On Health Care Reform and the Debate

Can we invoke Godwin’s Law on the protestors railing against health care reform?

We have cases such as these:

A woman in Massachusetts compares reform to Nazism and holds up a sign of President Obama with a Hitler-esque mustache, prompting Representative Barney Frank to ask her what world she lives in and compare speaking with her to be as edifying and as fruitless as speaking with his dining room table.

An Israeli living in the United States is interviewed in Las Vegas, and while praising Israel’s national health system, a woman shouts “Heil Hitler” at him, prompting a tirade from the man about the insanity of shouting “Heil Hitler” at an Israeli Jew.

Curiously, the woman is wearing an “Israeli Defense Force” t-shirt.

Health care reform is needed in this country. One in seven Americans lack health insurance, and millions more have “junk insurance” — high premiums and high deductibles on policies that provide no value to them. Insurance companies work hard to increase profits and deny coverage; a few years ago, I worked for an insurance company in Baltimore, next to the Appeals Department, and I wondered at times how the people who worked there could look at themselves in the mirror, I wondered why they hadn’t poisoned their livers from insane alcohol consumption because I know that, in their position, I would have. The health care system is broken. It won’t get better on its own.

I’ve never understood why conservatives are hell-bent on opposing health care reform. Ronald Reagan argued famously in the 1961 that Medicare would lead to totalitarianism. Conservatives are now talking about “death panels” and euthenasia, that faceless bureaucrats, not doctors, whill be making medical decisions. Unfortunately, faceless bureaucrats already make medical decisions; whenever an insurance company denies coverage or pre-approval of a procedure, when an insurance company denies payment on a medicine a doctor prescribed or will only cover an alternate medicine, a faceless bureaucrat — in reality, someone working in a cubicle, who probably has no medical training whatsoever, who was like those bitter people I met working in an Appeals Department — has taken the medical decision out of a doctor’s hands.

Conservatives think that a “public option” — essentially, a robust Medicare program that anyone may enroll in, that can get the one in seven Americans not covered by insurance today insured, that can give people whose only option is junk insurance a real option — will lead to socialism or, in extreme cases of fuckmuppetry, Nazism. But look at nations like Canada, Britain, and France, nations that have true national health care systems, nations that have robust, vibrant democracies. The democratic principles on which America was founded two centuries ago won’t be washed away because of health care reform, and certainly not if, with a public option, we had a hybrid public/private system.

I wrote on a Star Trek bulletin board yesterday: “I find it ironic that the people shouting down Congressmen at town halls meetings and comparing the health care bill to Nazism are the very same people who would have condoned, if not outright applauded, the torture in Guantanamo and other prisons, who would have defended the torturers by saying “They were only following orders” and offering up the Nuremberg Defense. I wonder if they’re aware of the cognitive disconnect of their positions, I wonder if they’re aware of their historical tone-deafness. I doubt it.”

The people railing against health care reform don’t even know what they’re attacking. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight points out that support for health care reform increases by seventeen percentage points when its basics are explained. Instead, the debate is being framed by slogans, misinformation, emotional issues, and historical inanity. Rather than argue for the plan, the Democrats are arguing in defense of the plan. They haven’t chosen their battlegrounds, they haven’t chosen their fights. The retreat on the public option that was floated over the weekend is the surest sign of that. Obama isn’t spending his poltical capital on the fight, even though his base would have his back if only he would show the will to fight.

Insurance mandates alone won’t work; forcing people to buy health insurance won’t fix the problem, it will only enrich a health insurance system that’s already broken. Heavy regulation of the insurance industry could work, with legally mandated limits on premiums, deducibles, and the like, but there’s no political will for that, and it would be legally tricky. A public option will work, because it’s a broader Medicare, which has worked for forty-plus years.

If you think we don’t need health care reform, ask yourself.

Do you think it’s right that one in seven Americans lack health coverage? What do you think it says about the United States that we permit that?

Do you think it’s right that people are bankrupted by health care costs? That people put off basic medical procedures because they can’t afford access to the system? That people who have insurance, who think their medical needs are covered, face the same risk of financial bankruptcy?

Reform. It’s the right thing to do.

2 thoughts on “On Health Care Reform and the Debate

  1. Conservatives think that a “public option”… will lead to socialism or, in extreme cases of fuckmuppetry, Nazism.

    Is there a better term for “they’re taking money from my pocket to pay for expenses outside the common defense” than socialism?

    But look at nations like Canada, Britain, and France, nations that have true national health care systems, nations that have robust, vibrant democracies.

    I don’t think that Canada or Britain (don’t know enough about France to say either way) are robust. It’s all dependent on the continued good graces–and funding–of the government. If they vote to discontinue health coverage tomorrow, where’s the fallback?

    Do you think it’s right that one in seven Americans lack health coverage?

    I don’t think it’s right that the way to their coverage is through my pocketbook.

    Ideally, nobody would have insurance and everybody would pay (reasonable) prices out-of-pocket as necessary. But if the cost is yet more government regulation on an already-strangled industry, I don’t think that’s worth paying.

  2. I’m not for the public option because I fail to see how it wouldn’t eventually abolish the health insurance industry. Some would say that it needs to be abolished, but a lot of people work in that industry that aren’t CEOs and such. Government would have an automatic advantage when it comes to pricing because they can “afford” to take a loss. The playing field is rigged from the start and any talk of competition becomes moot as health insurance companies close shop because they can’t compete with the government. Eventually, health care becomes another bloated government program (Obama isn’t going to stay in office forever and truth be told, his administration’s track record of management on several items isn’t too great — witness TARP). Some would say that’s a good thing (being a government program, not the bloated part — I hope), but this is a key part of the debate that I don’t see getting too much airtime.

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