This site attempts to fairly present arguments for and against a universal health care plan.

I have no reason that the author isn't sincere in his desire to be even-handed, but it's fairly clear which side he's on. It might be that a truly even-handed summary on an issue as contentious as this one is an impossible job for one person. Perhaps a "point-counterpoint" format would've worked better, with articulate proponents of either side of the issue invited to debate it.

But anyway, my responses to his points in the "yes" section are below the fold, with the "no" to appear in a subsequent post. Bear in mind that I make no claim at being balanced, and am firmly in the "pro" camp on this issue.

1. The number of uninsured U.S. residents has grown to over 45 million (although this number includes illegal immigrants, etc.).

Okay, lengthy digression time. There are few bogeymen that the right-wing love to hate, hate, hate more than so-called illegal immigrants. They don't seem to have a problem when we provide free care to convicts serving life sentences for multiple rape and attempted murder, but they're outraged that we might be giving some to people who committed the horrible, inexcusable crime of being born on the wrong side of an imaginary line and refusing to stay on that side of that line when ordered to.

So right-wingers want to see undocumented immigrants excluded from any government benefits such as health care. It doesn't matter that such exclusions are completely cost-ineffective — it costs far more to check people's citizenship than you save — and result in substantial numbers of legitimate residents and citizens being excluded because they can't prove their status. This is a general principle with public services: it's easier and cheaper to provide them to everyone than it is to argue over who gets them and who pays for it.

But these people broke the law! the right-wingers squeal. Well, yeah. And if you've ever driven sixty-five miles an hour in a fifty-five zone, then you've broken the law too. But this kind of argument ignores that the law is stacked against immigrants. They're denied legal rights that you and I have, not because of anything they've done, by of an accident of birth.

So anyway, the site claims that the real number of "real" Americans who don't have insurance, and couldn't get it if they wanted it, is "is closer to 15 million." The author doesn't say where this number came from. Perhaps it's a leftover from someone's colonoscopy.

In fact, census data shows that the actual number of uninsured people in 2005 was 46.6 million. How many of these were those dreaded undocumented immigrants, we don't know. Doubtless some of these people were ones who could've purchased insurance. Some of them didn't because any available coverage was so shoddy that it wasn't worth the cost. (A policy with a $5,000 deductible is basically worthless to someone who can't put up that much up front.) Some chose to spend the money on more immediate needs (e.g. the rent). And yes, some just wanted to keep the money, gambling that they wouldn't suffer any major illness or injury.

Bottom line, we may not know the real number of people with no coverage through no fault of their own, but it's certainly too high. And those people are only part of the problem -- see below.

2. Health care has become increasingly unaffordable for businesses and individuals.

This is true, but oddly minimal. Like saying that "Life for Jewish persons in Germany circa 1940 became increasingly difficult." Health care costs are driving individuals and small businesses bankrupt, or just forcing them to do without, and in a lot of cases driving big businesses to move jobs to other countries. They are also a major factor in government budget crises at the federal and state levels and everything below. Under the current piecemeal system of health care financing, government doesn't have a big enough pool effectively negotiate prices from care providers (and it is explicitly forbidden from negotiating drug prices). Budget shortfalls force government programs like Medicaid to offer less money than private insurance, which causes many care providers to avoid them.

I'll let the author's other points stand without comment, since they're good arguments as far as they go.

3. We can eliminate wasteful inefficiencies such as duplicate paper work, claim approval, insurance submission, etc.
4. We can develop a centralized national database which makes diagnosis and treatment easier for doctors.
5. Medical professionals can concentrate on healing the patient rather than on insurance procedures, malpractice liability, etc.
6. Free medical services would encourage patients to practice preventive medicine and inquire about problems early when treatment will be light; currently, patients often avoid physicals and other preventive measures because of the costs.
7. Patients with pre-existing conditions can still get health coverage.

All well and good, but there's a lot that needs to be added.

8. Many insurance policies don't offer sufficient coverage to protect the holders from being wiped out. Health policies are increasingly being loaded up with deductibles, co-pays, limitations, exclusions, lifetime caps, and so on. The majority of people bankrupted by health care costs had insurance, at least when they first got sick or injured. Just having insurance isn't enough; coverage must be deep and wide enough to protect the holder against financial ruin.

9. Basically anyone who currently has insurance is in danger of losing it. Through a process known as recission, insurers single out those who need expensive care and look for ways to drop their coverage on technicalities. Self-employed persons and other individual purchasers in particular are vulnerable in this regard, but those getting coverage through employers aren't necessarily safe either. Insurers have been known to drop entire companies because of one or more very expensive employee family members; see the case of Nathan Wilkes.

10. Not having a universal health care system results in measurably bad outcomes. The USA's infant mortality rate (number of babies who die in their first year, as a percentage of live births) is 2-3 times that of countries such as Singapore and Sweden that offer guaranteed health care. In terms of life expectancy, or just about any other relevant statistic that you could name, our country lags behind the rest of the world.

11. Studies show that about 44,000 Americans die due to a lack of health coverage. This is according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health. On 9/11/2001, a terrorist attack killed nearly 3,000 people. The number of preventable deaths due to our for-profit health care system is the equivalent of nearly fifteen 9/11s every year, or a 9/11 every three-and-a-half weeks.