Questions About Health Care Reform

By Brian Summerfield, Online Editor, REALTOR® Magazine

As many of you have probably heard, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey recently caught some flak for writing an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal opposing any new health care entitlements on the grounds that they would have to be financed with major deficit spending.

Mackey’s article sparked a wave of outrage among political progressives, many of them Whole Foods customers. His arguments even instigated an organized boycott of the grocer that currently numbers in the tens of thousands. This is just one instance that demonstrates how high emotions run in this debate, and some claim the intense passions we’re seeing expressed on both sides of the political spectrum are about more than just health care.

Is that true? In a sense, yes. Emotions aside, the health care debate boils down to distinct philosophies concerning the proper role of government and the private sector, as well as conceptions of rights.

On the left, you often hear arguments in favor of single-payer systems (e.g., the Canadian and U.K. models) or the public option (somewhat similar to that of the Netherlands) in health care. The reasoning for these approaches is that health care is a fundamental human right, and the government is obligated to make sure that everyone has access to affordable treatment and medicine. They also maintain that the shortcomings of the current system are the results of market failure.

Among political conservatives and libertarians, health care is not considered to be a right in the same sense as speech or property ownership. It’s a service that anyone who has the wherewithal has the right to patronize. They believe that the government should have little to no role in financing or providing health care, and that its involvement would result in a loss of choice and overall quality. Additionally, while many of them don’t necessarily support the status quo, several on the right insist that the United States currently has the best health care system in the world.

(My characterizations of the left/right positions are pretty broad generalizations, and I acknowledge that there is much more diversity of opinion than I’ve included here.)

Rather than take a position on this, I’d just like to raise a few questions here:

  1. As Mackey points out, how will we pay for public health care, especially since any government program would come at a time when the federal deficit has already exploded due to various economic recovery initiatives over the past couple of years?
  2. For those who claim we have a private health care system that’s “the best in the world,” how do you square that argument with the fact that—with Medicare, Medicaid, VA health benefits, and TRICARE—the federal government is the largest insurance provider in the country?
  3. If health care is a right, should we amend the Constitution to enshrine it as such?
  4. Education and roads are not rights, but the government provides them. Consequently, should we turn those functions over to the private sector?
  5. Could the “individual mandate” provision of the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (a.k.a., HR3200) cause more problems than it solves (especially for real estate practitioners)?
  6. Could a different program—say, one that disbursed vouchers for health care—work better than single-payer or public option?

Obviously, there are many implications for real estate pros, arguably good and bad, in any government-administered health care system, though it remains to be seen whether HR3200 will make it through Congress. We’ll be following the progress of this bill and keep you posted on new developments. In the meantime, let us know what you think.

Note: NAR members who don’t have any health insurance can take advantage of the REALTORS® Core Health Insurance program. Find out more at

Brian Summerfield

Brian Summerfield is Manager of Business Development and Outreach for NAR Commercial and Global Services. He can be reached at

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  1. Nice article. Good job on being fair and balanced. I’m personally in favor of a universal or a public option. I don’t think it is fair that the self-employed are penalized for not being part of a group. I’d even be in favor of higher taxes to support such a program – that would be far more affordable than bankruptcy from an illness which is what happens to millions of americans each year.

  2. Bob Most

    We are all already paying for the people that are uninsured. They show up in our emergency rooms around the country every day and obtain treatment even though this is the most expensive type of treatment. This cost is not absorbed by the providers. It is passed on to all of us in the form of higher premiums. I would support a single payer system and am sorry that it was not considered as an alternative. England has made dramatic improvements to their system of health care in the last decade and it far exceeds what Americans have. I for one am tired of fighting with my insurance company to obtain the benefits that I pay for in my premium.

  3. You may say that the United States currently has the best health care system in the world. It sounds too good to be true.

    What about more than 50 million people without health insurance?

    What about people with health insurance dying every day because the insurer doesn’t want to pay for “pre-existent” illness?

