The UWIRE Forum

Still waiting for ‘Oxford-style’ health care debate with Obama
August 18, 2009, 5:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Zach Lahn, a senior at the University of Colorado, made news Saturday by challenging President Barack Obama to an “Oxford-style” debate over the health care bill during a town hall meeting. This is Lahn’s response to Obama’s answer, which touted the merits of a system with a public option.

While my faith in the legitimacy of President Barack Obama’s town hall meetings has been fully restored, my confidence in the president’s agenda has not.

The question I asked was simple: How can a public and private entity compete given the advantages held by the public sector. I asked for no generalities or philosophical arguments — that’s all we seem to get out of Washington anymore.

What the president gave me was a combination of generalities, inconsistent comparisons and, yes, philosophical arguments. All of these I expected. what I didn’t see coming was a comparison of the health care plan to the competition between USPS and UPS and FedEx.

This comparison is absurd.

First of all, USPS is still losing money despite having an unchallengeable monopoly on first- and third-class mail. Or rather the public is losing money since we have no choice but to subsidize yet another failing government business venture. Further, the post office is not trying to set the rates for the entire postal industry, and they are not attempting to coach FedEx and UPS on how to run their business.

FedEx and UPS are doing amazingly because, in part, their main goal is to make a profit. They allow the rules of competition to guide their strategies. Equally relevant is the fact that they are allowed to operate free of any major business altering regulations. This would not be the case with the health insurance industry if America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 is to be passed.

How do I know this? If you want to do something that’s unpopular with Congress I suggest you read the health care bill. I did, and I was surprised. Here some key points:

If HR3200 is passed without significant alterations, insurance companies would be regulated more than ever, and plans would have to meet the government’s criteria of “acceptable coverage,” according to page 27, line 19 of the bill. The criteria is very thorough and it must include (no exceptions): hospitalization, outpatient hospital and clinic services, primary care coverage, coverage of supplies services and equipment of physicians, prescription drugs, rehab services, mental health and substance abuse disorder services, preventative services, maternity care, well baby/well child care and oral health, vision, and hearing services, equipment and supplies at least for children under 21 years of age. Phew.

Think you can escape health insurance all together?  I suggest you read page 167 starting on line 15 where it states that if an individual fails to secure acceptable coverage, they are subject to a 2.5 percent tax on their modified adjusted gross income. For me this means that even if I have a high-deductible insurance plan with a health-savings account allowing me to be covered for catastrophic incidents and doctors visits with — what used to be — tax-free money, I will be taxed 2.5 percent simply because the government doesn’t approve of the way I want to pay for my health care.

Small businesses are also going to be affected by the “acceptable coverage” clause. On page 149 section 313, we find that if a small business fails to provide an adequate benefits plan (also determined by the government), it will be subject to an 8 percent payroll tax. According to a 2005 study done by Kaiser, the cost to the average company for private health insurance viewed as a percentage of payroll was 11.1 percent. Why would a small business, already struggling to survive, bear the cost of providing health insurance to employees when they can simply take the penalty, write their employees off to the government plan, and increase their bottom line?  They wouldn’t, and the private citizen, though the demise of private insurance, will take the biggest hit.

The president knows all of this information: He knows that businesses will cancel health care policies to save money; he knows this will give the government more power over our lives; and yes, he knows private insurance will be crushed.

If this argument is really about what the president says it’s about — insuring those who can’t afford it and those who are seen as uninsurable due to pre-existing conditions — why is this plan not simply a plan set up to cover these people, to keep them from falling through the cracks, to give the low income citizens what is needed, while at the same time encouraging those who can and should be walking on their own two feet, without government assistance, to do so.

While I will give the President respect for calling on me knowing that I was a voice of opposition, I still in no way agree with the idea of a public option and I still wish to have a serious debate on the true issues of health care reform.

If the White House and members of Congress think it is suitable to dismiss citizens at town hall meetings who have genuine concerns simply because they are apparently too passionate about something as personal as health care, then lets have a civil debate on the real issues and answer some hard questions without using emotions, talking points or generalities.

I’m confident I’d still win.


10 Comments so far
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Wow I couldn’t have said it better…

“while at the same time encouraging those who can and should be walking on their own two feet, without government assistance, to do so.”


Comment by KyleE

Excellent! right on point Zach!

Comment by Mike The Bear

From what I understand, Zach Lahn is hypocrite. He is currently uninsured and therefore is part of the problem. If he were to have a tragic accident and need medical attention, he would not be able to foot the bill and the hospital would have to write it off contributing to higher premiums.

Additionally, while he denounces government involvement, Zach Lahn attends a public university AND it is paid for not through private student loans but by government grants. Give the money back Zach or sit down and shut up.

Comment by John Galt

Great points, Zach and well written.
And to John Galt – at least he’s using government money to better himself, pull himself up by his Iowa bootstraps and articulately challenge the President of the United States,to a debate about an issue that most likely concerns you. AND…his insurance is most likely provided by the public university he attends. Don’t be a hater, and don’t call yourself John Galt if you don’t mean it. Long live free speech and Zach Lahn!

Comment by Lady Lumineux

First, if he is using government money then he is not pulling himself up, the government is. I am not a hater, just a true libertarian. Lahn denounces government involvement, public plans, government subsidies, etc and that is all great. Unfortunately when it comes down to it he does not act upon his beliefs.

Second, I do not believe CO offers free health care to students. Either way, if they do and Zach utilizes it then he really becomes a hypocrite for denouncing government run health care while on a government plan. Either way he is part of the problem.

