Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Great Health Care Debate

Well, in general, my blog is not very political (at least, I don’t think it is) but I have been very interested in the debate occurring over health care in our nation.  I have watched debates, read articles, trying to figure out how best to care for the health of our nation.  And hey, I am living in a country with health coverage for all, so I’m living it, and it ain’t too shabby.  I am hopeful that something, albeit flawed, will pass.  I know many, many people in our country are dead set against any form of the bill at all and had an intense debate with my brother-in-law on Facebook over this issue.  This took up a lot of my time and energy for about 2 or 3 days – and so I thought it was blog-worthy.

Neither of us are experts, but we are both college educated adults who are not seen (by most) to be insane.  Maybe this is a microcosm of what is going on in the minds of people all over our nation – that aren’t in charge of actually changing anything!  I found our debate to be very interesting, and, with the permission of M,  I have transcribed it below. 

It all started with this status comment:

M: Does the gov have an immunity to overspending? If ya buy something, you have to pay for it or it gets repo'd! Haven't they learned anything?

(Several comments supporting this position followed – I did not get permission from the authors to reprint them word for word, so I won’t.  In general the writers were worried about the hold China has over our nation.  The possibility that China may recall our debt or end in the lending of money to our country.  Also fears were expressed over rampant inflation to come and the need for everyone to invest in more solid assets (i.e. gold/property over stocks) stop being in debt and store up food and ammunition in case of a big mess to come)

M:  We may really be in for a downturn... but most liberals think that won't happen... they think the country is great, amazing, this that and the other, and that because it's so great we couldn't possibly be creating a bad situation with overspending. And I'll be the first to admit Obama didn't begin the problem... but he certainly is looking to have the biggest contribution to our budget issues. He can't seem to get away from idealistic and compassionate(socialist) type governance, and turn to realistic governance, where we live in a world of scarce resources and not unlimited ones.

(This was followed by some cheerleading support for these ideas. Including the idea that this is a sign of the times. This is when I, 8 hours behind, caught up with the conversation and sent 3 notes in rapid succession.)

Rebecca: If helping people have decent health care, feeding the poor and clothing the naked causes my taxes to go up and even the economy to collapse, I don't really mind. I would rather choose compassion and love. What would Jesus do?

Rebecca: And another thing - why aren't you all demanding we cut military spending? Fine to spend unlimited money to bomb, kill and maim thousands of innocent civilians, as well as our own soldiers - but not to help people without health care? check out this pie chart if you really want to know where our money goes:

Rebecca: OK - last thing from me - yes the liberal. (I figure you guys don't hear from many of these and stereotypes are never helpful - so here's a real live person!) Do any of you argue that we are already in crisis on health care? The fact is we spend more for far worse health than any developed nation  This is a problem that is just going to get worse, and add, exponentially, to our current deficit. The plan that has been presented will give people basic care, keeping them healthier and, in the end, save us money. It may fail, but isn't it better to try to fix a problem than to hide in our basements with our ammo and food storage ignoring our brothers and sisters who are out there literally dying? End of rant...for now!

(At this point all of the other voices fell silent and M and I continued on)

