Science has some very strict rules.

For instance, there is only a certain amount of matter in the universe. Another one is that an object will continue to go in one direction unless it is acted on by another force.

These rules can also apply to the issue of the health insurance coverage debate.

One criticism leveled at any plan for the government to provide universal, single-payer coverage is that it would be too costly. But this argument fails the scientific rule cited above.

Under our current dysfunctional system, some people have insurance through their work, purchase it on their own, or are provided it through the government. But in the end, we all pay.

If someone has no health insurance but goes to the hospital from a car crash or a heart attack, Penobscot Bay Medical Center will treat that person. If the person is unable to pay, the hospital will have to write that cost off as uncollectible. Those costs are factored into hospital budgets and in the end, others will pay.

But if everyone was covered by a universal, single-payer system, the costs would be spread out evenly. And more importantly, the overall cost would be less.

There would be administrative savings since there would be no need for all the health insurance companies that spend most of their time figuring out how to deny a claim for one of their so-called customers. In addition, people would be more likely to go to their doctor or medical professional for preventative care and thus there would be a reduced demand on the emergency room where costs are greater.

There is “x” amount of demand for health care services. Simply by denying coverage to someone based on their inability to pay will not get rid of that demand.

A few years ago, there was a movement toward increasing access to health care for citizens. The onset of the Great Recession in the twilight of the George W. Bush presidency would seem to have been the time to work toward universal coverage.

Instead, it has been used by the wealthy and those who do their bidding in Washington, D.C. and in the state capitols to go in the different direction. There are calls to privatize Medicare, cut back on Medicaid, and strip benefits from public workers.

We’re seeing the move in Washington as Republicans call for slowly starving Medicare to death. In Augusta, a health insurance overhaul was re-written virtually overnight with many legislators and the public unable to view the wording until the evening before the vote in the Maine House.

This bill follows another law of science put forth about 150 years ago — survival of the fittest. If you’re a 23-year-old man you can get health insurance for a relatively low cost. But if you are 53 years old and have any health problems, the cost will be dramatically greater.

If you want coverage for pregnancy, mammograms, or other apparently frill items you will have to pay a lot more for insurance.

Another argument used by opponents to a universal, single-payer system is that you wouldn’t want government to run your health care program. If government runs it, they will decide what will be covered and will ration care.

But that is done now, and the decision on rationing is done by the chief executive officers and boards of directors of insurance companies. Their goal is to make the largest profits for shareholders, not to see that their customers get medical care.

At the same time that certain politicians say that providing universal health care is unrealistic and that Medicare is unsustainable, those same politicians support the tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens. Simple math will show that they are right that we cannot afford it if we don’t collect the money.

Even at the local level, the direction of the health care debate is going in the opposite direction from a few years ago. The proposed 2011-2012 municipal budget for Rockland calls for a marked shift in health insurance coverage. The manager proposes that for new non-union people hired in the upcoming year and beyond that the city only pay for the premiums (85 percent) for the employee and none for any family members.

For people in the private sector that may seem reasonable. But this is a step back from universal coverage.

The fault lies partially with the public employees who have had a better package than the general public. These employees should have been at the forefront of calling for universal coverage so that there would not be a disparity between the two groups. The political lapdogs for the wealthy have used that disparity as a wedge to try to take away the benefits from government workers.

So now it is a race to the bottom. Instead of providing coverage for more, coverage is being taken away from more people.

Remember that law of physics that an object will continue in the same direction unless it is met by another force. The force to change the current direction will have to be the people.

Stephen Betts is associate editor. His commentary appears on this page on Fridays.