care resources are superfluous or inessential.
Dr. Barker: That is exactly what I was trying to say. I have been practicing in the public sector for fifteen years now, and I have seen how pressed we are for resources, be they doctors, nurses, equipment, facilities, you name it. We cannot simply give them away to everyone without establishing any criteria or priority in some way. And as far as that goes, I believe that the most fair and impartial criteria is an economic one rather than one based on human feeling and charity. Therefore, we should let demand determine the distribution of health care resources.
Ms. Gomez: If Dr. Barker is trying to speak for the general good, how can you address the general good for the maximum people when the maximum numbers cannot afford health care?
Mr. Walters: It is immaterial what the purchasing power of the society's members is. What we are trying to say here is that whatever the purchasing power, the economic principles are the fairest way of distributing resources that are limited in supply. Giving away resources is not the answer. How would you then justify allocating health care resources to one individual over another? On the basis of first come first served? How is that any fairer than demand and supply?
Ms. Gomez: It is not like you are asking everyone to queue up in a line for rationed health services. Our point is about removing the economic barriers that cause some people to be deprived of health resources that they deserve in order to lead healthy lives. There are more than 45 million uninsured people in the United States (Bialik, 2009). In addition, businesses are now also feeling the pressure of increasing health care costs and are therefore offering lesser coverage (Semenova & Kelton 3). How can we expect them to struggle for a livelihood in tough economic conditions and also have the capacity to pay for expensive health care services? The government can substantially reduce health care costs by controlling the provision of services.
Mr. Walters: But is it fair to expect the government to provide free health care at a time when it should be focusing on economic growth. The government needs to direct its efforts at creating more jobs and infrastructure instead of putting its efforts into an area where there are no returns possible. Who would be responsible if more people fell into the category of economically deprived because of the government's efforts at subsidizing health care instead of job creation?
Dr. Barker: Exactly! Another thing. I agree with Ms. Gomez that employers have reduced the size of health coverage for employees because of which there has been a reduction in the number of visits people make to the hospital for major treatments (Abelson). But look at it in another way. If employers continue to pay higher premiums for health coverage during economically tough times, they would have little to pay in the way of pay increases and other cost of living benefits. Would that not be a greater threat to the well-being of the majority than the absence of free health care?
Ms. Gomez: It is a difference of perspective we have here. I urge you to understand that health care is not the same as any other service or commodity. It is a basic right of every individual and it is the responsibility of the state to provide it to everyone. Yes, employers are caught in the dilemma of offering either higher health coverage or pay raises to employees, but who will pay the health premium for the unemployed, or for temporary workers? How are they expected to increase their purchasing power?
Mr. Walters: Of course, the public health sector is there to serve those people. Then there are consumer-driven health plans that have cut company health care costs by 20% over the past eight years (Torinus). So if people are in a position to pay for the use of resources, why shouldn't they? It is naive to assume that nobody would bear the cost of free health care. Ultimately, the free health care is going to come out of the pockets of the taxpayers. So why not let them spend it directly on the service instead of adding to the government's burden of providing it, except in truly needful situations as those Ms. Gomez has just now identified.
Ms. Gomez: I would also like to point out here that government control would increase the credibility of the system and would reduce any discrepancy that causes one sector to be perceived as more efficient than the other.
Mr. Bucelli: We should all realize that we are talking about human life here. We have to consider the experiences of people on the fringes of society. There are immigrants in our society who deserve health despite their illegal status. We simply cannot refuse them the right to a healthy life on the basis of their ability to pay.
Dr. Barker: I am afraid you are mistaken, Ms. Gomez. Have you seen the waiting lines in the NHS in the United Kingdom? The number of cases going past the recommended waiting time of 18 months has increased by a third during the term of the current government (Ball & Campbell 2011). Moreover, 37% of the people believe that having the government provide health insurance to all people would affect the economy adversely (CBS News). That proves that the government is not the most efficient party to handle the health care sector.
Mr. Bucelli: But are we also to forget that the United States has the highest rate of health care expenditure per capita in the world (World Health Organization)? Is it then fair to expect the people of the richest nation in the world to struggle to get the right to health…