M: Am I entitled to good health care? If so, shouldn't I be entitled to good dental care? And running water and toilets and housing and healthy organic foods(which are expensive) and a green friendly car and ...etc etc. Where do you draw the line? There needs to be a line drawn between compassion and realism. And seriously... who really has any issues with healthcare reform? The country needs it desperately. No rational individual, conservative, liberal or whatever, can say that it doesn't need serious reform. It's overpriced and too many are uncovered or undercovered. But for the gov to take it over now? During a recession? No, that's not the answer.
The gov is trying to buy health care for the uninsured when we are in a recession. I'm happy that Obama is concerned for the welfare of the people, but it's only going to make things harder for us at the moment, and harder for us to get out of a recession. If they're going to buy health coverage for people who need it, it needs to be done at the right time. I have mixed feeling about total coverage for the population, but I recognize that is the way things are headed, and we can't stop that. And I'm more in favor of them reforming it, and requiring the private sector costs to go down, the lawsuits to be stopped, and requiring the private sector to cover the uninsured somehow....
If they want to fix health care, they need to seriously reform it, so it decreases costs for everyone. All they are currently doing is wealth redistribution and making it so people who are already in foreclosure because they've lost their jobs, won't be able to get jobs, because employers won't be able to afford more employees because of higher taxes. I can't afford employees because of FICA taxes! They haven't done any real reform yet, even in the proposed almost trillion dollar bill. Reform would seriously decrease costs, not increase them by a trillion dollars!
I want the the option to choose between me having a fatter wallet and better health. I think I should be able to choose to live in a tent if I want, and eat potato chips til I have a heart attack at age 35. And be able to have a job and receive income from it that I am actually free to spend. But if it's all taken away in tax, what's the point in me working? There's no benefit. So what I'm saying is reform is what's needed now... not wealth redistribution through taxes.
And I believe in a balanced budget. Period. We haven't done if for decades! And if we don't fix that sometime... we're gonna have some really angry debtors. And you're right, military expenditures and other expenditures are extremely high at the moment, especially where it's all debt. But you can't pull out of the Mideast without risking way too much war consequence. That's not an option and that's why the UN won't do it. I'm not going to get into that ... because I freely admit I don't have the best understanding of that stuff.
These are tricky issues I think. But come on! People are losing homes, and they are going bankrupt, and can't find a job to buy food, and we're worried about whether they can go to the doctor and get shots, when they can't even buy food to survive? There are tent cities in California, and we're worried about health care? Priorities are mixed up at the moment. Shouldn't we be trying to keep taxes down and fix the economy so when we work we can buy food before we start spending trillions more on health care? Is that not more a priority? I guess I don't know if you really see the effects of the recession there in France, but we certainly do here. Even in Utah, where the economy is better than most places, jobs are really scarce, and foreclosures are everywhere. And I'm scared for the long term future of the country.

Rebecca: First off I believe we should draw the line where the UN does. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights states: (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood"
Secondly, the US has been proposing health care reform since 1912. I'll say it again 1912. That's almost 100 years. We can't keep on waiting around for the right time. There's never gonna be a 'right' time for this. What you are saying to the people who are dying right NOW is... "Oh, I'm sorry. ...We know you need treatment - but this just isn't the right time. Maybe 10 years from now, but of course, you're little boy will already be dead."   Sorry - the fact that you can't hire employees pales in comparison to this daily reality. It's not about flu shots - it's about life versus death - for millions of Americans.
Thirdly - (and this is not really important but I can't help myself) the budget was balanced during the time Clinton was in office (no, our national debt was not erased, but we did have balanced budget - with surplus.)
Lastly - I just want to say that I guess we could debate all this until the cow comes home (and with your cow, that would be a long long time as I have gathered!)  but in the end, for me, this is not a political issue at all
This is a moral issue. This is about doing what is right for all the people of our nation. When Jesus was distributing the loaves and fishes - he didn't question whether it was the right time or run background checks on who deserved the loaf. People were hungry and he fed them.  People are dying, and we can help them - if we choose.
How can we NOT act?

M: Clinton's balanced budget is debatable with the bubble of the 90's. Economists will debate that one. That's why I say that. But the point is who is going to pay for all of this, and when the nation goes bankrupt because everyone has health care, and housing, and all that stuff that is mentioned in the UN article, then what? Then nobody gets health care. If the hospitals can't run because they don't have money to pay for stuff, they close. If they are gov run at that point, then we go back to Soviet style care, which didn't work. And we would be better off with what we have now. I think you think I don't care about the well being of people. Which is not the case at all. I care just as much as anyone else, but I'm also being realistic about it. And we don't have enough to pay for wars, food, health care, housing, SSI, Medicare, etc etc. The country is living on borrowed money now. I'm glad you care about people, and I do too, but hey, ya gotta be realistic with what's sustainable long term in the country. We don't have a trillion dollars to spend on it now. It's going to have to be paid for someday. If we spend it now, we won't be able to afford anything in the future.

