The Health care debate has been very interesting to me.
Somehow it has turned into a debate about death panels and euthanasia and abortion and long lines and Canada and a whole host of other things.
What seems odd about this is that, now, all of the arguments seem to be over very obscure, often factually inaccurate, details about this health care bill which congress hasn’t even finished writing and amending yet.
What I don’t seem to hear any kind of a dialogue about is this:
Do we, as the wealthiest, most powerful country in the world want to provide health care to all of our citizens?
We’ve kind of skipped over the whole main debate and jumped right into the minutiae.
It’s a bit odd, don’t you think?
I’ll just lay my cards on the table upfront here. I think it is absolutely appalling that we do not have some form of universal healthcare. There is no question that a nation as wealthy as we are (were?) could afford it. It’s just a matter of whether or not we care enough about our fellow citizens to make the sacrifices necessary to do so.
To me, as a father, as a Christian, as a, heck, living breathing human with compassion for others, it seems like a no-brainer. Of course we should make sure every person has access to health care. What kind of a jerk would you have to be to not want sick people to get well?
What is interesting to me is that no one really says, out loud, that they don’t want everyone to have health care, they just don’t do anything to make it happen.
What I hear most of the time from people who oppose the currently evolving health care bill is this:
“Of course, I want everyone to have good health care, …… But…...”
Ah yes, the “But.” It’s a quick and easy way of suggesting that, gosh o’willikers I sure would like to see this happen. I mean, it would be great! Really, it’s just that, well, I think it would be good…… BUT…..
And this endless litany of “buts” contain things like:
But I don’t want to wait in lines
But I don’t want to have my health care rationed or delayed
But I don’t want to have my taxes raised.
But I don’t want the government making decisions about my health. That should be between me and my doctor.
But I don’t want it to change my life in any way at all, not even a little bit, you can pry my private health insurance form my cold dead hands….
Well, here’s the thing. We’re talking about a massive overhaul of our wildly ineffective health care system. It’s going to require some adjustments and some sacrifices. It will require more money, it will require the way we do things to change…. Not necessarily for the worse, but to change nonetheless.
So what’s odd is this: These people who claim “Of course, I want everyone to have good health care, but….” Aren’t actually doing anything to see that everyone has good health care. They just sort of want it to happen in the same way, they want a million dollars to drop out of the sky and land in their front yard.
“Wouldn’t that be just great?”
The people against health care reform are not proposing alternative methods of covering everyone, they are just arguing against this plan.
I find it disingenuous.
The honest argument against health care is this:
I don’t want health care to happen if it’s going to in any way negatively affect me.
You know what? Then you don’t want health care to happen, because chances are, it will negatively affect you, even if that means a small raise in taxes or more paper work to fill out.
I believe that the negative impact will be minimal, but even if it wasn’t, I would still say it would be worth it. I would suggest that making sure that every person in this country is able to receive medical attention is well worth a little sacrifice on my part. I would even say it is worth a lot of sacrifice.
The other thing that is so odd about the litany of “buts” is the extraordinary irony surrounding all of them. Let’s take them one at a time.
“But I don’t want to wait in lines.”
Really? Been to the doctor’s office lately? It’s not like we’re in a system now where we walk in for our 3:00 appointment and are sitting across from the doctor at 3:02.
I was in a car accident once and was rushed to the nearest hospital emergency room. I waited over an hour and a half to see a doctor, but the nurse told me that the average wait was between 4-7 hours.
Want to know why? Because the emergency room was filled with people who did not have health care. They were in the emergency room because they had diabetes or the flu or some other manageable illness, but had no doctor to see. So, they waited around until things had progressed to the point where they had no alternative except to take off a day of work and sit in the emergency room waiting to get some general care.
And you know who pays for that? You. Via your insurance company, through higher premiums that they charge to cover the charges that the hospital charges to cover these patients without health care.
Oh, yeah, and it causes long lines too.
“But I don’t want to have my health care rationed or delayed”
The easy answer to this is that 30% of our country already has their health care rationed by not actually having any, but that aside….
I have a friend who was recently diagnosed with cancer. It took him two weeks to get an appointment for testing. I have another friend who had a serious infection in the mouth that required surgery, but had to wait a month to have the surgery scheduled. I have another friend whose toddler is showing significant developmental delays. It took them 6 months to get an appointment with a specialist. I don’t think anyone who has ever had a serious medical problem would say that these kinds of situations are unusual.
And these are the people who HAVE health insurance already!
