Saturday, March 20, 2010

Health Insurance Reform: Learning to Settle

After 15 months of discussions, debates, procedural votes, false hope inspiring votes, disappointing special elections, televised summits, gut wrenching compromises, childish use of props, fear mongering television pundits, and Dennis Kucinich being force fed a bowl of shit that he had to eat on camera, we are now approaching the latest best hope for some sort of health insurance reform. Let me say clearly that the current bills suck. They are absolutely the wrong way to fix health care in America but it's all we've got right now so get on those phones and call your representatives to support the vote.

What's wrong with the bill?
Leave aside the twitter #hcr tag for the moment and recognize that this bill is not Health Care Reform, but rather Health Insurance Reform. This bill attempts to fix the massive problems in the health care system without fundamentally changing the system itself. What we need to overhaul the American health care system so that it is fair, efficient, and accessible to all. By mandating that people purchase insurance without the guarantee of a public option, the bill will ensure that tax payers money will be directed to the insurance companies which will, at some point, trickle down to the doctors, nurses, lab technicians, and hospitals that treat patients. By not creating a single payer system the bill will continue to guarantee that insurance companies get to keep a third of all monies spent on health care as company profits. And if the Stupak language or measures similar to it are included in the bill, it will force private insurance companies to drop, or make so complicated that most women will not purchase, coverage for abortions. The Stupak language, going even further than the Hyde Amendment would require women to not only sign up separately for abortion coverage, but would have to pay a separate premium for that service if the need should ever arise. This has nothing to do with their claims that they want to prevent federal money from paying for abortions, and everything to do with their goals to outlaw the procedure, something that should not be tangled into an already complex issue like health care reform. Simply put, this bill does not go far enough to effectively reform health care, so if we were at this point in March of 2009 I would advocate that we kill this bill and start over, but we are not in March of 2009.

If Medicare is so wonderful, why don't we expand it to everyone?
Thanks to Senator Coburn's (R-OK) obstructionist move back in December, the American public was denied the opportunity for even the debate on a single payer system. This was really too bad because one of the first things the Republicans did to oppose health care reform was to talk of the money that would be taken from Medicare, America's first single payer system. It was ironic and refreshing to see the very same people who year after year have attempted to kill the federal government's most popular program wax day and night on the cable news channels about how important Medicare is and why we must protect it. It would have been wonderful if, there on the Senate floor, members could have been asked to their faces if Medicare is so wonderful, why then are we denying it to the majority of the country because they aren't 65 yet? Why not expand Medicare to those 55 and up as a buy-in program? Or 45 and up? Or, better yet, expand it to everyone and stop wasting the 20% that the insurance companies are spending on CEO salaries, and unnecessary paperwork that wastes doctors' time.

But if it's wrong, why should Congress pass it?
As has been said over and over by President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, we cannot afford to wait any longer to address the fundamental flaws in our privatized health care system. Too many people are suffering from the tactics and games that the insurance companies are playing with the lives of the American people. Too many people are forced to stay with terrible insurers because they know that with their pre-existing conditions, they will never get coverage elsewhere. Too many people are stuck working jobs they hate because the fear of not being able to find insurance in the individual market is daunting, and rightly so. Too many people are ignorant of the fact that America is spending far more per capita on its health care than any other developed country and not getting better outcomes. Too many people are falling for the Glen Becks and Sean Hannitys who spew lies castigating publicly provided health care while simultaneously pretending to defend medicare. We need Congress to pass this bill so that we can move on and deal with one of the many other issues that the country should be working on at the moment.

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