Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Health Care Realities

The online edition of USA Today carried an article this morning that did not paint a rosy picture for those pushing for health care legislation in America. According to a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted over the weekend, 42% of respondents are opposed to passage of a bill as it stands and only 35% are in favor. While the article does not specifically say, I assume that the other 23% fell into the undecided category. There aren't too many surprises when the polling is broken up by party demographic demographics, with 76% of Democrats being in favor and 86% of Republicans being opposed. What is a touch surprising - and should be more than a touch alarming for the Powers That Be - is that 53% of polled independents were opposed. Independents are often the barometer and deciding factor in American politics and are credited as having been a large part of Obama's victory. If we are starting to see a majority independent opposition to the discussed health care bills, that should be a worrying factor for those pushing the bills.
I should note, for my overseas readers who may not be aware, that USA Today/Gallup polls tend to slant slightly to the left, meaning - in this context - that they would be more likely to err in favor of the health care bills. Please notice that I said "slightly" and don't mis-characterize that or assume that I am accusing them of anything. Everyone leans some direction at least slightly and I state this only so that it is known that I am not posting the results of a poll stacked against health care reform. These polls don't lean nearly as far left as ABC or Huffington Post polls, and they don't lean right like Rasmussen. Just consider this a Full Disclosure situation.
While I found this poll to be interesting, I found the comments to be even more interesting (Don't I always?). The most interesting thing about the comments was the fact that the vast majority of them - and I mean something approaching 99% - had absolutely nothing to do with the article. Here we had an article clearly and only about the public opinion on a given subject and most of the comments were nothing more than the same Copy&Paste "Republicans are evil and want you to die" or "Democrats are evil and want to enslave you" nonsense that dominates most of this debate. It's no wonder we can't get anything done when no one knows how to address the subject at hand.
Here's a test: When faced with the statement, "The majority of Americans polled are opposed to health care legislation as it is currently being discussed", how do you respond?
A. Republicans have sold their souls to the insurance companies and will do anything they can to maintain the status quo.
B. Democrats have sold their souls to the trial lawyers and will do anything they can to transform America into a socialist state.
C. We should find out why the majority of Americans are opposed and either change the legislation accordingly or better explain those parts that are currently misunderstood.
If you answered A or B then you need to go stand in the corner and remain silent for the rest of the debate because you are obviously incapable of having an adult conversation. An honest debate requires that you actually acknowledge and address what you are answering and, if you cannot or will not do that, you should not be part of the debate. Blithely parroting some popular slogan in response to every question asked or statement made doesn't help anything.
Allow me to give another example that drives me insane: "Where were you for the last 8 years?" If this question is coming out of your mouth or off the tip of your fingers - and it pops out dozens of times every single time someone points out the legality or Constitutional issues of some political action - then you need to stop and reconsider what you are saying. For one thing, many of us who complain now were complaining then and your insistence on ignoring this fact only makes you look willfully ignorant. It's not like there aren't plenty of online sources you can easily check to find conservative and independent voices speaking out against Bush policies. For another, and more important, thing, even if not one single voice complaining now was complaining then, does that really address the issue of the moment? Assume, for the sake of argument, that Bush really did every evil thing liberals accuse him of and that no conservative or independent voices spoke out against these actions. Would that give Obama a free pass? Is that really what you intend with this question? Are you truly willing the ignore Constitutional and legal issues out of petulant spite?
I titled this post "Health Care Realities", so I should return to that particular subject. Easy enough since one of the off topic comments on that USA Today article caught my attention more than others. It purported to be a list of unarguable facts regarding health care legislation, and we all know how much I love lists of "unarguable facts", so let's examine them.

