Saturday, August 1, 2009

Summer Thinking on Health Care Reform

I am going to wade into the water of an issue I am still researching, and trying desperately to be as dispassionate about as possible (it will be difficult given my current circumstances), so bear with me.

As was reported at Think Progress, and on the "Rachel Maddow Show," Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York introduced an amendment to the America's Affordable Health Choices Act in the Health Subcommittee that would eliminate Medicare. I thought it was a stroke of genius in the wake of the disparaging comments that have been coming from corners of the right about the horror of the prospect of government run health care. What I have found interesting is the impression that a number of Seniors seem not to be familiar with the fact that Medicare is a government run health care system.

Many on the right have muddled the issues so sufficiently that many Americans are getting confused about this whole issue. Is the goal to reconstruct the American health insurance model? Is the goal to tinker with Medicaid/Medicare to bring more people into it? Is there really a need for a public option and what does that mean? I recognize that the primary goal seems to be health insurance reform with the idea of trying to lower costs sufficiently enough to allow more people to become insured, and that would include, if BHO had his way, a public option for government provided health insurance.

I agree with much of the analysis that Nate Silver provides a Five Thirty Eight; the Dems and Obama are indeed doing a miserable job of selling the product they want us to buy.

During the August recess on the Hill, I think that members who want health care reform need to make one thing quite clear: Medicare is a popular government run health care program. Therefore, when the right tries to attack the notion that such a system cannot work, the Dems will have an answer. They can also add the health care that is received by our military as well. Even Bill Kristol conceded on "The Daily Show" that the government is capable of running a good health care program, when he referenced the military plan.

The Dems also need to be clear about the fact those on the Hill who do not support health care reform, or worse a toothless version of health care reform, are not only satisfied with the status quo, but they also are major recipients of the health care lobby's largess, a lobby desperate to stop this process. David Sirota's latest analyses (here and here) are, I think, particularly informative.

Finally, I think that the Dems need to call out those on the right who are trying to scare the bejesus out of the elderly, which in my mind is a real form of abuse, by saying that BHO and the Dems are out to murder them with health care reform.

But the Dems are going to have to be mindful of an effort by some on the right to disrupt town hall meetings with all of the tools they can muster to frighten the public out of having frank discussions about the need to reform our health care systems.

Personally, I think that it is outrageous that we do not have universal health care in this country. Joan Walsh was onto something when she wrote about some of the reasons why this country did not follow its Western kin in developing a universal health care system. I am all for those who can afford it to purchase top of the line health care policies for themselves and their families. If you have the cash, go for it. But I think it beyond sad that the "have nots" are left to fend for themselves for even basic health care. There should be no need to hunt to find out what public programs might work (buried in the current bureaucracy). Every American who needs health care should be able to get that health care without worrying about going bankrupt for having done so.

I have many friends who disagree with me on this, and I am cool with that. Of course we would have to look at ways to make sure costs were kept under control. I don't mind paying higher taxes to get something like universal health care, and I think I echo the sentiments of the millions of us who currently lack health insurance.

We have many of the planet's smartest people at our disposal who could devise systems that would allow for such benefits for the nation. Why not challenge them on that? We send men and women up into space. Yet, we can't figure out how to guarantee quality health care to the U.S. population? Talk about not reaching for the stars.


Scott said...

Free, I think this fight is all about money, not health. In the end, the companies making huge profits in our present system are counting on one thing--the stupidity of the American people.

I'm angry at the greed of the insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and I'm angry at the politicians of both parties who sell their vote to those companies. But more than anything else I'm angry at the apathy and willful ignorance of so many of the American people.

Time and again we cave in fear when the moneyed interests buy massive amounts of TV air time (and members of our Congress) to tell us the horror stories of "socialized medicine."

Look! People in Canada are dropping dead like flies because of the "rationing" of care! Big government bureaucrats "coming between you and your doctor!" Research into new life-saving medicines will come to a halt! Old people will be encouraged to die! You'll loose your Medicare! You'll loose your insurance! Socialism! *GASP!*

We fall for it every time.

As somebody once said, we get the government we deserve. Maybe we don't deserve a government that looks after our interests instead of corporate interests. Maybe we're just too damn stupid to deserve that.

I'm feeling a bit cynical and cranky at the moment. Sorry.

hscfree said...

Scott, there is no need for an apology. I was quite restrained in writing that post. I hear you, with regard to your comment.

