Conservatives and progressives have very different views of what constitutes a wise system of health insurance, but what are the human values underpinning their arguments? James A. Morone, a leading expert on health policy, examined this question and its policy implications in a lively talk at The Hastings Center on May 15. A webcast is available at hastings.fora.tv.
A nation’s health insurance system is a reflection of the its people and their values, said Morone, the John Hazen White Professor of Political Science and Public Policy and director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University. Those values include solidarity – “we’re all in this together” –and individualism – “take care of yourself.” Longstanding political traditions in the U.S. shape the values that lead to the views that conservatives and progressives have of health insurance, such as what we owe one another and the role of the state and private sector in protecting citizens from high health care costs.
Whereas solidarity predominates in many European countries, he said, “Americans don’t agree on their values.” And it is the tension between solidarity and individualism in particular that underlies the partisan battles over the Affordable Care Act, including the Supreme Court case to be decided next month: Burwell, v. King, which challenges the tax-credit subsidies to coverage bought through the health insurance exchanges established by the federal government.
Morone concluded that the deep values that underlie partisan views of health insurance need to be discussed directly. He was hopeful that such discussions could lead to compromises at the state levels.