Tuesday, October 2, 2012

LD 2012 Nov/Dec Universal Health Care

Resolved: The United States ought to guarantee universal health care for its citizens.


Potentially this an interesting resolution that provides some opportunities for very fundamental Lincoln-Douglas debate on the Affirmative and possible theoretical and critical debate on Negative.  I have let a few ideas soak into my mind and was quite surprised to discover that one of my debaters was already one step ahead of me on the Neg.  All of our LDers have done a basic analysis, established positions, outlined possible contentions and selected values and criterion for the Aff.  For some, Neg is proving to be a bit more challenging.  Most of this work was done independently from me (thanks to our assistant coach) who helped them launch into it Monday afternoon.  This has at least given me time to more-or-less independently develop my thinking on the topic.
To begin this analysis, I would like to establish a list of generic definitions and then get into some various ways the resolution can be interpreted.


Most of these are Google definitions of the word which may not be the best but at this point I am not trying to establish precise definitions.  I merely want to pull out a few meanings as a basis for the later interpretations I would like to put down in -er- white on black (sorry to you who find it difficult to read...if enough people complain I will change it).

  1. Used to indicate duty or correctness, typically when criticizing some one's actions
  2. Used to indicate a desirable or expected state
  3. Used to give or ask advice

  1. Provide a formal assurance or promise, esp. that certain conditions shall be fulfilled relating to a product, service, or transaction
  2. Provide such an assurance regarding (something, esp. a product)
  3. Provide financial security for; underwrite
  4. Promise with certainty

  1. Of, affecting, or done by all people or things in the world or in a particular group; applicable to all cases
  2. Denoting a proposition in which something is asserted of all of a class

universal health care
"The literature on Universal Health Care comes from several disciplinary perspectives and addresses five main themes: accessibility to health care by its intended recipients, broad population coverage, a package of point-of-entry health care services, health care access based on rights and entitlements, and protection from the social and economic consequences of illness. The term Universal Health Care has most frequently been used in describing policies for care in high-income countries, while Universal Health “Coverage” (UHC) has most often been applied to low- and middle-income countries; hence, the fact that population coverage may not guarantee a sufficient breadth of care services among the poorest countries (merely achieving basic coverage of the populace) is an important consideration that is often overlooked." (src: http://www.pacifichealthsummit.org/downloads/UHC/the%20political%20economy%20of%20uhc.PDF)

Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, “a citizen is a member of a state to whom he or she owes allegiance and is entitled to its protection.”

Resolution Interpretation 

The Actors
Though I did not define it, the principle actor of the resolution is the "United States" which of course means the Affirmative will uphold that the United States should guarantee UHC for United States citizens.  This would exclude, non-citizens including illegal immigrants; non-citizen residents, tourists and workers; and non-citizens outside of the United States.

The Ought of UHC
Ought is one of those words that implies a moral imperative to many debaters.  Personally, I don't think we should or need to have a moral duty debate for this resolution.  Still, I've no doubt many will spin it that way.  I like the interpretation the U.S. ought to guarantee UHC because not doing so would be undesirable for any number of reasons which we are free to explore in the course of the round.

The Guarantee of UHC
This is where the interpretation can take several slightly divergent paths and the selection of a definition can be crucial to properly evaluating your case.  Under one interpretation, the United States can guarantee UHC but does not have to guarantee it works well, or that it will meet the needs or expectations of all citizens. Under another interpretation there can be an implied warrant of merchantability of sorts: "Implied warranties come in two general types: merchantability and fitness. An implied warranty of merchantability is an unwritten and unspoken guarantee to the buyer that goods purchased conform to ordinary standards of care and that they are of the same average grade, quality, and value as similar goods sold under similar circumstances. In other words, merchantable goods are goods fit for the ordinary purposes for which they are to be used." (src: http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Warranty+of+merchantability)  Under this interpretation the U.S. must guarantee an effective UHC that is fit for the purpose to which it is applied by the citizens.

On Universality
The use of the term universal or the phrase universal health care can be interpreted in ways which change the meaning of the resolution.  Under one interpretation, the implication is the health care should be available universally to all citizens of every socio-economic group, race, gender, or sexual orientation with the only limitation being citizenship.  Another interpretation suggests the health care itself should be universal meaning comprehensive and providing the full range of services and remedies usually represented by a health care system.

What Exactly Is Health Care?
The American Heritage Medical Dictionary defines health care as: "The prevention, treatment, and management of illness and the preservation of mental and physical well-being through the services offered by the medical and allied health professions."  This definition, in my opinion is distinct in that is does not mention health insurance which is a form of compensation for expenses incurred in obtaining health care.  I am sure that many will associate this resolution with the current health care debate in American politics related to the so-called 'Obamacare" plan. Indeed, some definitions exist which do incorporate the systems which pay for health care.
For links to other LD topics, click here
Click here for part 2 in the series



  1. Def of UHCare, not coverage:

    Universal health care is a system that provides organized health coverage to all citizens of a governed region and is publicly funded through taxation. The health care systems under universal health care are built upon the principle of universal coverage for all members of society, by combining mechanisms for health financing and service provision. from http://definitions.uslegal.com/u/universal-health-care/

    I think the taxation funding mechanism is a key point for the NEG.

    -Assistant Coach

    1. I don't get it. You say its not coverage, yet your source says it provides coverage, or am I misinterpreting? Coverage, I think, clearly means insurance since it's the way must people "cover" their health care expenses.

  2. Just clarifying that the def was of health CARE, not COVERAGE.


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