Why don’t conservatives support a national health care system?

A question from Yahoo! Answers:

Why don’t conservatives support the idea of a national health care system?

Conservatives generally support business, which is good. Our current system of insurance rides squarely on the backs of employers. The system is broken and employers can’t afford it.

If the government pays for health care, our taxes would go up. But we would not be paying health-care premiums. That’s HUGE! Employers would not be paying health care premiums, also HUGE. The savings to employers could maybe be split between salaries and the company, both parties benefit.

People would then have more money to spend and improve the economy. Business would have more money to invest and sustain itself.

The devil is in the details: how do you get it all to work? But it seems like the IDEA would be good for all. So, without calling names, I’d like to know why this idea couldn’t work.

It’s a big question and it doesn’t have an easy answer.

For starters, the conservatives represent the well-off who have a vested interest in keeping state-of-the-art health care unaffordable to the majority of population. If there was a national health system, doctors (including really good and famous ones) would have no problem treating poor patients (the government is paying, so it doesn’t matter if the patient can afford the doctor), so in the short-run wealthy patients would see their treatment options shrink simply because poor patients’ options would improve.

Then, there’s a question of bureaucracy and inefficiency. Conservatives are absolutely okay with bureaucracy and inefficiency in the private sector, but they are infuriated by bureaucracy and inefficiency in the public sector. The fact that one big public-sector bureaucracy can actually be cheaper than 20 smaller independently operating private-sector bureaucracies is duly ignored…

Then, there is a generally legitimate argument about funding medical innovation. Right now, a lot of medical break-throughs cost a fortune. But, given a steady supply of wealthy patients, the delivery can be perfected and prices could come down to the level accessible to the general public (this is essentially what happened to laser sight correction). In a single-payer system, there could be an incentive for the payer to keep prices artificially low and thus discourage development of new treatments.

Finally, there is a question of budgetary priorities. The U.S. is unique among the industrialized nations not only in that it does not have a national health care system, but also in that it spends an unusually high percentage of national income on defense. And this is not a coincidence, it’s a choice. Defense contractors contribute a lot to political campaigns (over $13 million in the 2006 election cycle, excluding the so-called “Levin funds”); since 1996, they gave about two dollars to Republicans for every dollar given to Democrats. So U.S. Congress repeatedly and consistently favors defense over health care…

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