    If you don’t like the word “reform”, lets forge about it, but there is no doubt; we need a better Health Care system right now.

    Congress must work on it.

  4. Ken Dugan

    What about the already millions of illegal aliens who are receiving health care benefits?
    Our president was in Mexico recently touting the “New Health Care Reform” coming to America! Why?
    I, for one don’t not want more government involvement in private enterprise and our personal lives!
    Simply look at what the “government” has done with Social Security! But don’t just stop there, include the Postal Service, Medicare, Medicaid and the railroad system in the United States!
    This whole debate makes me think that our Nation is being taken over by people who have no consideration for our Constitution, and the contract it provides for the citizens of the great United States of America.
    One last point, when asked, at Town Hall meetings recently, of our representatives in Washington, if they would also be under the same Universal Health Care as they want for us common people, non of them could answer positively, but instead said “They would have to think about that question?” Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

  5. greg massey

    I ,feel the only opposition to health care is by the poeple out there with HC. Those are the ones that think it is a bad thing to take care of your brother or sister. You have allot of Right wing critic that would like the status Quo. I think something should be done about the Privet Health Care for big profit by keeping you sick. By the way Richard Nixon put Health Care foProfit into place!

  6. Keith Dudley

    I am disappointed that NAR has not surveyed the membership as to the talking points and issues in all of the proposed Bills and Amendments in both the House and the Senate. NAR Needs to be proactive not reactive on its position of the proposed Health Care bills. Each Broker / Owner / Independent Agent could be greatly impacted financially as to what is proposed. Therefore, I would like to submit to NAR and the membership their comments to the following questions

    1. For brokerages or Teams that have say more than 5 agents, how will the proposed legislation impact the owners/Team leaders as it relates to the requirement to provide health care for their staff?

    2. Further, how will this impact the Independent Contractor status?

    3. Will agents employed by brokers (even if they are now Independent Contractors) be entitled to a health care plan?

    4. Will Broker Owners be liable for the 8% penalty if they fail to offer health care?

    5. Has NAR surveyed its membership about this issue and the position of its members? If not why? If so I have never seen a survey.

    6. What message is NAR presenting to Congress, if any?

    7. When will NAR Survey the membership.

    Thank you!

  7. Keith Dudley

    The administration is pushing the need to cover 47 million people. But let’s look at the numbers:
    About 9.7 million are qualified for government programs now but haven’t bothered to do the paperwork, 9 million make over $75,000, 6 million are eligible through their employers, 5.2 million are the illegal’s, another 5 million are non-citizens who probably aren’t eligible anyway, and leaving only 12 million who do need some sort of health care. I wish the administration would get their numbers straight but I don’t see that happening.

    Yet, the President and Democratic Members of the House and Senate say, that illegal’s and non citizens will not be eligible for Health Care under the proposed reform. If that is the case why do they include them in their numbers?

    Why don’t they address the real number that is around 12 million?

  8. Keith Dudley

    That being said, there does need to be a reform in Health Care, but not a Gov’t controlled system. They can’t even manage Cash for Clunkers and they have failed on Medicare, Social Security etc.

    My suggestions would be take a look at the most successful health care programs in the world, Switzerland.

    1) We must separate insurance from the employer to the individual. No longer state regulated, now federally regulated.

    2) The Insurers must offer a basic package of health care benefits to every US Citizen at the same cost. The Gov’t could define the minimum level or Basic Benefits required. The insurers cannot make a profit from selling “basic coverage”. But they can profit from selling extended or supplemental health plans.

    3) Premiums would be deducted from paychecks and be tax deductible.

    4) The unemployed and poor would be subsidized for the basic health care coverage.

    Switzerland’s health care spending as a percentage of GDP is second only behind the U.S. (11.6% of GDP for Switzerland, 15.3% for the U.S. according to Frontline. Yet the Swiss Gov’t pays for very little of this funding.

