Posts Tagged healthcare

Reforming the healthcare reform debate

The most painful part of today’s passage of a bill that will allow people to keep their health insurance plans–regardless of whether they meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act–isn’t watching President Obama capitulate to more Republican pressure. It’s listening to everyone complain about it.

Obama was wrong to say that people could keep their plans in all circumstances but this, along with the constant criticism of Healthcare.gov, is getting out of hand.

The President should have been clearer about the law, and the people handling its rollout should have made sure the website worked. They didn’t. It’s not that big of a deal.

People like to point to the constant political strife in Washington as the nexus of this country’s problems, but the strife runs much deeper than that.

The Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) is a very middle-of-the-road policy, which is why no one likes it. Liberals don’t like it because it’s not a single-payer system. Conservatives don’t like it because Obama created it.

Everyone else seems to be disgruntled because it requires them to change policies or pay more money. Never mind that they’re getting more coverage.

“Healthcare reform” means just that. It’s about providing access to healthcare for the maximum number of people, and implies no guarantee that certain people won’t be inconvenienced by a change of the status quo.

That big-picture reality applies to people’s ideas about healthcare reform as well.

Many liberals decry Obama for not enacting a single-payer system, and instead delivering millions of customers to the insurance companies. But where were these people when the Affordable Care Act was being drafted?

Did they stare down conservative opponents of the law, or just criticize the President for not doing what they wanted?

Two years after the passage of Obamacare, people are still complaining about the lack of a single-payer system. Yes, that would be fantastic. But the time to advocate for it was when the law was being drafted.

The biggest problem with Obamacare may just be that it is the President’s signature domestic policy. It makes it too easy for people to criticize the man and abandon the policy in the process.

Supporters of healthcare reform need to be for healthcare reform, not their own specific idea of healthcare reform. They need to stop throwing their hands up and shaking their heads every time a setback occurs. The ship will never get anywhere if everyone jumps off.

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Civil disobedience 2012

On Monday, 76 people were arrested after they occupied the Capitol rotunda. Isn’t that amazing news? Demonstrators, including actor Noah Wyle, from Americans with Disabilities for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT) filled the rotunda to protest proposed cuts to Medicaid services. It’s easy to be cynical about today’s politics, but demonstrations like this show that Americans are willing to fight for their rights.

Most disabled Americans require expensive care that the average person cannot afford. Insurance coverage is usually unavailable, and the bureaucracy of the insurance industry often prevents treatments from being administered in a consistent fashion. Some Americans may cringe at the idea of government-funded healthcare, but that’s exactly what the government has been providing to the nation’s Medicaid patients. So, it’s worked pretty well.

However, Republicans in the House of Representatives are trying to cut certain Medicaid services, in order to trim perceived fat from the federal budget. ADAPT’s stated goal was to convince House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) to require that states fund alternatives to nursing homes and institutions, the default for state-managed care in many areas.

Conservatives, especially “Tea Partiers,” fear government intervention in their lives. That is exactly what the people represented by these 76 protestors face, all at the hands of the GOP. Having to fight to live independently, instead of being forced to live in an institution, is a real crisis of freedom. Don’t people have the right to live in their own homes, instead of being forced by circumstance to have their lives run by others.

Does the happiness and freedom of a small minority outweigh the crushing national debt? That point will surely be debated on talk shows and from pulpits, but the point is that these people took action. They didn’t hold a rally and congregate with like-minded people, and they didn’t tell the President to suck on a machine gun. Instead, they went right into the proverbial belly of the beast and forced the politicians to listen.

The protestors were arrested, but that’s part of the game. This was an important matter and they were willing to make sacrifices for the cause. Monday’s protest may not achieve what it needs to, but the people involved tried their best. It was civil disobedience at its finest. We could all learn something from this.

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The government is forcing us to pay for our medicine

Supreme Court protestors

Photo courtesy of the New York Times.

