So, Sara (my sister) and I disagree over Universal Health Care. She also comes from a very different insurance situation than I, so both of our personal experiences undoubtedly effect our opinions on this topic. But in one of our many discussions on the issue, we did manage to discover and agree on the areas of our current medical model that need the most reform. They are as follows:
1. Insurance ought not to be so tied up with employment. It makes it too difficult for the self-employed (or unemployed) to procure medical coverage, therefore dampening the entrepreneurial (and compassionate) spirit of America.Now, I don't know how to solve all these problems. Obviously. If I did, I'd probably run for POTUS in 2012 (and wouldn't that be a riot). But I do know what WON'T work and that's universal health care and socialized medicine.
2. Pre-existing conditions. Insurance shouldn't be able to deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions. (Though, making a statement like that has some interesting repercussions that will be discussed presently).
3. Doctors need some relief from medical malpractice suits brought on by "We the [sue happy] People" of America. Part of the reason their prices are so high is because we drive them up when we force doctors to pay for malpractice insurance.
As a good friend put it, "We need insurance reform, not health care reform." But instead of finding and fixing weaknesses (like those mentioned above), the current administration seems rather hell-bent on throwing out the baby with the bathwater, disregarding personal choice and responsibility, and taking over health care entirely.
Last night Bugga woke up having leaked a large puddle of pee-pee all over his bed. He and Buddha were sharing a bed, as I often let them do, so I had to wake up Buddha and move him to the top bunk, change Bugga and put him in our bed, and strip the wet sheet off his bed. By the time all of this was accomplished, I was unhappily wide awake. As I tried hard to shut off my brain and go back to sleep, thoughts of this universal health care mess came creeping into my mind unbidden (and unwelcome, I might add). I thought about how much I'd like to be pregnant again and how awful it would be if something threatening came up during my pregnancy and I couldn't take care of it in an efficient manner because of an inadequate response time characteristic of an overburdened "savior system." I thought my way all around the health care issue and still feel quite content in vehemently opposing any effort to replace private health care with government health care. And, of course, I started turning my thoughts into a blog post (translate: diatribe).
But before I had the chance to even start a post on this subject today, the topic came up on Facebook. I love Facebook. I didn't used to, but I've learned it is an EXCELLENT tool for the dissemination of critical information. It is my activist outlet. :P So anyway, I've been articulating my sentiments "over there" and now can't seem to organize my thoughts for this post. So I'll be cheating by doing an inordinate amount of copying and pasting.
Well what works about our current system that wouldn't work if we adopt universal health care? I mean, come on Liz, who wouldn't want the government to just take care of everything for them, provide for them, read their mail for them, spoon feed them, make their choices for them? (Picture me waving my hands frantically in the air now and screaming "me, me, me" at the top of my lungs while jumping up and down spasmodically). Right now, our medical system is one driven by competition. When people compete, we defeat! Okay, I admit, that was lame. But it's true! Competition is a healthy and successful way to nurture and drive innovation, invention, and quality. If doctors and insurance companies have to compete with each other, there is more impetus to offer something better than the next guy. If government takes over, the element of competition will be eliminated and, consequently, the impetus for one to excel above the rest by offering either better service, better care, or better costs. Translation: people lose. "But Liz," you protest, "universal health care is not the government attempt to take over. Instead, private insurance will still be available for those who want it and the government will merely provide a low-cost option for the poor who cannot currently afford insurance." Right. IN THEORY, this sounds wonderful. But in terms of business management, if you have the means to undercut your competitor and still come out on top (as the government would have in this case), then naturally you will choke out your competition altogether. What doctor has the ability to compete with a government that does not practice sound budgeting principles and does not honor fiscal limitations?! And what doctor can do that while simultaneously paying exorbitant amounts of money toward personal liability insurance which the government would be able to forgo or charge to their no-limit credit card?
Alright, this is too funny. So as I'm writing this, I have just received an e-mail from the POTUS about his health care press conference that will be aired tonight. And, interestingly enough, the areas of reform he is targeting are right on point with what I am outlining. So let me just copy and paste what he says and we'll take it from there. Stick with me. Rub your eyes, splash some water in your face, do 20 jumping jacks, then come sit right back down. It's worth it. I promise.