    There is a book out “The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper and Fairer Health-care by T.R. Reid.”

    Switzerland’s health care spending as a percentage of GDP is second only behind the U.S. (11.6% of GDP for Switzerland, 15.3% for the U.S. according to Frontline), yet the government pays for very little of this funding. The Swiss system is similar to the “managed competition” health care plan proposed by the Clintons in the early 1990s.

    I am not saying this solution is perfect. But we need to look at other countries that have reformed health care without the Gov’t taking control.

  9. vicki countz

    Regarding Keith D above, I am one of the 12,000,000 without healthcare (insurance)
    due to the fact I CHOOSE not to have it; I don’t NEED it. When did insurance become a NEED? I used to HAVE it, ( not NEED) and I could sorely use the $100,000’s I spent
    that I never used because I am healthy. I think the NEED sickness is psychosomatic?
    I’m sure you have heard by now, that for those that are less productive there will be
    less care. The annual physicals are not necessary. They have $10 blood tests that
    will find everything wrong right down to the vitamins you lack, if a doctor will do it for you.
    Where is the upside to that? There is no money for the healthcare system and the trillion $ health bailout to RX, Govt, Medicaid, public retiree pensions to ALLOW that. There’s a narcissism involved in NEEDING healthcare as much as I’m hearing it.
    Choice, the constitution, vaccines, personal responsibility are the answers.

  10. The title of the articles is very poor. Yes I have questions about the new health care reforms so I thought the article entitled “Questions Aboour Health Care Reform” might answer my questions. Wrong, I just read what questions Summerfield has. It would be nice one of these days to have some answers to questions, not write an article about more questions. It was a waste of my time and electrons.


  11. Donna Klopp

    I am totally against the government getting into any business that has horrible consequences for the American taxpayer and the health of our country, I do not like this bill there are better ways to do this and I am glad that Missouri is fighting this bill

  12. Toby Cappello

    I don’t want govt. bureaucrats getting between me and my drs. I don’t the IRS demanding that I have a govt. “qualified” plan or I’ll be fined. The control govt. intends to have on our lives is just the beginning of loss of personal freedom. We need changes made in the insurance industry that will allow more competition between states, tort reform and coverage for pre-existing conditions. What we don’t want is having the govt. control our choices. This isn’t about healthcare plan….it’s a money grab. Kudos to Keith and Vicki!

  13. Marj Praml

    People talk about the demise of persons without health care, when bankrupted by hospital bills. Well plenty of people who have insurance are in the same boat. With insurance premiums being so high and insurance paying only 80% of your doctor and hospital bills (of course depending on your type of insurance plan), a person can be left with quite a hefty outstanding balance. Medical practitioners, hospitals, Urgent Care facilities don’t like to resort to monthly payments…yet some of those monthly payment plans are the only way to pay that outstanding 20%. Reform is needed yes, but government intervention in yet another medical plan is ridiculous. Medicare, Medicaid, Welfare, Government run clinics are all funded by the government. Americans pay way too much for pharmaceuticals especially compared to our European counterparts. Sometimes its not the doctor or hospital bills that bankrupt people, its the medicines. Was this addressed at all by this health care overhaul. And how many things are attached to this bill that have nothing to do with health care? Just as the “Stimulus” bills that have aided private enterprises instead of helping homeowners retain their homes. There hasn’t been a project yet that when put in the hands of our government has worked. Having a big central all controlling government has been one of the factors that led this country to fight for its sovereignty in 1776 and again almost split the country apart in the 1860s (people read the whole statement…ONE of the factors…and also pay attention to unsanitized history… our country was a group of states united to be a trade block not a contiguous block of land). So where do we Americans go from here…look at the numbers of how many Congressional people DID NOT vote for this so-called reform…it is certainly not a referendum! Scary how a specific group can ramrod an agenda and hoist their lust for power and money onto a free people so easily.