"1. This reform will not cover illegals or abortions."
This may be technically true as it stands now - though arguments can be made about enforcement with no teeth - but these two conditions are currently being hotly debated, so it is impossible to state as fact what their status will be in any final legislation.
"2. This reform will cost $130 billion less than not changing anything."
If you believe this, I have a bridge to sell. For starters, the CBO estimate did not claim that legislation would cost $130 Billion less than doing nothing. It claimed that a particular piece of legislation would reduce the deficit by $130 Billion over a given period of time. These are very different claims. Also, please identify one government program that has ever had an accurate cost estimate. These things inevitably cost more than their initial estimate and, when the initial estimate is over $800 Billion, $130 Billion can disappear in the blink of an eye.
"3. This reform will give preventative care to millions."
Give? Interesting choice of words. While technically true, this "fact" neglects to mention the millions of others who will be taken from to provide this gift.
"4. This reform will only raise taxes on the wealthiest people in this country, and they will still have cheaper taxes than they did under Reagan."
This is not only not a fact, it is a blatant lie. Among the taxes under consideration are taxes on businesses - including small businesses who are nowhere near the wealthiest in the nation - and taxes on so-called "Cadillac plans", many of which are held by middle class workers who happen to have jobs with people who have negotiated very good insurance policies. It is also arguable - and, I maintain, true - that any mandate requiring the purchase of insurance by people who choose not do so is, itself, a tax, and that is a tax that will affect many non-wealthy people.
"5. Tort reform will not lower the cost of health care as proven by Texas."
One state out of 50 proves the case for the whole? Interesting math you have there. Amusingly enough, even the CBO disagrees with you. While it might be arguable that tort reform would have a limited impact on lowering health care costs, it cannot honestly be argued that it would have no impact. It's also worth noting that those universal health care countries you people champion all the time all have some form of tort control as well.
"6. Interstate insurance is another way of saying, 'Take away state rights and give big government more power.'"
This, coming from someone who wants to hand control of the entire enchilada to big government. That's just too funny. Newsflash: The Constitution specifically allows for the regulation of interstate commerce. You may have heard that mentioned here and there.
"7. The #1 reason for unemployment in this country is the cost of health care."
What? See, even if you had tried solid arguments up to this point, you really lost credibility here. I suppose the banking and mortgage fiascoes that precipitated a full scale recession come in 2nd and 3rd? Never mind the fact that it is legislation currently under discussion that would link the cost of health care to employment, not the situation as it exists now.
"8. Poor people who get free ER visits will have to purchase insurance and pay something towards the public option. Even if they pay next to nothing, it will still be more then they pay now."
True to some extent, but there will also be subsidies covering many so they will still be getting free treatment and contributing nothing. In fact, the technical wording of this "fact" is false since "poor people" will be the ones receiving the subsidies and will still be paying nothing. It might also be argued that, since they will now have coverage, they will seek treatment more often and so actually cost the system more, rather than less. I'm just guessing here, but so are you. Neither of us is offering a fact on this one.
"9. People who are against this plan have no plans for themselves except "tort reform" and "interstate insurance", both of which I have already mentioned as bad plans."
And because you think they are bad plans, they are bad plans. Except that you didn't actually support the claim that they are bad plans and you haven't supported the claim that these two pieces are all the opposition is offering. There have been more than a dozen Republican and Independent plans put forward and dismissed or ignored. Do you honestly believe that these two options, reworded over and over again, are all those plans have offered?
"10. Insurance companies are spending more money to stop this reform, from the premiums we pay them, than ever before in the history of this country. They care about their bottom line and not about America."
They spent quite a bit in the 90s, so it's certainly debatable whether or not they are spending more than ever. However, it's their money. It doesn't matter if that money came in as your premiums, it's still their money. The money you spent at the grocery store doesn't continue to be your money after it's spent either. What I would be more concerned about is how much of my money the Democrats are spending to push the legislation. There is a difference, you see. That tax money they're spending actually does belong to us. Your last point is just a non-statement. Caring about the bottom line is their job. Caring about America is not. Don't get me wrong. Given a choice between a company that provides quality products/services and cares about America or a company that provides quality products/services but doesn't care about America, I'll choose the former whenever I can. That isn't really the point here, though. The point is that caring about the bottom line is not unAmerican, as you've tried to imply. Caring about the bottom line is one of the very things they are paid to do.

So much for facts. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. It would be nice, though, if people tried to focus on facts in such an important debate.

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