Since the Truman administration, corporate interests and Republicans (and Dixiecrats, whose children and grandchildren are now the current Republicans) have been waging war to keep us from going down the path of other industrialized nations, and for what? Greater profits for a select few? Of course, and for the bragging rights of having kept "socialism" out of the country.

And don't get me started on those who wouldn't recognize their economic interests if God him/herself came down and told them to vote a certain way. On this issue, the American people have been their own worst enemy, and they have allowed those least interested in those in true need to call the shots.

Pitiful altogether.

Anonymous said...

Your original post was typically thoughtful, if a little strident. But I'm struck but the hostility in Scott's post and your response. Both of you drip your elitist contempt on regular Americans. Scott refers to the "the stupidity of the American people" and you say "the American people have been their own worst enemy." Perhaps it is because the left so clearly has so little respect for the American people that they have difficulty with liberal proposals. This is the core of the left's problem with winning votes outside of the elite coasts. Obama overcame this to some extent because Bush was so unpopular and he was so charming. But I would argue that he is having trouble selling some of his agenda because this, deep hostility you and your brethren have for average Americans. They don't agree with my agenda so they must be stupid or brainwashed by the right. Well, maybe they just don't agree with you. Or maybe you haven't done a good job explaining your ideas.

At the same time you equate all Republicans with Dixiecrats, who ran on segregation. Which Republican in office has called for segregation? You also allude to conservative concern about socialism without acknowledging the very real threat that communism posed to this country for 50 years. History has shown that conservatives were right to be anti-communist during the Cold War and liberals were dead wrong in their sympathy for communism and Soviet Russia. Yet your comments seem to begrudge this truth.

Real health care reform is very complicated and Obama has trying to rush it through in less 6 months. If something had passed by August it would have been a mess of a bill. Take the extra 6 months and aim to get something done by the end of the year. There's lots of great analysis out there on this effort, and your post points to some interesting examples. Obama has chosen to focus on coverage, but there has not been a lot of emphasis on costs. You also lash out at businesses. But Big Business would actually support government taking on the costs of health care, since that would relive them of having to pay for it. But there, Obama has a problem with the unions. I'm not against a government role in health care, they already have a huge role, but Obama's current effort doesn't really address the whole range of issues. I have health coverage. What do I get out of it, besides higher taxes? Will my costs be lowered? Will it be easier to get the treatment or the doctor I want? Or am I just suppose to foot the bill for other people? Is this a new welfare entitlement? Again, I have no problem with cutting into the profits of the health care industry, but Obama has not explained how his "reform" will help the majority of Americans that have coverage.

Here's an article (that later became a book) describing the incredible improvements at the VA hospitals.

hscfree said...

@Anonymous: One of the things I find interesting about the Congressional Republicans is this effort to seem always to be for the "little man," though many of the policies they support are not really helpful to the little man overall. Stagnant wages, jobs continually being shipped overseas (not necessarily because of the dreaded corporate taxes of the horrible U.S. government, but instead for the pure profitability), the crass appeals to God and guns as a means of distraction (Karl Rove basically said as much; Lee Atwater used race as a similar means, and sought forgiveness on his deathbed). These are things that drive me up the wall.

You throw out the term elitist like conservatives throw out "liberal." It's meant as a pejorative, and for too many it's like kryptonite. I am confortable with my elitist qualities. I think that by providing as much information to folks as possible then they will be in the best position to make informed decisions. I don't think that it is a stretch to suggest that the American people collectively have short attention spans. It's why sound bites are so very effective. They are like brain skittles, a quick rush, and then you move on.

I would rather be an elitist than to go on the radio or television and tell people that health care reform is simply a means by which the current administration wishes to have you killed. I would rather be an elitist than to be a politician of any party who is so in bed with the industry in need of reform that I can't see past my campaign dollars.

The faux populism of the GOP reminds me of the actions of the bourbons during the era of American populism in the late 19th century. They found as many possible wedge issues to divide and conquer a burgeoning movement that had the possibility of really raising the standards of agricultural workers across the country, particularly in the South.

And if it seemed that I equated all Republicans with the former Dixiecrats, then that was a mistake on my part, because I know that is far from true. I will review the sentence and make the appropriate change.

hscfree said...

I see that it's in my comment to Scott. The missing word is "among." Therefore, the aside should read like this: "...and Dixiecrats, whose children and grandchildren are now among the current Repbulicans."

Scott said...

Hey, I resent the implication that in his response to my comment Free somehow matched my hostility. No way! I'm MUCH more hostile than Free is! Free is a gentleman! I'm a thug. Well, ok--a thug who drips elitist contempt...but a thug nonetheless. And proud of it.