People who follow me are probably aware that I’ve written a few articles in the past about various debates I’ve had with Republicans and/or Donald Trump supporters. I like writing these types of pieces because folks have told me they enjoy them and I like sharing various tactics I’ve used in these political discussions I’ve found to be more effective against right-wing propaganda.
One thing I’ve learned since most Republicans don’t care about facts — especially Trump supporters — is there’s really no point in using them to support your argument. All they’re going to do is dismiss them as liberally biased or “fake news” and believe whatever they want no matter how much evidence you present to them.
Which is why when I do decide to debate my counterparts on the right, one of the main tactics I use is to try to make them defend their talking points. Anyone can spout off things they’ve heard on Fox News or read on a bumper sticker. However, I’ve found when you ask most conservatives to actually defend those talking points — that’s when things get interesting.
For example, a recent debate over health care I had with a Trump-loving Republican friend of mine. It all started when, for some strange reason, they decided to message me boasting about Trumpcare 3.0 passing the House. I quickly responded by mocking how Trump said Australia (a country with universal health care) has better health care than we do, that the bill the House passed was pointless because the Senate isn’t even going to vote on it, and the plan is literally nothing that Republicans or Trump promised it would be.
Naturally the debate shifted toward single-payer/universal health care vs. the mostly for-profit model we have now. Knowing that no amount of factual evidence showing universal health care has proven to be successful in every major country on the planet was going to work, I chose to force my friend to defend the merits of for-profit health care.
The usual Republican argument in favor of for-profit health care is they somehow think that “the unregulated free market” will lead to lower premiums, better coverage, and more people being insured.
This, of course, is idiotic.
In a for-profit system, the primary goal of every insurance company is to generate and grow profits. Each quarter, every single year, profits are what matter most. As with the majority of businesses, the way they reach their profit goals is by increasing revenues and eliminating expenses.
Well, in the health insurance industry, the health and lives of human beings serve both as revenue and expenses. Which means these companies are doing their best to take in as much money as they can via premiums, while paying out as little as possible on claims for health services. It doesn’t take a business genius to realize there’s no realistic way health insurance companies can continue to grow profits — their top priority — while providing better, more extensive coverage for cheaper prices.
Sure, in theory, you can lower the costs of the services provided, but that’s never actually going to happen. Not when hospitals and pharmaceutical companies are also for-profit. Every single one of these industries is trying to “game” the other to make as much money as possible.
I explained all of this to my friend who, of course, spouted off the usual Republican talking points about how lowering regulations and allowing people to buy health care across state lines will lower costs by increasing competition.
Besides, the idea that “buying across state lines will make health care cheaper” is one of those talking points that sounds good — it just doesn’t make any sense. It’s not as if for-profit companies in Texas are going to care less about increasing revenues than for-profit companies in New York. You may come across some premiums that are cheaper with some insurers than with others, but that doesn’t negate the fact that, across the board, costs are always going to keep going up.
That’s the entire problem with for-profit health care!
After pointing out all of these fairly easy-to-understand facts about business, that’s when I started making my friend actually defend his stance on this issue.
The first question I asked: How would lower premiums help companies increase profits?
He didn’t really have an answer. He tried babbling on about how creating more competition will drive down prices, but couldn’t fully explain why, prior to Obamacare, health care premiums were actually increasing at a faster rate than they have over the last few years. After all, if fewer regulations lead to lower premiums then, why, prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, were costs rising at a faster rate than they are now?
Next question I asked: Even if, as you claim, competition lowers the costs of premiums, how can these companies continue to hit their profit goals by providing better services to more people — while taking in less money?
His response was something along the lines of they’d have no choice but to lower their expected profit margins because competition would fore them to drive down their prices whether they liked it or not.
Sure, in theory, a sudden influx of competition might result in a temporary drop in average premium prices. However, as soon as that leveled out, they’re going to keep going right back up and continue increasing — just like they are now.
The problem here isn’t competition, it’s the “for-profit” aspect of our health care industry. As long as generating and growing profits is the primary focus of these companies, costs are going to always continue to rise.
I followed that question up by asking: If a for-profit hospital is trying to charge a patient as much as they can, while that patient’s insurance is trying to pay out the least amount as possible, are human lives really what’s most important between these two industries or is it “what’s best for business?”
He didn’t really have an answer for this, mostly ignoring the point I had made. I know, shocking.
Next I asked: What would happen to auto insurance prices if mandating drivers maintain a certain level of automobile insurance to operate a vehicle was deemed illegal?
He admitted they’d most likely increase, but then used the same absurd line that I’ve heard many conservatives use, “Well, people don’t have to drive.” Because that’s totally realistic in most places of the country where modes of public transportation are woefully inadequate for people to use to get to work, take their children to school, or function in their day-to-day lives.
The last question I asked was a pretty basic and common sense one: Name any service industry that can take in less money (less revenue) — while providing better, more extensive services (higher expenses) — yet still continue to generate and increase profits year after year.
Again, he had nothing.
It was around that point he tried pivoting toward how premiums hadn’t decreased under Obamacare and many insurance companies were dropping out of the market altogether.
A point I conceded — but then I quickly mentioned how it actually proves my point that for-profit health care doesn’t work.
When forced to provide better coverage to people, most of these companies raised premiums to cover the costs of having to provide that improved service. Meanwhile, even as they continued to increase the cost of premiums, many health insurers dropped out of the marketplace, claiming it wasn’t “good business” for them to participate.
In other words, despite bringing in more money via more customers and higher premiums, requiring these companies to provide several vital services, especially preventing them from discriminating against the sick and the elderly, made reaching their target profit goals much more difficult, if not outright impossible.
My friend never truly admitted that universal health care was the “solution” to all of this (because most Republicans will never admit they were wrong even if, deep down, they know they are), but he did at least concede that the for-profit aspect of our health care system doesn’t really work. His “solution” was that we need to find ways to lower costs. I agreed on that much, but informed him that the only real way to lower costs is for the government to regulate our health industry. That goes against the “free market” his party frequently champions as the solution for everything.
It’s unlikely he’ll ever admit universal health care is the way to go, but it was pretty obvious by what he was saying to me after I had made my points, that he realized there was really no way to lower premiums and provide better coverage for more Americans under our current for-profit system.