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:
- 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?
- 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?
- If health care is a right, should we amend the Constitution to enshrine it as such?
- Education and roads are not rights, but the government provides them. Consequently, should we turn those functions over to the private sector?
- 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)?
- 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 http://www.realtor.org/realtor_benefits/benefits_partners/core_health_insurance.