Says our president:
"If you already have health insurance: reform will provide you with more security and stability. It will limit your own out of pocket costs [HOW?] and prevent your insurance company from dropping your coverage if you get too sick [HOW?]. You'll also have affordable insurance options if you lose or change your job [HOW?]. And it will cover preventive care like check-ups and mammograms that save lives and money.If you rock the boat, someone is bound to fall out. Which party will be fed to the sharks when it comes to health care reform? Doctors? Insurance companies? We the People? Surely not the government since they are the rocking perpetrators and, therefore, the ones most prepared to absorb the shock of movement without falling overboard. The Chief and I have discussed the insurance conundrum at length. What's interesting, and irritatingly misleading, in the president's second statement above, is that right now (meaning, pre-Obama reform) those with pre-existing medical conditions aren't usually denied medical coverage. Instead, they are offered medical coverage at a higher premium. It's a basic business model: "If you can potentially cost me more money than the average person, then I will charge you more money than the average person to offset that cost." And if one insurance carrier will, in fact, not cover you, then you have the wonderful ability to shop around until you find one that will. Basically, when we pay for medical insurance, we are paying into a service pool. We pay for a sense of security whether we currently need medical attention or not. Chronic hypochondriacs and 0% body fat, heart-healthy gym-goers alike, both ends of the spectrum represent people who feel that a monthly medical insurance payment is worth the sense of security it lends. But then here comes Big Brother Government telling insurance companies that they have to insure the guy with recurring and soon-to-be fatal hemorrhoids AT THE SAME AFFORDABLE PREMIUM AS THOSE IN A LOWER-RISK POOL and suddenly the insurance companies are scrambling to drive up the cost of everyone's premiums in order to offset the cost of Hemi's medical bills. If this happens, where do you think everyone will go? Ah yes, the "more affordable" government health care option. Annnnnnnd VOILA, the government has eliminated its competition and created a single-payer, socialized health care system with that one, single mandate. A system that, with its now-bulging enrollment, will soon become overburdened and inefficient. Again, I don't know how to solve this problem to the satisfaction of all involved. In fact, this particular subject is an extremely sensitive one considering the fact that my brother-in-law and Hemi have something in common (no, not hemorrhoids). Jarem had cancer when he was 14 and had his leg amputated because of it. Now, he has been cancer free for years and years and years, but still cannot find an insurance carrier willing to cover him at a reasonable cost. Jarem, could you chime in here? I'm really curious to hear how you feel about this proposed health care reform. Perhaps what we need is medical malpractice waivers, legally binding contracts that allow a doctor to offer medical services at a discounted rate to those who are uninsured, thus providing another reasonable health care option for those who do not wish to procure insurance.
If you don't have health insurance: you will finally have guaranteed access to quality, affordable health care, and you can choose the plan that best suits your family's needs [HOW?]. And no insurance company will be allowed to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition [HOW?]."
What it all boils down to for me is that government was created as an extension of the smaller, self-governing units of individual, family, and community. This extension was never intended to undermine choice. This extension was never intended to seep into business and dictate management and service models. The pioneers of our country knew all-too-well the kind of fiend that an overreaching government could become. Big government was never, ever in their vision for our country's future and with good reason. We've seen what government-run programs look like (DMV . . . 'nough said) and it's not pretty.
Obama's "must-do-this-now-while-we-have-the-opportunity-to-do-it" attitude is irritating. Overhauling a system like health care is not something that can be qualitatively achieved in a short period of time. What's the rush?! Why is Obama saying, "We have to seize this opportunity and pass health insurance reform this year"?! Change needs to happen, sure, but why does our current administration seem to approach every bit of legislation, from stimulus to budget to health care, with such a sense of urgency that none of those voting on it actually has the chance to read it! It's irresponsible at best and downright shady at worst. And then Obama actually has the gall to say, "Without reform, we are consigning our children to a future of skyrocketing premiums and crushing deficits." Um. You already did that, Mr. President, when you rushed the stimulus package into being and "skyrocketed" our deficit to $3.27 trillion with an insane government budget. All this fabricated urgency is strangely reminiscent of the "fear mongering" Conservatives are always accused of.
Maybe I should run for president, after all.
Here are some of the other comments I appreciated during our Facebook discussion:
From Jeffery: "Samuel - I have to respectfully disagree that the president has a dream or vision that is promoting the core values of the USA. What core values are those that he is promoting? In what instance has a government run entitlement program had even marginal success? Look at medicare/medicaid and the problems and issues that those have had. I for one have no confidence that this will end up any more successful. Are there also 'moral' implications with quick trigger decisions on a bill that in President Obama's own words, he hasn't read?! Governments job isn't to be the provider of everything people think is their 'right'"And check out this site, AngelFire, for a comprehensive list of depressing news headlines coming out of nations that currently operate under a socialized health care model. Yes, there are negative medical headlines coming out of the US of A, too, but like I said, should we really be throwing the baby out with the bathwater?
From Lara: "Very interesting debate. There are very strong feelings on both sides. I have to say I [sic] with the Elizabeths on this one. The Founding Fathers warned again and again against the dangers of a 'welfare' state. It is not the American vision to have the government taking care of the people, that just creates debilitating dependency. The American vision is to have a people that are self-sufficient and at times when that cannot happen it is the moral responsilblity (if you want to talk morals) of American citizens to take care of each other, not for the federal government to take control and become everyones provider. The government has a very poor track record of being able to successfully run its own programs, I don't know why so many people think that government will be able to do any better with health care."
From James: "Since when has the Government had a reputation of getting things done well? The whole concept behind the plan isn't bad, but are you really willing to let THESE guys be in charge of it? Government is a necessary evil, but we need to be thinking about how much power we really want it to have. I'm sorry but I don't want the Government deciding on whether I will get a life saving operation or not. In a recent public appearance by the President, a man asked a question. His was question was, I have no health care plan right now because I don't have the money for it and I don't find it a necessity right now. Will I be forced to have my own health care plan? The answer was yes, or he will be fined. Now, whether it's smart or not to have your own healthcare plan, his choice is virtually being taken away by the Government. Also, in the current proposed bill, if you change your current health care plan (changes like more coverage in a certain area) you lose your plan."
[Check out this article that confirms this "mandatory health insurance" assertion on a state level in MA.]
I now turn the time over to you. ;0) Please chime in. I am eager to learn more and read more opinions.
Doh! I totally forgot to add this video link to an excellent 20/20 series with John Stossel called "Sick in America." Gives some good perspective on Canadian health care and an interesting response to Michael Moore's "Sicko." Watch it.
And watch this one, too. Four minutes. You can do it. Pass it along.