Explaining The Real Difference Between Liberals And Conservatives On Health Care

Over at The Corner, Yuval Levin has put together an outstanding, succinct explanation of the how both conservatives and liberals view the health care debate:

The difference between most conservatives and most liberals on health care is not a difference of degree but a difference of direction–a difference on the question of which we way want to move from our existing highly inefficient system of paying for health insurance.

…Liberals argue that we should move in the direction of socializing insurance coverage: that the efficiency we lack would be produced by putting as much as possible of the health-care sector into one big “system,” in which the various inefficiencies could be evened and managed out of existence by the rational arrangement of rules and incentives. The problem now, they say, is that the system is chaotic and answers only to the needs of the insurance companies. If it were made more orderly, and answered to the needs of the public as a whole, costs could be controlled more effectively.

Conservatives argue that we should move toward a genuine individual market in insurance coverage: that the efficiency we lack would be produced by allowing for price signals to shape the behavior of both providers and consumers, creating more efficiencies than we could hope to produce on purpose, and allowing competition and informed consumer choices to exercise a downward pressure on prices. The problem now, they say, is that the system is opaque, hiding the cost of everything from everyone and so making real pricing and therefore real economic efficiency impossible. If it were made more transparent and answered to the wishes of consumers, prices could be controlled more effectively.

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That means that, beginning from where we are now, liberals and conservatives want to move in roughly opposite directions. And they each tend to think that moving in the other’s direction would be worse than just keeping what we have for now.

…The larger public, I think, is not so tied to either direction, but is opposed to doing anything huge. That’s a big part of what the Democrats have done wrong this year: they have proposed too much.

All this talk of late from the Left about incorporating Republicans’ ideas into the health care bill is a smokescreen to distract the voters. It’s like saying, “We’ll let you pick out the windshield wipers, hubcaps, and type of a cupholder, but we get to choose the car.” Regardless of any window dressing that gets added on, if the choice is between socializing our health care system further or standing pat, the country would be much better off sticking with what we have.

That doesn’t mean the current system doesn’t have problems or that it can’t be improved. However, the fix for a leaky ship isn’t smashing a hole in the bottom to let the water out and the fix for our health care system isn’t more government.

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