Rebecca:  First off M, I'm sure you care. I know enough conservatives to know they care deeply. I actually try hard to listen to both sides of the arguments but, in the end, I just come from a totally different planet on this. To me (and frankly, every non-American I've ever spoken to) it's insane we don't already have this as a basic human right. I mean, the declaration of independence states life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - but in actuality, without health care - this is an absolutely false promise. As for your fear that we will go bankrupt if we get this benefit - I don't get that either!
Don't you think it's funny how all the countries of the European Union have all those rights guaranteed for their citizens - as well as many other democratic nations - and they are NOT bankrupt. In fact, many of their economies are stronger than ours - and, if they aren't and things go badly - there is no need for their citizens to worry about losing health care, or living in tent cities - because, as a nation, their people agree that the highest priority is taking care of each other. You say Soviet style care doesn't work -I'm sure you are not blaming the fall of the Soviet Union on the fact they provided health care, right? But forget them anyway - what about French care, Spanish care, Japanese care,Canadian care, Italian care etc... etc...? All these nations have better health care for their citizens, at lower costs - and healthier economies - and most of them involve a mix of private and public care. Germany is in fact all private. I think the difference we are really having is that I truly believe that the health of every individual is inextricably linked to the health of our nation as a whole. I might have a job, and food etc.. but the idea that I don't want to give it to others since I might then lose what I have seems, well, selfish. I've got mine, so too bad for you!  Continuing to ignore these issues or wait until the 'right time' or the perfect solution is what we have been doing for the past 100 years - and it isn't really working for us so far, is it? You said earlier that liberals think 'everything is all great' - actually we don't - we think things need to changed - otherwise why would we bother? Obviously I am enjoying this debate way too much - usually in the US I debate with my conservative friends in real life and I don't get to do that in France! Also I'm feeling helpless, watching from afar the battle I want so badly to succeed and there is no way I can help out.

M:  so you think we should just up and give everyone health care like EU nations? Okay, obviously some of the EU nations have good setups. Good coverage, but not always the best care in situations. The advantage in the states is that we have great cutting edge care. Disadvantage: it's not available to all-not even available to most insurance covered folks. But like I've said over and over, we don't need to just give people health care, unless there is reform. Period. If we give it away without serious reform -which is what is happening currently - listen to what's going into this bill - it is buying temporary care, without major reform. Conservatives, liberals, whoever, I don't care who, I don't profess to fall into either category, but if universal coverage is to take place, don't ya think it would take some major overhauling to make it happen effectively? As is, this bill is a cork being put into the end of a hose that's about to get turned on, and everyone is just hoping that the costs don't get out of hand. This bill is spending a full half of our yearly tax revenue, on 10% of the populations' care? I think most conservatives are fearful that with the "public option" it will in the long run force people when they switch employers to go to the gov plan which has inferior coverage. Dems and GOP folks are hesitant because this bill could cost 10 times the price they are saying of 7 or 800 billion dollars, as people slowly over the years are forced to go from private to public option coverage, (which is not better coverage-it covers less) In that case, it could run a bill of what? 7 or 8 trillion a year? And our current tax revenue is only 1.5 trillion, which I think will be severely impacted in this recession. In no case with the current plan, will it be sustainable. Even if it's for just the 10% population coverage, this would force a 50% tax increase which would be more detrimental to the economy than anyone could imagine. We as a people in the country realize there is a huge gap in population coverage, but if reform is not the primary goal, then why even try? I know Obama's intent is good, and I know you want to save the children and all that, but this plan is totally crazy!!! You yourself said military spending is too high. SSI, Medicare, whatever is being spent is too high. And debt service in 10 years is going to be 500 to 700 billion a year. I think the major difference between the EU nations and the US is that the US has never learned to spend within the budget, which is ultimately going to be our destruction. I don't see any other alternative. It has plagued the country for decades with consumer credit spending, and now it's going to screw over the country. And don't get me wrong. I wouldn't mind seeing universal coverage. I can't afford insurance myself!

Rebecca: I don't agree with your economic assessment - in 2001 half of all bankruptcies in the US are due to medical issues. If you cut out the profit making, it makes sense it will cost less overall. I also disagree with your assessment of the bill. There is lots of reform in the bill - IF we keep the public option PLUS it is going into debate - which means there can be amendments made and additional reform added - I wish the Senate Republicans and ConservoDems would try to fix the bill - instead of just killing it. I think doing the right thing is going to be in the best interests of the American economy. Period. And also in the best interest of morality. I am thankful that I have health care coverage. I'd like to be thankful that all the people of America have it as well.
I am also thankful that you are around! Have a great Turkey day!!!!

