NOTE: The following is a "Letter to the Editor" that will appear this week in the Daily Siftings Herald, the local paper, in response to comments concerning health care reform made by local people interviewed by Dr. Bill Downs that appeared in the paper on Monday, August 3. You can probably gather the kind of comments made from my wording.
I read the comments in Dr. Bill Downs’ Monday column from people who expressed their displeasure at the current push to reform our health care system, and I must say that I found some of the arguments unsatisfying and erroneous. I thought I would offer rebuttals to some of the remarks.
First, the idea that this is an example of the “government gaining control of our lives in every way possible,” and that it will “erode our liberties,” is a great example of irrational thinking; the kind of irrationality that fear mongering commentators on Fox News and conservative radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh are using to cloud and stall the issue. For them, the issue is not health care; it is their bruised pride over loosing the presidential election.
The reality is that the options being seriously considered by lawmakers would allow those who have coverage to keep their coverage, if they so choose. They will not be forced into a government run health care, and this is not a secret plan to socialize health care or for the government to take control of our lives.
Second, the argument that the private sector can solve this crisis is ridiculous. They have had their chance, and yet health insurance premiums and health care costs keep rising. Health insurance companies are paying for less and less care, and there are growing numbers of people losing their health insurance. While some argue that government managed health care would mean that bureaucracy will stand between us and our doctors, the reality is that this is already happening. The insurance companies, who are in business to make a profit, are the current gatekeepers deciding who and what gets covered.
Third, if we are going to use the Preamble to the Constitution as an argument against health care reform and universal health care coverage, then we best pay close attention to the statements that speak of establishing justice and promoting general welfare. Would not justice be more fully established and the general welfare of all people in this nation be improved if affordable and quality health care is provided for all?
While many make the argument that universal health care will impinge upon our freedom, this claim is only a pretext for securing what we truly worship: Prosperity. We are concerned more for the economics of the issue, and by this we mean our own personal prosperity. But we must come to realize that governmental budgets are moral documents, and sacrificing to ensure that those without affordable and quality health care are covered is the moral thing to do, even for “the alien in our midst.” In fact, not to do so is immoral. It is interesting that those who are adamantly against universal health care are those who have good and affordable health care. Why worry about our neighbors who don’t have such care?
Furthermore, the idea that “It doesn’t work, it costs too much, it will bring down this nation,” is the most ridiculous thing I have heard someone say in this debate. No rational thinking person should jump to such conclusions, and again, this is a position based on misinformation provided by those same fear mongers.
The real economic argument is not that it will cost too much to reform health care. Indeed, the very opposite is true. If we do not take this opportunity to reform our health care system in this country, then we will continue to see costs rise, insurance premiums become unreachable even for those who have health insurance now, and insurance companies continue to refuse coverage even as they rake in billions in profits each year. Estimates suggest that before we reach mid-century, over 30% of our GDP will be consumed by heath care costs (http://www.whitehouse.gov/assets/documents/CEA_Health_Care_Report.pdf). Moreover, research indicates that 60% of bankruptcies in the U.S. are due to health care expenses; a percentage that is sure to rise if we maintain the status quo (http://www.pnhp.org/new_bankruptcy_study/Bankruptcy-2009.pdf).
Concerning the claim that it doesn’t work, there have been commentators who have cited the health care systems of Britain and Canada as evidence for their position. But most of those who make this argument don’t really know what they are talking about. They have focused on a limited amount of evidence to prove their point, but have failed to truly investigate the overall experience of those who live in these countries. As one who lived in Britain for two years, with a spouse and three young children, I believe I can speak with greater authority on this issue than those who simply guess.
Though we were not British citizens, we were afforded the same health care Britons received. My kids’ prescriptions were free, and my wife and I paid a minimal amount for any medications we needed. When any of my children were very ill in the middle of the night, we did not have to go to the emergency room or wait until the next day to visit a physician; a doctor came to our house in the middle of the night to treat our children.
Both my wife and my oldest son had surgery while in Britain, and both were well cared for. In fact, my son needed surgery after he injured his face in a fall at school. His lip was so torn that the hospital called in a highly respected plastic surgeon to do the surgery. Without this surgery his lip would not have healed properly. Moreover, during his hospital stay he was given overwhelming attention from the hospital staff; more attention than he would have received at most hospitals in America. All of this care was given to us free of charge. Without the availability of this care, I am not sure what we would have done.
Are there problems with the British and Canadian systems? I am sure there are. But I am also sure that their problems do not come close to the problems we have right now in our health care system, and yet their systems cover everyone.
In my view, the health care issue is the most significant economic and moral crisis we face in this country. But crises are always times of opportunity. The question is whether we will take this opportunity to reform this system so that all can be covered, or whether we will maintain the status quo and continue to talk about the 46 million people who do not have adequate health care as if they do not exist. This is a disgrace on our national conscience, it fails to live up to our creed of justice for all, and it puts us in a place of shame in this world.