He has become a poster boy for a party that is all talk and no action. The democrats and Republicans have both become borderline criminal and it appears young naive Zach has gotten in bed with them.

Comment by John Galt

John Galt —You obviously don’t know what you are talking about. First of all even if he doesn’t have insurance it doesn’t mean that he is part of the problem. I don’t have insurance and I have been hospitalized YOU CAN SET UP PAYMENT PLANS. I had a $12000 bill and I was allowed to make interest free payments on it until it was finished almost ALL hospitals allow that. At one point I was making $5 a month payments WHICH THEY WERE FINE WITH. You are ignorant. Stop believing what every liberal blog says. And the fact that you said he is part of the problem proves that you are not a “true libertarian” bc a true libertarian would not see an individual without health insurance as part of the problem the government involvement is the problem. You are a liberal and a hater PERIOD.

And did you watch any of his interviews? Like the one with Wolf Blitzer where wolf asks him about his party and he says hes a conservative? Or maybe Hugh Hewitt when Zach said that he doesn’t align with a party but rather an ideology. And I know he interned for a Repub but when you are young you have to start somewhere the fact that he interned with a Repub and then AFTER he was done he said that he doesn’t affilate with a party should tell you that maybe he didn’t like everything that was going on.

And how is he a hypocrite? Did he EVER denounce college grants? NO. He denounced the government trying to take on another failing challenge and subsidizing something that is constantly losing money bc of mismanagement.. You should do your research. and how do you know he is taking gov grants if any! How do you know their not institutional grants which are funded through private donations and state NOT federal money? I happen to know that Colorado has an unusually high amount of private donations. And how do you know there not need based scholarships?? How would you know such personal info?

I am an ultra conservative but I happen to think that SOME grants for college are a good thing for those who cant afford it. Emphasis on SOME.

AS A MATTER OF FACT did you read what he said above that KyleE also commented on?
“while at the same time encouraging those who can and should be walking on their own two feet, without government assistance, to do so.”

if he is taking college grants he is doing EXACTLY THAT helping himself to be able to walk on his own two feet!

HE DENOUNCED THE GOVERNMENT TRYING TO TAKE CONTROL OF OUR LIVES… You are a liberal and a pathetic one at that.

Comment by The Bear Cub

ZACH these words are patriotic. Thank you… Our country was about to jump off the cliff without most of us working Americans knowing. You had one great big hand in stopping it… Thanks again!

Comment by Summer Winters

[…] says that he’s “still waiting for an Oxford-style health care debate.” As of right now, the most likely place in these United States for him to have such an event […]

Pingback by Oxford debate goes to the top pay grade | The official blog of the Hudson Valley Debate Union

You speak the truth and I respect you for that, I hope to see much more of you in the days and years to come.


Comment by TMart

Did you vote for Obama, Zach? I think we can both agree you didn’t…so please don’t start gettin’ all high n’ mighty with this “the President has to answer to me, Zach Lahn!” bit….if Dubya’s opposition even thought about treating Commander-in-Chief Bush like Commander-in-Chief Obama has been being treated, you’d scream bloody murder, cry anti-patriotism, etc. I find the hypocrisy in your behavior quite telling, because Bush Jr. was never yelled at and called a liar during an important speech addressing a joint session of Congress or had an insolent CU student openly taunt him to a debate out of nowhere. Spuriously silly are the attempts to equate the treatment Obama has received of late with the mentions or characterizations of Bush in the media. They only serve to underscore the irony of your intolerant position…you tolerated Bush bankrupting the country for years, giving HUGE money to mega-billion dollar contractors…where was the outrage then? Where was the outrage when Bush left office and we STILL hadn’t found bin Laden after more than 800 BILLION dollars had been spent? TRUE patriots would have interrogated the previous President at a town hall while he was busy spend 800 BILLION dollars on a hastily crafted war, right? But now Obama wants to spend the same mount of money helping more American citizens live healthier, happier lives and everyone’s justified in erupting in vociferous opposition? Give me a break. How anyone could defend funding a war over funding health care services for their fellow Americans is beyond me…and if you aren’t defending it, then why didn’t you demand a debate with Bush? And ask why he spent so much money putting brave American soldiers’ lives at risk to ultimately not catch the man we supposedly first went over there for.

And besides, Zach, let’s face it. Your demand to debate the President is really a lame stunt to try to squeeze your fifteen minutes of fame out of an already overrun field of politico one-hit-wonders. I hate to break the news to you, Zachary, but if EVERYONE demanded a debate with the President, he wouldn’t have time to BE President. This means that President Obama DOES NOT have to oblige you with a debate simply because you say so. It’s not as though just because you were the first person to publicly demand to debate this President, you are now also the first in what is sure to be a long line of previously unheard-of citizens wandering forward to grasp a moment in the spotlight as well. Get a grip, Zach, Obama doesn’t have to give you or any other American an audience unless and until you’ve followed the proper channels to schedule time with the President of the United States (arguably the world’s most influential political figure)…period.

So go back to doing whatever it was you were doing before you stood and disrespected the men and woman of our country who fight for our freedom. They receive health care from the government, and if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for other Americans, right? Or is it true that the soldiers’ health care is sub-par because government run health care is inherently sub-par? If it’s sub-par, why is Bush allowed to start a war with a sub-par health care plan for the troops? You either supported a war with insufficient quality health care coverage for our courageous countryman in harm’s way or the coverage our soldiers do have should be fit for ALL Americans.

Anyway, I’m not sure how much point there is in continuing as I imagine this entire post falls on ears deafened by a subconscious bias you’re too consciously biased to recognize. I wish you the best, but you still are wrong.

Comment by Aaron

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