M:  And how is it okay to spend half a years worth of taxes that we by the way do not even have...? How is this in the best interest of the economy? It will force companies to go out of business or cheat to stay in business. Companies with payrolls of 250K are extremely small... and if they have almost no profits as is, their owners will have few choices. Either pay premiums or a 7% penalty, either of which will mean they will not have enough money to live on themselves. 2- cheat in their accounting. 3- stop operating and close. This seems to not be in favor of the economy to me. Small businesses make up a huge portion of the economy. Your financial logic seems flawed and makes absolutely no logical sense. I agree that we all need health care, but if it's not financially feasible...

Rebecca: People fought against giving women the right to vote, Social Security, Medicare, the GI bill and even the Civil Rights Act before they were passed as well - saying it would cost too much money, put the US into ruin, jobs would be lost etc... etc... It's the same argument every single time. Now almost no one argues that these programs are an essential part of the American life and many economists argue these measures have made our economy stronger (I think you have only been reading one side of the story - not both!) I see lots of people who agree with your assessment of what will happen - and lots and lots of others that say this will end up saving us money. It is a fact, unargued, that if we do nothing, by 2025 1 in 4 tax dollars will be going into health care anyway - and only predicted to rise. During the bush admin 7 million people had their health cared dropped on them and premiums more than doubled. This can't go on as it is, right? In the end, if the people who pass this bill are wrong (like we admittedly were about Medicare which cost something like 700 times more than it was estimated to cost) it doesn't really matter - we survived that - we'll survive this - and it's the right thing to do. You said earlier you wanted something to pass - than why not try to reform the bill that is proposed? Why not try to do something? Get the reforms in there that make sense - help work it out so we are both saving money and helping people. I know small businesses are the backbone of the country - so why not amend the bill to help small business instead of just trying to kill it? The way the two sides are at each other makes me so frustrated. To you, I know I make no sense - but to me, you don't make any sense either! I guess that's why this issue is so difficult. I was talking to Andre' about all this last night and he said a great one liner that I'll close with. "I'd rather be fiscally bankrupt than morally bankrupt." Me too, but I really don't believe that will happen anyway - we will all do better when we are all healthy!

Rebecca:  PS Is it OK with you if I blog about this conversation? It's fascinating, right??

M: Okay, it infuriates me that you don't see what I'm saying. I understand you want the government to take care of everyone, but again... where do you draw the line? If you do everything based on morals as I think you might be saying, so we are all morally non bankrupt or whatever, then lets just go and have a Utopian governance style and become communist in the purist sense. Hey, it's moral, so lets all do it! Let's all make sure we have health care, and sanitary bathrooms, and organic foods, and be equals monetarily, and healthily, and make sure no one hurts anyone and we all hold hands and everyone is happy because we all have to love each other and are all forced to participate in it and no one has any option to choose not to. Sounds absolutely ridiculous right? Morally this is the right thing to do; -but when we talk about morals, we also recognize that people inherently have the right to choose to be moral or non-moral. At the point they can no longer choose, they are no longer allowed to be human. This is entirely inhumane because it means that people are not perfectly equal, but is human in the purest sense. Utopian ideals and Marxist ideals don't work because people are inherently greedy and will cheat the system because of their imperfect human natures. Okay, so you say reform the bill instead of scrap it? Its foundation is written fundamentally against the way I think health care or the government should be run. It fundamentally is coming from a Marxist viewpoint, where the gov should take care of the people and eliminate competition. That is not what this country's ideals are or have been since inception. I think the healthcare system should be set up so that if people want to take care of their neighbor as you say, then they should want to contribute and do so. And if they don't want to have health care they shouldn't have to pay for it if they are in a healthy situation. We already have a plan in place to cover peoples' emergency medical situations. It's called EMTALA. It's not new. Look it up. But hey, what I'm saying is that we need serious reform to decrease costs. If at that point the people in the country want to give a free ride to people that aren't covered, fine. And yes, I'm cruel and horrible now, because I'm saying that we will let the uninsured die, is what you're saying, but, hey, EMTALA is already there. Yep, we have some fundamentally different viewpoints, that will not be changed. I respect yours and appreciate it (even though I think it's nuts and crazy mixed up wrong) because having different view points are what has made the country function as well as it has. Happy Turkey Day!

