Sunday, February 24, 2008

Hillary vs Obama: healthcare

Barack Obama is ahead of Hillary Clinton and as Bill Maher says, the most likely presidential race will be YouTube vs Feeding Tube because John McCain is likely to be the GOP nominee.



Obama as a Somali Elder by Sheikh Hassan, left, in Kenya (2006).

I don't see any inevitability here, however. Hillary needs to get about 800 more delegates and Obama needs 700 extra delegates or something like that. I think that the probabilities that it will go in either direction are comparable.

There are two aspects of their recent battle about the healthcare policy: issues about the policies themselves and the questions about the honesty and integrity with which the positions are presented.

Healthcare: policy

I think that the universal healthcare is a bad idea and if a nation knows how to live without it, it is good for the nation. Throughout my life in the U.S., the health care insurance was kind of useless for me. It has sucked a lot of money, added paperwork, and whether it could be used in particular contexts always depended on extremely complicated and unreliable rules. No doubt, it would have been much better from all points of view - financial, psychological, etc. - if I were allowed not to pay it and pay for health care directly. Of course, all these things are more transparent for U.S. citizens but not completely transparent.




Czechia has had a tradition of universal health care from the years of socialism so it is natural that politicians tend to keep this norm. However, we are trying to go away from some aspects of the socialist health care that are known to create inefficiencies. For example, a lot of people would visit a physician just for the sake of it, to have some fun. That's bad and a USD 2.00 fee or so for every visit of a doctor was introduced in 2008.

I think that it is a good idea that will help to make the system work a little bit more smoothly and it will lead the physicians to actually help the ill and sick patients instead of wasting time with those who just came to waste the time of others. It is a fee comparable to what we pay for one trip in the Prague subway (USD 1.50) and I do think that a visit of a doctor is more important so that it deserves such a fee, too.

Recently I was outraged by the additional bureaucracy that the state of Massachusetts added to the state tax returns. People have to prove that they were insured, otherwise they might lose their personal exemption (with a lot of complicated, abusable, vague exceptions occupying several additional pages of the forms). I think that this is a clear example how counter-productive such "likable" projects turn out to be in reality. The result is that the people who decide that they are too poor and the investment into healthcare is a bad idea for them are being financially punished by the government as long as a "big brother" or some ad hoc arbitrary rules determine that these people should afford the healthcare.

Every type of universal healthcare brings two things: a mandatory regulation forcing everyone to be insured, and a possible additional redistribution of resources. The individual plans only differ in the details of the latter aspect.

Hillary's plan vs Obama's plan: the leaflet

Barack Obama has hired "Harry and Louise" of the GOP to create a negative booklet against Hillary's proposals for the healthcare. The booklet claims that Hillary wants to force everyone to buy the insurance even if they can't afford it. She's angry.

Now, is the statement true, as Obama claims? Obviously, there cannot be a completely rigorous answer. It is a vague statement with ill-defined words - who determines whether someone can afford something or not? - but is it "morally" true? Is it at least more true for Hillary's program than Obama's program?

After looking at things, I think that the answer is clearly No. I wouldn't be happy about either plan but whether it is a good idea or not, Hillary wants to spend more resources for tax credits and she wants to allow the existence of very cheap forms of insurance so that everyone can find an appropriate degree of insurance for him or her. So if Obama's criticism applies to someone, it primarily applies to his program.

Now, every universal healthcare project is about mandatory healthcare, too. So a part of Obama's statement is a tautology. The only question is how many people are affected by this tautology: who can't afford the healthcare under certain circumstances, including other laws or rules?

It reminds me of Richard Feynman's example of the commercial promoting the Wesson cooking oil. It said that it's not absorbed by the food. Well, the reality is that oil is universally not absorbed under a certain temperature but it is absorbed above a certain temperature. This statement applies to all kinds of oil. So while it is hard to show rigorously that the commercial was untrue, it was clearly dishonest because it was using different standards for Wesson and different standards for their competition.

The same inconsistency in the definitions of terms and the confidence in the outcomes of various calculations was discussed in the previous article about the LHC alarmists.

So even though Obama tries to be as peaceful as he can, in relation to all possible groups of people including the Christian traditionalists, and he hasn't made me excessively upset so far, I do see something very dishonest and hypocritical about him, something that reminds me Lee Smolin - a crackpot whose position is based on his tricks to be likable, not on his noteworthy and serious contributions to science that don't exist - and many other people.

Obama also seems to agree with certain obvious facts when you talk to him but behind your back, he is doing very different things based on incompatible assertions to damage your name, activities that apply different standards to him and others and that influence the opinion of those who don't follow the issues in detail.

And such a thing could be worse news for the U.S. than the attempts to introduce a socialist system of healthcare themselves.

And that's the memo.

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