Both Sides of the Health Care Debate Have Me Worried Sick.

health care debate

The right wing puts in our heads all kinds of horror stories demonstrating that public health care in the countries that have it (Canada, the UK, etc.) is a prescription for disaster — people not receiving desperately-needed operations for years, having to wait interminably for doctor appointments when they have terminal diseases, and on and on.

Meanwhile, the left wing (as with The Huffington Post’s banner story yesterday) counters with horror stories demonstrating that private insurance companies, in the system we have now, deny people essential, life-saving procedures because of evil corporate greed or bureaucratic incompetence.

To educate yourself on the issue, you examine both sides, and all you come away with is the horror of both. And that way lies despair. You conclude that continuation of the status quo sucks and is completely unacceptable, and that every possible change from the status quo sucks and is completely unacceptable.

Maybe both sides should be talking about why their health care solution is good, instead.

In the meantime, here’s what makes sense to me. It’s the health care plan I thought Obama proposed when he was campaigning.

No public health care.

Instead, everybody gets private health care insurance. You change the laws so that the insurance companies are required to give you coverage, regardless of preexisting conditions, and are prohibited from taking your coverage away if you lose your job. You also require everybody to get insurance — thereby putting healthy young people (who don’t think they need insurance and now don’t have it) into the system, which will keep the system solvent. For people below the poverty line, the government subsidizes (or completely pays for) their insurance premiums. Middle-income people get a tax credit to help defray the burden.

What’s wrong with that?

Here’s my concern with a “public health care option.” I think it will quickly cease to be an option and become the only choice, as more and more employers use the existence of public health care as a justification for eliminating health coverage as an employee fringe benefit.

Once, health care was seen by employers as a valuable perk they could use to lure a top-flight workforce. Now health care is just an expensive albatross around employers’ necks, one they will rid themselves of as soon as they defensibly can. The existence of public health care will give them the cover they need to do that. So Obama’s avowal that under his public health care option “you can keep the private insurance you have now, if you choose to do that” is a misconception, I’m afraid. You can’t keep private health insurance if your employer takes it away using the rationale that you have a plan B.

Meanwhile, evidence seems to say that as flawed as our present system is, it works, for the people who have private health care insurance. 80% of them say they’re satisfied. And while our health care system is expensive, it also works. Mortality rates for common cancers are much lower here than in countries with public health care.

So just do my plan. There, I’m glad that’s solved.


4 Comments on “Both Sides of the Health Care Debate Have Me Worried Sick.”

    • Mark Contorno says:

      I love your/Obama’s old health plan. It’s perfect. Now please go to Washington and explain it to these idiots.

  1. Gman says:

    August 7, 2009, 8:13 pm
    Weekend Opinionator: A Sick Debate
    By Tobin Harshaw

    12. August 8, 2009 1:57 am Link
    I have lived in Europe, the USA (NYC and FLA) and currently live in Canada. I am a reasonably well-informed financial executive. I make my living as a capitalist.

    I wouldn’t know where to begin re: the health care debate but I will make a couple of observations:

    1. The USA has the finest health care in the world — bar none — provided that you have a no-limit gilt-edged money is no object health plan. Or you are rich. In my experience the 2 go hand in hand.

    Failing such insurance or such boundless wealth how any rational human being with an IQ over 75 and an income below, say, $250k (forget the social compassion argument) could defend the existing system is beyond comprehension.

    2. The outright lies — yes lies — that critics of health care reform spew is disturbing. The intentional misrepresentation of the Canadian and European models is outrageous. The Canadian model is flawed. There needs to be greater access to ‘private-delivery’ alternatives (which currently exist in some fields.) Having said that, since I returned to the province of Ontario in the late 1990’s until now the improvement in standards and care is staggering and in most cases matches anything I witnessed or experienced in NYC. Yes, health care is rationed here (hence a need for ancillary private care) but it is rationed everywhere — including the US. The exception being as per point #1 above. Per capita Ontario spends approximately 65% of what the consumers/taxpayers of the US/NY spend. However Ontario delivers 90% — or more — of the US standard. That is one very big financial/efficiency/productivity gap. That money gap goes to the US insurance companies, doctors, malpractice lawyers and lobbyists. The common canard about Canada etc is that “faceless bureaucrats make life or death decisions” (as opposed to, say, faceless HMO clerks). The truth is that in Canada the ‘gatekeepers’ who allocate critical care are the physicians themselves — the specialists.

    3. Aside from private-payment plastic surgeons it is true you will not see many doctors in Canada driving a Rolls Royce. But you will see an awful lot driving a Benz or a Jag. Doctors here work hard and are well compensated. What we lack here is the concept that a medical degree should be attributed Venture Capitalist returns.

    4. Lastly, a general observation/question (again, I really am a capitalist). Why is it that in the USA (a country I genuinely love) millions of people who barely make a living or are working class and/or just holding on to the ‘middle class’ are the most vocal — hysterical wouldn’t be an exaggeration — in defending the privileges of the rich and the corporate? Against their own self-interest I might add. Anywhere else in the western world the existing US health care tyranny would have people in the streets demanding reform — not ‘debating’ it. — jon c
    Thursday, July 30, 2009
    The Health Care Debate and Tommy Douglas, Greatest Canadian of All Time

    Few Americans may realize that a Baptist minister is recognized by Canadians as the “Greatest Canadian of All Time.” Tommy Douglas, who died in 1986, is one of history’s most influential Baptists that few outside of Canada know. And here in the summer of 2009, Douglas’ legacy is extremely relevant to the biggest issue facing Americans: health care.

    Tommy Douglas, you see, was the man who brought about Canada’s universal public health care system, a health care system which Canadians for several generations now have chosen to pay extra taxes to operate and maintain, and a health care system which 91% of Canadians today view as superior to America’s health care system. Furthermore, Douglas set Canada on the road to universal health care during the Great Depression, while here in America today President Obama is seeking to do the very same thing during the current Great Recession.

    Douglas, a minister turned politician, first became personally aware of the moral imperative of health care when as a child he almost lost his leg to a disease because his family could not pay for treatment; only by the good graces of a doctor, who offered his medical services for free, was Douglas’ leg saved. Influenced by the Christian principles of the Social Gospel while in collge, Douglas pastored for several years before entering politics during the Depression in 1935, becoming the Premier of Saskatchewan in 1942. He remained a leading politician in Canada for many years, consistently advocating for universal health care and basic human rights. Under his leadership, the Saskatchewan Bill of Rights was enacted. And while securing public health care for all citizens, Douglas paid off government debt and created a surplus.

    Although today most Americans want a public health care option, we as a nation are slow to the table in responding to the moral imperative of basic universal public health care (although a number of presidents, beginning with Teddy Roosevelt, have personally supported public health care). If we as a nation this year do manage to place human life above the greed-driven free market health insurance industry by enacting a public health care option, we have Tommy Douglas to thank, one of the greatest Baptists of the past century.
    Posted by Bruce Gourley at 7:00 AM
    Labels: baptist, government, greed, health care, insurance, Teddy Roosevelt, Tommy Douglas

  2. […] Minus that last parenthesis, 49 words. If I can do that, why can’t Congress and President Obama? It’s not brain […]

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