I am as conflicted and confused as ever over the healthcare issue.
I have been reading just about everything I can get my hands on, including some great thoughts from my fellow bloggers, to try to be as informed as possible. I have asked the opinions of people I respect. I have talked to doctors.
I have listened to conservatives tell me how this is the beginning of socialized medicine; how, if the “public option” happens, the private insurers will be driven out of business and the government will become bigger and bigger; and how we will eventually have to wait weeks/months/years to obtain medical treatment we might need. I have also been told the proposed healthcare legislation has provisions that encourage euthanasia for older patients (this is not true).
Those more to the left allow as to how we are the only industrialized nation that does not assure healthcare for its citizens; how we have allowed the insurance companies to take over and run healthcare and, in so doing, cut out a major portion of the population via their various denials of coverage (Nancy Pelosi has called the insurance companies “villains”); and how upwards of 45 million are uninsured, which is unacceptable.
I have read authentic stories of patients in Canada and the UK who have, in fact, died while waiting for some procedure due to the government red tape involved. There are also accounts of patients from other countries, who in fact have some form of government insurance, coming to the U.S. to get treatment and paying from their own pockets due to the superiority of care in this country.
I have also read heart-wrenching accounts of hard working middle class Americans going bankrupt because of a catastrophic illness; a father whose Down Syndrome daughter was denied coverage because of her “pre-existing condition” when he changed from one insurance provider to another; and, maybe the most preposterous of all, a happily married couple who, upon recommendation of a hospital social worker, divorced so the husband, who contracted early-onset dementia and could no longer work, could qualify for Medicaid by not having to count his wife’s income.
It is enough to make one scream. And, after all this reading and studying, I am really not any closer to having a firm opinion. Here, however, are my thoughts today:
-- I think the Obama administration, though perhaps well intentioned, has done a horrible job of presenting the healthcare package to the American people. Although regular readers here know that I respect the man a great deal, sometimes I watch and listen to the president speak on this matter and think that he really doesn’t get it. He comes across as arrogant and impatient. I feel like he’s telling me to just get on board and let him work out the details. And that’s not Democracy, folks.
-- President Obama went on a popular national radio show recently to tout healthcare reform. There were callers to whom he spoke. To one of them he said, emphatically, “I guarantee you we will pass healthcare reform.” Really?! Seems a former president and his wife tried to make the same guarantee back in the early 1990s and look where it got them.
-- I am tired of people crying “socialized medicine.” Socialized medicine means the government essentially owns all the hospitals, and the doctors work for the government. A “single payer” system means the pay to the healthcare providers is funneled through the government but the providers are all still independent. They are not the same thing. As I see it, socialized medicine is not even on the table. A single payer plan, of sorts, would happen via the public option, but we would still not have a complete single payer system because private insurers would still exist. This is NOT socialized medicine. Maybe it's coming, but this is not it.
-- Along those lines, Medicare, enacted by the Johnson administration in the early 1960s, is an example of a single payer plan. Seniors who are on Medicare have their bills submitted directly to a government entity that pays them. I am sure it has its flaws but there are many elderly people who are very protective of it and, understandably, don’t want to lose it -- a lot of the same people who are so upset about the public option. A little ironic, it seems.
-- Insurance companies should not be painted as the “villains” in all of this, a la Nancy Pelosi. Some time ago, healthcare costs skyrocketed so that every person now must have health insurance to avoid bankruptcy in the event of a catastrophic illness. It was not always this way. For many years my dad, who was self-employed and the breadwinner for a family of four, did not carry health insurance but, rather, he “self-insured.” Today that would hardly be possible. Because health insurance today is not what it was originally designed to be, the companies have had to make drastic changes. They’re in the business – surprise, surprise – to make money so, just like any business, they are going to design themselves to have as few costs as possible and retain as much cash as possible. Because the cash they dispense goes to pay for our very wellbeing, it’s very personal to us as consumers. But it’s silly to call them “villains.”
-- My friend Steve wrote a great piece in which he questioned the whole matter of how healthcare today is so tied to our jobs. Getting health insurance is pretty much expected in this country when one applies for work. Steve hits the nail on the head, saying, “the fact that our healthcare is tied to employment is one of the reasons we are in this mess.” Wow, I could not agree more on that one. Why in the world should it be so? Would-be entrepreneurs are constrained from following their dreams because they need a job that provides health insurance.
My heart is heavy when I hear of hard-working American people who are denied coverage for healthcare. I have heard the accusations of laziness, making bad choices, etc. But I am careful not to judge another’s situation. Thank God, I have not been in those shoes. Not yet anyway.
Be that as it may, I still have a big problem with more and bigger government. Yes, we’ve had Social Security and Medicare around for a long time. But that doesn’t give me much comfort. I will be honest: the “public option” really scares me.
Although I am a little more informed than I might have been a few months ago, I am not any closer to a strong feeling either way.
I am prayerfully hopeful that our representatives from both sides will come together and tame this beast that is called healthcare. It is going to take hard work and it is going to take compromise. Arrogance, name calling, yelling and making outrageous exaggerated claims will not get it done.