Rationing is already taking place. We’ve just learned to accept it as normal.
“But I don’t want to have my taxes raised.”
Yeah, well who does?
But you know what? We spend almost twice as much on healthcare as any other developed nation already and we’re not even close to having the longest life expectancy or the lowest infant mortality rate.
(You know who does have a longer life expectancy than us? All those damn commie countries in Europe with their socialized medicine – The US is actually 35th)
We already pay through the nose for health insurance, it just comes in the form of a smaller paycheck, because the costs are deducted up front, kind of like a … what’s that word again? Oh yeah, tax.
When my wife went to add our family on to her law firm’s health insurance plan, it was an additional $700 a month.
Holy Crap! And we’re all healthy!
“But I don’t want the government making decisions about my health. That should be between me and my doctor!”
OK, fine. Everybody hates the government. They only give us roads and clean water and stuff. They’re evil, evil, evil. I get it.
And they’re right. Nobody wants some faceless government bureaucrat making decisions about who can and can’t get an MRI, but let me ask you this?
Who makes that decision now?
Is it up to you and your doctor? Not really.
Right now, it’s some faceless corporate insurance bureaucrat whose whole job is to keep costs low and make a profit for the for-profit health insurance company.
The truth is, someone is already making decisions about what you can and can’t do. That’s why you have to contact your insurance company to see if they’ll cover a procedure before you go and get the procedure done.
That’s why you have to go to your primary care physician before you go to the specialist you know you have to go see anyway.
That’s why when you go into the gas station there’s a mayonnaise jar sitting there asking you to donate a couple of bucks for some poor kid’s leukemia operation. Because some corporate bureaucrat already made the decision about what was and wasn’t covered.
This is a debatable point, but I sincerely doubt that the government is likely to be more restrictive in making these decisions than a for-profit insurance company who hires people to write their contracts in such a way so as to make sure they only have to pay for as little as humanly possible.
But we’re off topic now. I’m sitting here arguing about details and I don’t want to argue about details, I want to argue about the big picture.
I think the quintessential question is this:
“Do you care about other people?”
“Do you think that as a wealthy nation we have an obligation to take care of the sick and the poor?”
I believe with every fiber in my body that the answer to both of those questions is an absolute yes.
And let me tell you how I reached that conclusion. (This is where, if you have any hackles lying around, they’re about to get raised.)
We all have a moral center that is derived from something. For some of my friends it is the torah, for others it is the great turtle in the sky and for others it comes from an inherent belief in justice that has nothing to do with religion, because they’re Godless heathens (very nice ones though)
For me, however, it comes from my belief in Christianity.
When I read the Bible and look at how Jesus spent his time on this planet, it is unbelievable how much of his short life was spent healing the sick. Look up the word “heal” in your Bible concordance. It’s astounding how many times that word pops up - and almost all of them in relation to Jesus.
Jesus cared very deeply for the sick and so much of what we know how about him is in relation to him healing someone or visiting someone who was ill. It is hard for me to envision any reading of the Bible that would not lead someone to believe that providing healthcare to everyone is a “Christian” thing to do. I would even go so far as to say that it is our “Christian Duty” to help make sure that it happens.
Now, how that healthcare is provided is a separate and legitimate issue. There is an argument that it is not the job of the government to make sure that everyone has access to health care.
But, here’s the reality: Private health insurance, the American people, the church and whomever else have had decades to do something to provide healthcare for the least of these and we have accomplished little to nothing in that time.
The reality is that, for good or bad, the federal government is the only body capable of ensuring that everyone in this country has access to health care.
Now, will the federal government screw some of this up? Almost certainly. Although, I dare say, no worse than private insurance companies have.
Is it possible that those of us with existing health care coverage will have to make some kind of a sacrifice in the process of ensuring that everyone has health care? Probably.
But I would argue that if you believe that all people are created equal and that we are all children of God, then you should be happy to do whatever it takes to ensure that your fellow man receives what Iconsider to be one of the most basic aspects of our life: the ability to go see a doctor when we, or one of our children are ill.
It’s fine to be worried about the details of this issue. There should be a healthy and vigorous debate about what, precisely, this health care bill will cover and how in the world we are going to pay for it.
But I hope we can agree first and above all, that we do need some kind of universal health care.
In my mind, it is the right thing to do.
It is the Christian thing to do.
It is the Jewish and Muslim and Heathen thing to do.
And by golly, it is the American thing to do.
No, buts about it.