There is one basic reason that no one can agree about healthcare—the two “sides” are not arguing the same point.

This issue is much like the abortion debate. One position argues that life begins at conception and aborting a child is therefore killing. The other position argues that a woman has the right to choose to do whatever she wants with her body. The first argument is about the rights of the child, hence pro-life. The second argument is about the rights of the woman, hence pro-choice. However, neither side is arguing the same argument. Everyone supports life and choice. No one is pro-death or pro-force.

Our national healthcare debate has degenerated in the same way

For the most part, I believe the general public (large companies and organization are another issue altogether) on both sides of the issue are speaking the truth and are to some degree right and to some degree wrong when they accuse those of the opposite persuasion of spreading false information. Largely their views have been formed by reading and listening to information from the sources they trust, particularly their preferred media outlets, friends, and co-workers because almost every American has a job other than that of federal lawmaker, and therefore does not necessarily have time to read and understand a 1,000-plus page document written in lawyer-speak.

The healthcare bill (or bills, but it seems that HR 3200 is the primary version) probably does not literally say “there will be a panel deciding if person A receives treatment or dies”. There probably is no mention in the bill of care being “rationed” or of people with certain conditions being cut off from treatment entirely.

So those who say these things just are not in the bill are being truthful.

Those arguing against the healthcare bill are not arguing about what is literally written in its text. Their argument is more philosophical. It is the argument of what could happen in a government option system (call it a “public option”, “government sponsored co-op” or what you will; the semantics are irrelevant as it is all the same being government sponsored).

The first premise of people on this side of the issue is that a government-subsidized option would create unfair competition with the private insurance marketplace, driving private insurance nearly out of or entirely out of business. There are many vehicles with which the government can accomplish this that are completely within its power, but we will not get into them here.

So now those against the government option are thinking under the premise of the single-payer system (which President Obama himself has said he supports). There is plenty of evidence from Canada, the United Kingdom, and Europe as a whole that a single-payer system inevitably results in rationing with longer waiting periods for treatments, less scanning equipment available per patient, fewer ICU beds, and lower cancer survival rates.

Within this single-payer system, would there be literal death panels deciding the fate for each individual patient at some point? Probably not. Although, it is entirely reasonable that a board of doctors would work with a team of actuaries to build cost-benefit tables used in determining when administering a treatment is worthwhile and when it is not. Clearly, in Europe it is been decided on average that patients’ lives are less important than they are in the United States when compared to the higher cost of cancer treatments.

Differing cancers are the types of scenario where a “panel” of doctors would have previously created guidelines determining when it is treated and when it is “not worth it” to attempt to save a life. Essentially, this is a “panel” that defines the criteria governing the distribution of a treatment that could save a life or denying a treatment that will in all likelihood result in death. Thereby, we have come to a death panel. These doctors will never say “okay, time to pull the plug on grandma”. But they will create a guideline such as: “Any male over the age of X with cancer Y is too costly to treat,” even when there are effective treatments available. Hence, the panel of doctors who created this requirement effectively allows males fitting these criteria to die without potential life-saving treatment.

One position is arguing what is literally written in the bill. The other position is arguing what consequences would result from having a government-option. Within this climate of conflicting information and accusations, it is no wonder people are angry and confused.