Tuesday’s Supreme Court hearing was unusually lively. People with signs stood outside America’s highest court, and justices sparred verbally with Solicitor General Donald B. Verilli Jr. This is a momentous occasion in American politics. The biggest piece of social legislation in generations, President Obama’s healthcare reform law, is on trial.

The central issue in Tuesday’s arguments was whether the federal government can require people to get health insurance; what the administration calls the “minimum coverage provision,” popularly known as the “individual mandate.” Verilli cited Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, which gives the federal government power over interstate commerce. The purchase of health services is part of interstate commerce, the administration argued.

The opposition argued that, since people without health insurance are not engaging in such an act of commerce, they cannot be regulated. In this view, the government would be forcing people to purchase something from a private company.

“Can you create commerce in order to regulate it?” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy asked. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. likened the individual mandate to the government forcing everyone to buy cell phones.

I am not a lawyer, but I do think Justices Kennedy and Roberts, and their conservative allies, are misinterpreting the implications of the health care law. If health insurance, and the health services it pays for, were a frivolous consumer product, they would be right. However, everyone needs to see a doctor at some point during their life. A health insurance mandate is simply stating the obvious: everyone needs to have a way to pay for their healthcare.

This simple fact has gotten caught up in a vicious debate over American freedoms that doesn’t need to be continued here. The bottom line is that everyone gets sick, medical services are expensive, and we should not kid ourselves otherwise. If your insurance company pays for your medication, that doesn’t make you the lackey of an authoritarian state. It does make you a more productive member of society, and we could use more of those.

People may be spooked by the idea of the government mandating something, but that’s kind of what it does. Congress is empowered by the people to make laws, and it has used its power over interstate commerce to regulate plenty of things. According to the New York Times, Congress used the commerce clause to regulate how much wheat is grown on family farms, and to stop home-grown marijuana. Those seem like fairly local, private, concerns, but no one seemed to care when the federal government got involved.

Some might argue that selling wheat and weed are economic transactions, while the decision not to buy health insurance is a form of inactivity. Does anyone who opposes the healthcare law own a car? If they plan on driving said car, they’ll need car insurance. As with health insurance, the people’s elected officials decided that car insurance was a necessity, and that everyone should have it.

If you get in a car accident, would it be fair if the person who hit you couldn’t pay to repair your car, so you had to fix it? Similarly, is it fair to spend the rest of your life paying medical bills after getting sick once? As a business owner, is it fair to lose an employee who can’t afford medical treatment, or customers who don’t have any  money to spend after paying their medical bills? Everyone needs a secure way to pay for their healthcare, Obama’s healthcare law is just making sure that they get one.

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Freedom to choose

The recent debate over whether the Obama administration should mandate coverage of contraception under its healthcare overhaul is all about freedom. Obama’s opponents argue that letting women choose birth control would trample the right of Catholic organizations, who don’t believe in birth control, but do employ non-Catholics, to practice their religion.

They have a good point, so I’ve made a list of all the freedoms that every party involved (Catholic employers, their employees, insurance companies) is being denied by the administration’s insistence on contraception:

Catholic organizations will have the freedom to practice their religion without persecution, and the added freedom to force those beliefs on non-Catholic employees and insurance companies.

Insurance companies will have the freedom to spend thousands of dollars per pregnancy, instead of being forced to save money and give their customers options.

The employees will have the freedom to choose pregnancy, or to not have sex.

If the employees do choose to have sex, they will have the freedom to care for a child regardless of their marital or financial status, or give the child up for adoption.

Either way, women will have the freedom to spend nine months pregnant, whether they want the child or not. That gives them the added freedom to possibly lose their job after they take time off to give birth.

If employees choose to keep their children, they have the freedom to choose where to work and live in order to create the happiest, most fulfilling life for themselves and their children. Except they won’t want to take any risks, like taking time off to finish college, or speaking up about unfair working conditions, because they could lose their job. They have a child to support, after all.

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