The Berkeley Conservative Society and the campus Center on Civility & Democratic Engagement hosted a “Medicare for All” debate Thursday afternoon.
About 100 people, ranging from undergraduates to senior citizens, packed into the event in Wheeler Hall. Celine Bookin, president and founder of the Berkeley Conservative Society, said in an email it is important to have the debate on Medicare for All because it is a “relevant and controversial topic.” Chancellor Carol Christ was in attendance, opening the event by reaffirming the importance of civil discourse.
“There are many, many issues which people of integrity and goodwill disagree on,” Christ said during the debate. “We are in a very difficult time in our country right now where we’re finding it more and more difficult to have reasoned discourse, to be able to talk about ideas … and to be able to work through the differences of opinions we have to solutions. That kind of reasoned discourse is absolutely essential (and) central to the university.”
Under a Medicare for All system, the government would be the sole insurer of health care, raising money through taxes and eliminating much of the private insurance market. Medicare for All would be a universal program, meaning that all Americans would be covered under the system.
Richard Scheffler, a UC Berkeley School of Public Health graduate school professor, argued in favor of Medicare for All, while Sally Pipes, president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, argued against it.
Scheffler said in his opening remarks that the current health care system is a “patchwork” that requires unnecessary paperwork and costs, adding that “the cost of health care is outrageous.” He said the U.S. private health insurance industry made $38 billion last year.
Pipes retorted that other countries with systems like Medicare for All, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, face doctor shortages, protracted wait times for care and increased taxes on the middle class. Pipes said the United States is “great” because of choice, and the best way to achieve universal coverage would be through “universal choice.”
“Government doesn’t create jobs,” Pipes said during the debate. “People that are innovative and entrepreneurial will create jobs in this country, so let’s keep the market working.”
Near the end of the debate, Scheffler said the country could save money through Medicare for All. He added that many studies do not take into account the “waste” and expense of the current system.
In his closing remarks, Scheffler reminded the audience that similar debates have taken place before.
“This same discussion that Sally and I are having right now happened in 1965 when we tried to pass the Medicare bill. It was too expensive. We couldn’t afford it. The taxes would be too big. But basically, we did it,” Scheffler said during the debate. “Providing health care is a human right, not an option for the marketplace.”