More on Healthcare

I wrote this piece yesterday, hoping to finish up this morning. I was waylaid by a cute baby. Most of what I’ve written will likely be moot as the debate unfolds and even this morning there is talk of a Blue Dog breakthrough (CNN, Politico, Fox). If you read nothing else, read this opinion piece in the New York Times (here) that outlines what the reform looks like right now and why, even if you have coverage now, you should want to see reform.

I take some time to enjoy my new baby girl and the healthcare debate appears to go to shit, hijacked by a stupid overreaction in race relations (by both sides, but I assign a higher fault the people who are supposed to be professionals: the cops) and a media desperate for ad impressions. Obama was right to say that the police acted stupidly. We pay them to carry guns and not act petulantly or expect a level of obsequiousness when confronted with the reality that a perceived burglar is in fact present in said burglar’s own home and regardless of what is going on in front of them. Christopher Hitchens over on Slate has a pretty good response (here) and one that I agree with; in short, a person, regardless of skin color in their own home can overreact as much as they want and should not be arrested. Cops did themselves no favors. Gates did himself no favors. I’m not sure this is a teachable moment in a high and lofty way as much as it is a teachable moment in how stupid people can be. That said, on to the greater issue at hand.

Not a single conservative has mentioned with any authority why we shouldn’t reform health insurance in the United States. Not one. Even my ultra-conservatives here in Utah. Still, it appears the more conservative of the Democratic Party are holding meaningful reform hostage.

There was an article on a few months back that talked about foregoing consensus altogether. I’m not sure that’s where Obama wants to go in this fight. In my quest to stay on top of the near daily health care swings and sways I found a few articles I’d like to share.

Krugman in the New York Times talks about it here as does Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post here. Both were linked from a fantastic article on Slate, Why You Can’t Trust Your Health Insurer.

I agree with Pearlstein when he says:

“The problem with the Blue Dogs is that they tend to confuse centrism with splitting the difference between the warring camps, or making policy by choosing one from Column A and one from Column B. The more effective centrists use their political leverage to create a Column C.”

We need a lot of Column C right now.

I also agree with Krugman:

“Reform, if it happens, will rest on four main pillars: regulation, mandates, subsidies and competition.”

“By regulation I mean the nationwide imposition of rules that would prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on your medical history, or dropping your coverage when you get sick. This would stop insurers from gaming the system by covering only healthy people.

On the other side, individuals would also be prevented from gaming the system: Americans would be required to buy insurance even if they’re currently healthy, rather than signing up only when they need care. And all but the smallest businesses would be required either to provide their employees with insurance, or to pay fees that help cover the cost of subsidies — subsidies that would make insurance affordable for lower-income American families.”

“Finally, there would be a public option: a government-run insurance plan competing with private insurers, which would help hold down costs.”

“The subsidy portion of health reform would cost around a trillion dollars over the next decade. In all the plans currently on the table, this expense would be offset with a combination of cost savings elsewhere and additional taxes, so that there would be no overall effect on the federal deficit.”

Krugman states further that the Blue Dogs appear to be in the pocket of of the healthcare industry. Krugman cites data from the Center for Responsive Politics. See the breakdown here. The Blue Dogs don’t appear in a super high grouping in terms of sorting by money in this cycle (2008), but the powerful in both houses do factor highly. John McCain received the most at $7.4 million. The next highest is Max Baucus at nearly $1.6 million. Before the fingers start to point bear in mind that:

“Obama, who made health care reform a large part of his presidential election platform, brought in $18.8 million from the health care sector in the 2008 election cycle–far more than any other presidential hopeful.”

Money follows power. I’m not sure that the Blue Dogs are that heavily purchased by the healthcare money trail.

It appears that there is still quite a way to go before this battle is over. The White House needs to step up its public relations if it’s going to get real reform. (update: Obama’s doing two townhall meetings today in North Carolina and Virginia)

My personal view is that any kind of individual state-only reforms are useless. Only the largest of organizations could wander the maze of 50 separate sets of state regulations with any semblance of coherence. We have that now and it’s an atrocity. Real reform is going to have to happen on a national level. After decades of repeating the worst thing Reagan ever said in his inauguration:

“In this present crisis Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.”

conservatives have won a huge chunk of mindshare with this line of thinking over the past 30 years. People believe that government is “the problem” and not the solution. Obama has tried to display the opposite. In the six months Obama’s been in office, he’s had an uphill climb. Over the next few years, we’ll see solutions coming from government that help rather than hurt.

It is my view that nobody can fix healthcare except the government. Conservatives citing Canada or other horror stories are being hyper hypocritical. The saddest, scariest stories are right here in the United States. We aren’t trying to be Canada or fix Canada. U.S. elected Republicans and Democrats should be trying to fix problems in the U.S. healthcare insurance system.

Finally, the biggest underlying issue seems to be a problem with the idea of collectivism. The very notion of health insurance was created as a collective, as are things like police, fire and military. The more healthy people that are in a system to help pay for those who are not healthy means the insurance plan will cost less. We’ll spend a lot more than $1 trillion in the next 10 years on defense in the United States. That we don’t spend more to insure everyone is a travesty. Period. We didn’t seem to have a problem throwing money into Iraq under conservative power in Washington, I can’t see why there isn’t a higher moral prerogative being talked about in the media. Whether you want to agree with the government stepping in or how far the government should step in, certainly you can see that healthcare in the U.S. is broken. We no longer lead the world. It’s time to change that.

I’ll be calling my Representative, Jim Matheson (a Blue Dog who received $351,241 from the healthcare lobby/industry in the 2008 election cycle) to let him know how I feel. I encourage you to do the same with your reps.

It’s time for change. We can’t let up until we’ve got meaningful healthcare reform and health coverage for all. There is no bigger issue facing our long term economy and health of the citizenry.