Sportswriters Peter King & Rachel Nichols Advocate for Mass Healthcare Shortages

No one should ever tell a sports writer they should “stick to sports” when that reporter wants to opine – on their own time – about politics, culture, or whatever topic strikes them at the moment. Their lack of political science or sociology degree doesn’t preclude their freedom of speech.

That said, no sports writer should assume, because of their position in the public eye, that they are immune from being completely decimated if they voice really dumb ideas. And that’s exactly what happened when one of my favorite football sportswriters, Peter King, and one of my least favorite ESPN hosts, Rachel Nichols, decided to offer social commentary on Twitter last evening.

It all started when King outed himself as a loud and proud Bernie Bro by quoting Sanders’ call for “guarantee(ing) health care to all.” To that King merely added, “There is no reason we shouldn’t.”

Really? No reason? Stop and think about that. Does King honestly and truly believe that there is no reason why we shouldn’t turn our entire healthcare system over to the government?

I’m not intentionally belaboring a point here – it’s really a significant question to ask. Peter King seems like a bright guy, he’s obviously successful, and I assume he is motivated by the purest and best of intentions. Does he sincerely hold to the idea that the only reason the United States has never enacted a universal, socialized medicine scheme is because there are people who want others to not get healthcare?

King represents a strange group of Americans who are either unable or unwilling to think through this issue. There are reasons why we have not enacted a “healthcare for all” right in this country. Good reasons. None of those reasons include the notion that the current system is optimal. The reasons many of us have opposed and continue to oppose this “government guaranteed healthcare right” are the same reasons that King supports it: we want what is best for people.

You don’t have to imagine or speculate what would happen to healthcare in America should the government make it a “right.” It already is a “right” for poor people in a system called Medicaid, and it’s a “right” for veterans at the VA. Both are a mess. The Medicaid disaster is especially useful in exposing to King why what he is asking for would be tragic for the very people he wants to help.

When a poor person goes in to get medical treatment at a hospital, the hospital charges a set amount, let’s say $200 for the service. The bill is turned over to Medicaid. Since that is government run, the government decides if it wants to pay the amount the hospital charges. If the government says, “No, we will pay only $100,” there’s no recourse for the hospital. They get what the government says because it’s the government. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happens next. Doctors’ offices and hospitals start refusing to take Medicaid patients not because they’re evil but because they can’t afford to – if they can’t make profit, they can’t stay open. Medicaid doesn’t reimburse them for their work, and that’s unsustainable.

Now, the way a “healthcare right for all” would solve that problem is that government would take over the doctor’s end of the deal as well. And Ben Shapiro explains how that ends:

“[Government] regulates how doctors deal with patients, the sorts of training doctors must undergo, and the sorts of insurance they must maintain; all of this convinces fewer Americans to become doctors. Undersupply of doctors generally and of doctors who will accept insurance specifically, along with overdemand stimulated by government-driven health-insurance coverage, leads to mass shortages.”

Mass shortages.  Happens every time it’s tried, and yet that is what King is advocating?  Why would he do that?  Or perhaps we could go another route and consider what King’s friend, ESPN host Rachel Nichols chimed in with sarcastically when she saw Peter being excoriated for his confused view on the issue:

“I mean, next you’re going to say we should give hungry kids food or something…”

Because it’s cute to imply that people who would oppose socialist medicine would want people to starve too. But if you can get beyond that, consider the merit of her statement. Of course we should give hungry kids food. We should also give needy people shelter and furniture. That’s what good people do. Now, what is the best system under which we can do that effectively and efficiently? A system that is run through top-down government regulation and management as a “right?” Or through the market? Back to Shapiro:

“Let’s say your life depended on the following choice today: you must obtain either an affordable chair or an affordable X-ray. Which would you choose to obtain? Obviously, you’d choose the chair. That’s because there are many types of chair, produced by scores of different companies and widely distributed. You could buy a $15 folding chair or a $1,000 antique without the slightest difficulty. By contrast, to obtain an X-ray you’d have to work with your insurance company, wait for an appointment, and then haggle over price. Why? Because the medical market is far more regulated — thanks to the widespread perception that health care is a “right” — than the chair market.”

I think Peter King wants to help people. That’s admirable. What’s not admirable is his misunderstanding of the best way to do that.

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Peter Heck

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