A Matter of Life and Death

I’ve posted 125 links on Facebook. And the one that I posted today, about Americans being duped into believing that health care reform is bad for them, far and away has received the most passionate response of any – including the absurd Glenn Beck link that precedes it. But we won’t go there.

Where I will go is back to the beginning – my initial premise that Americans have been duped into rejecting public policy that I’m convinced ultimately would benefit them.

Anyone who knows me is aware that I take great care with word selection (more often than not). Consequently, it’s with absolute intention that I arrive at the term “duped” as a means of explaining the erosion of public support for long-needed health care reform. Deception – it seems to me – is the only explanation that accounts for how the majority of Americans clearly can see a need for some sort of government endorsed health care policy at one moment, then in the proverbial twinkling of an eye reverse course so completely.

It’s not as if the state of health care has magically or miraculously cured itself since this latest round of public debate commenced. Indeed, it’s gotten worse and – if left unattended – forebodes a greater menace in the foreseeable future. Let’s at least agree that left alone, a greater number of people will lose access to health care (quality of health care doesn’t matter if you can’t access it), Americans who can afford health services will spend more to do so and American corporations (lest any among you raise the dreaded “socialism” red herring) will find themselves devoting a greater percentage of their bottom lines to meet these costs. And who does that get passed along to? This is not about socialism; it’s purely capitalism – if you want to focus on the politics and economics of it all.

That’s not where I choose to focus however.

My argument stands firmly upon the rock of compassion and moral authority. The welfare of my fellow human being (I certainly hope my Christian friends will agree) is my concern – something about being my brother’s keeper. If nearly 50 million of my brothers (and sisters – so we can avoid the sexism debate) can’t afford to visit a doctor when they have a tickle in their throat, or have a headache that’s been bothering them for a week or to ask about a lump that doesn’t belong in their breast or groin, that’s a problem for me as a Christian certainly.

Moreover it’s a problem for us as Americans who constitutionally are bound to provide for each other’s welfare. “We the people” after all are the government (not some guys in Washington) and for 200 plus years it’s been our constitutional obligation to provide for our common welfare. There is no more basic matter of our welfare than our collective health, which has suffered in no small part due to limited access to basic health services.

Okay, Mr. Smartypants, you might be saying: “So, how do we pay for all this compassion?” Here’s an honest answer: I don’t know. Here’s what I do know: We don’t allow ourselves to be duped into believing the need for health care reform is neither legitimate nor imminent. And we do find a way to pay for it. The great nations find ways to tackle those matters that are important. And this is a big one.

There is a major hypocrisy afoot that many of precisely the same politicians who now wrap themselves in the cloak of fiscal accountability were deafeningly silent about money matters associated with the Iraq War. The same people saw little need then even to include the war’s spending as a line item in the general budget.

I’m not going to argue about the war. To avoid any distraction and purely for purposes of this debate, I’ll concede that it has strategic geo-political merit.

But if the war was indispensable to our wellbeing, enough so that we could borrow money (yes borrow) to take human lives, how much more noble and necessary should it be to develop a fiscally responsible solution to save lives.

This is where the debate should reside.

Sadly, where health care is concerned, we’re playing on everything but center court. Instead of discussing how we will help our fellow man, indeed the welfare of this nation, we find ourselves mired in a 40 year scrum over whether this at all is the business of government.

Historically, the pattern has been that we start out agreeing that government reasonably could play a role in ensuring its citizens’ health. But eventually, enough business and political interests poison the well and muddy the waters with diversions. Ultimately, they lead us down a path of “what the heck, forget about it.”

In its most recent incarnation, the diversions have taken the form of: (1) “It will weaken our health care system,” or (2) “By golly it’s socialism,” or (3) “I won’t be able to see my doctor,” or (4) “It will diminish the quality of health care I receive,” or (5) “Do you really want the Government running a massive health program like this?” or (6) “I have friends in Canada (or if you prefer France or England) and they hate their health care system. They have to wait to see their doctor,” or (7) “Why’s the Obama administration trying to rush this thing through?”

Here are some brief responses.

It will weaken our health care system. Doesn’t it seem apparent that a health care system that excludes nearly 50 million people already is weak? Particularly, when that nation is the richest in the world, it’s flatly embarrassing.

It’s socialism. This is a political argument with a much more nefarious underpinning. The objective, in this instance, is less a commentary on the merits of health reform and more of a backhanded swipe at the President and his policies. It’s just another opportunity to associate the word “socialism” with Barack Obama.

Hey, I’ve got news for you: America is no closer to socialism today than when Johnson or Roosevelt were in office. Far too many influential capitalists would stop that development dead in its tracks if there was even the most remote chance of true socialism coming into existence. You’d have a better chance of seeing Obama bowl a perfect game.

I won’t be able to see my doctor. This is a curious argument on two fronts. Firstly, there are a variety of plans being considered. So, at this point, there’s no account of what sort of physician access you’d have. Secondly, if you don’t currently have health insurance or someday find yourself without insurance, neither of those circumstances would improve your ability to see the doctor of your choice.

It will diminish the quality of health care I receive. In my estimation, this is the most selfish of all reasons to oppose equal access to health care resources. This rationale ignores the poor quality of health care that millions of Americans presently receive because they have substandard health insurance resources. For the lot that has no access to preventive care and receives treatment in our nation’s emergency rooms, the quality of health care is diminished today and only would improve under a reformed system.

Do you really want the government running a massive health care program like this? My question: Do you really want a government running a military that is incapable of  managing a program that keeps its public well?

I have friends in (fill in the European country) who have to wait to see a doctor. There’s a bit of an irony here because it portends that our current access to health services resembles a trip to our neighborhood manicurist – “we take walk-ins, just sign in and the doctor will be-right-with-you.” It just doesn’t happen that way today. We wait for doctors right now.

And the great irony is that those with especially strong insurance packages – the ones who can afford to see the best doctors – are used to longer waiting periods already because skilled, popular physicians often require appointments weeks in advance.

Lastly: What’s the rush? The debate is 40 years or more old. Can you really call a four decade debate a rush job?

Clearly, these are canards intended to get reasonable Americans off chasing the elusive rabbit like greyhounds at the dog track. Rather than attack the issue, we attack each other.

The time has come to set aside politics, punditry and petty disagreements and get this matter of health care back on track and taken care of. It really is a matter of life and death.


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