Rebecca: M. I too am frustrated -  I think you are not listening to what I am saying. I said where I drew the line about 4 notes ago, remember?  UN article 25??? It had nothing to do with mandating being nice or holding hands or any of that Marxist
Utopian (but admittedly morally wonderful) idealism. I'm not sure why you are bringing it up again?
My point is, dozens, perhaps hundreds of nations live under these standards already. Are you implying that the countries of the EU lack free will or competition?  In this country we have lots of laws that limit freedom if it will endanger the freedom of others.
You can't drive a car without insurance, because if you hit me, it's not fair that I have to pay. If you send your kid to school, sick with the flu because you can't go to the doctor, that makes lots of other kids get sick and then lots of parents get sick.... they can't work.... economy suffers.  Does this not make logical sense to you? Why is this illogical??? In fact, the economy loses $1.4
trillion dollars per year due to illness - see As for emergency care, yes, I know there is emergency care for free - but that is a waste of our money.  It is way cheaper to treat an early stage of disease than to wait until you need to enter the ER. And why should I have to pay for your heart attack because you decided you weren't going to need health care? That's what we have now and what seems unfair to me! And most people lose their homes and all their possessions before they qualify for the free stuff - is that good for the economy?  Then there is the competition issue... Are you implying the public option means we won't have private sector insurance? You seem not to answer some of my questions -but I really am curious about this one. Why is the public option not seen by you as competition??? To me,this is where you seem illogical. I mean, isn't the very definition of competition having more options to choose from?   If we have another option, that means more competition, not less. We have private and public schools We have private and public security, we have private and public mail service and we already have private and public healthcare (VA and Medicare/aid) so what's the big deal? You think, if you are healthy you shouldn't have to pay. Well, on that logic you shouldn't have to pay for schools, since you have no children, or police, since you haven't broken any laws, or firefighters, since your house hasn't caught on fire yet etc... etc... I darn well wish I could opt for none of my tax dollars to go toward the wars I've marched and protested against - but that's not the way it is. There are certain things we  decide to pay for, like education, because it is better for everyone to have educated people. This adds vitality and strength to our economy. Health care for all is another issue like that - and the fact is the majority of Americans want health care reform and they want it WITH a public option.  PS. M - this is super fun!!!!

M: The polls show the populous is in favor of a public option, but not of this particular bill. They are frustrated by all of the extras that are in the bill, of the confusion, of multiple hidden agendas (good or bad) in the bill like the hundred million earmarked for Louisiana, like decreases in care for elderly. Fears of mammograms being cut back to start at 50 instead of 40. They are huge fears the people have... they don't want a decrease in coverage. We are coming from 2 fundamentally different points of view, and the issue has divided the whole country. I don't really care to continue arguing this on FB. If you want to do it on the phone, or whatever, fine. If you want to blog about it, that's your agenda. At this point this is just back and forth, and not going anywhere. No longer enjoyable to me, regardless of who has better arguments or who is right. It's just making me mad, and truthfully I detest argument. But it's better to argue important issues in life than to leave them be. I have better things to do at the moment. Have fun! –M

End of debate!  I just have to say I have never debated like that on facebook – or even in writing before.  It was a new experience for me and I found it fun to be able to look up things to support my point of view before writing them down.

I find it amazing to explore the gaping chasm between the two sides.  How is it possible to bridge this gap???

What do others think on this issue?? (M’s crazy and I’m right, right??? – just kidding)

Here’s hoping that, whatever happens, and even if we never agree, or even understand each other, we can at least be civil enough to listen, keep talking and keep on trying….

1 comment:

Deb Tross said...

Just read an article about people who use emergency care (NOT free) in place of primary care and the cost and burden in places on the health care system. It's true that someone who comes to the ER must be treated but that doesn't mean they won't be getting a bill later! Emergency care is not designed to replace primary care. Underlying problems are not treated in ER rooms and using it as such is a huge cost to hospitals, tax payers etc.


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