Homestretch on Health Care

One of the principal points of confusion, or dishonesty, in the debate about health care reform has been the existence of multiple bills coming out of Congress. When someone denounces "Obama’s reform" it is not clear what they might be referring to seeing as the White House has let the Congress draft the legislation in toto, that is, there is no Obama proposal. So, when people denounce one, you know they simply hate the President and they hate the idea of reforming health care, so they lump the two together and denounce them both.

When other opponents of the President’s start ranting about socialism, you know that they are speaking to a deep conservative concern that predates not only Obama’s presidency but almost his life. In the late 1960s, in the quest to fight sex education in the public schools, right wing groups began distributing a movie called "Pavlov’s Children." This cinematic agitprop "argued" that the Soviet Union, working through UNESCO, was using Pavlovian techniques in sex education as a prelude to getting our children prepared for totalitarian rule. If the person denouncing "socialism" happens to be in their sixties, ask them if they participate in Medicare which is certainly socialized medicine.

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But, back to Congress. It is important to remember that negotiations are on-going. The bishops have been clear, speaking through the USCCB, that they support health care reform but that it must not become a vehicle for liberalizing abortion laws. Both parts of that statement are important: liberal Catholics must acknowledge that abortion should be a deal-breaker and conservative Catholics cannot hide behind opposition to abortion to oppose health care reform.

This past week, it became clear that the White House is looking to the bill coming out of the Senate Finance Committee as the most likely vehicle for achieving some modicum of bipartisan support. The President is well advised to prefer a bipartisan bill that might fall short of his complete objectives: An overhaul of one-sixth of the economy is more likely to be accepted by the American people if it enjoys some measure of bipartisan support. Commentators, however, are at a disadvantage because it is not clear precisely what is in the Senate Finance bill, especially as regards abortion.

The legislative process is on-going. Once both houses pass a bill, it must still go to conference where differences must be worked out. In this process, compromise is not always a dirty word. Some issues, such as the public option, are very amenable to compromise. For example, the Senate’s preference for cooperatives could go into effect immediately but if a given number of people still lack affordable health insurance in, say, three years or the system as a whole has not achieved the cost-savings desired, the public option could be automatically triggered. Public funding for abortion, on the other hand, is not one of those issues where a compromise solution suggests itself.

The bishops have perfect pitch on this issue. They support health care reform but insist that the reforms not become a vehicle for liberalizing the abortion laws. They have set up a website that explains where they stand on the issue and I suggest that some of my conservative colleagues consult it and see if they think the bishops are guilty of advocating "socialism."  

This week and next, as the histrionics continue, remember that the legislation remains a work in progress. Negotiators do not turn over their chits at the start of the negotiations. The most important role for the press in the next fortnight is to continue to separate fact from fiction. The most important role of the citizen is to pay attention and not to be distracted by the lies, the vitriol or the hysteria. And, we have to remember to let our elected representatives know where we stand, and to do so politely.

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8 years 3 months ago

You say, "When someone denounces "Obama’s reform" it is not clear what they might be referring to ..." and I believe you are right about this; I also see that exactly this is leading to a victory for those opposed to any reform of the health care system; in respect to this, the "White House" or Congress has basically screwed up. As a citizen just paying some attention to the health "reform" issue I couldn't tell you what this "reform" proposes or would mean to me. The old adage, "Too many cooks spoil the stew" is quite applicable.

Now, I'm a little more than just a citizen paying some attention to this issue seeing that I have thought about this health care system for decades; however I presently just lightly observe the action and where I see things going is to nowhere. So, we will continue to pay twice what many other countries pay for health care and our care will be less accessible and even not as good. However, as Sean Winters has pointed out, "American Exceptionalism" will reign; it will simply blind most citizens to this fact. So, get ready for the status quo and wonder what effect having one sixth of our economy going to health care and three sixths going to "defense and the military will achieve in a world economy. Or, where it will lead us as we arn't leading it.

8 years 3 months ago

Yes, but does the USCCB specify that the 'reform' to be supported is exhaustively encapsulated within the 5 competing bills currently in the pipeline? No. They merely support 'a' reform of the current status quo.

There's no moral imperative for Catholics to support any of the actual bills in contention at all. Indeed, I've heard of NO 'conservative' Catholic or group that loves the status quo. Indeed every Pro-life Catholic denounces the current system and wishes for some alternative. But not ANY alternative. After all, calling a change 'reform' doesn't make it so. Anymore than calling oneself 'progressive' or 'openminded' makes ones positions or judgments actually beneficial or 'openminded'.

Also, it needs to be pointed out that one needs to read before one votes... and one must make moral cases based on the actual arguments, not innuendo or implication. The opponents of Obama's or Congress' current 'health care reform' are quoting chapter and verse, while the proponents are not. One side is indeed 'defining terms' while the other is casting ad hominems at those who simply refuse to bow down and worship before arguments from authority.

One may hope the change won't include abortion - but every single bill does indeed allow for abortion to be paid for by tax dollars. Otherwise, specific amendments to preclude abortion funding would have been accepted in all 5 bills. Why not push therefore for a Catholic boycott which would force the 5 bills to be junked and replaced with wholly new legislation which all sides can indeed agree on? Surely something as important as health care shouldn't be rushed through in 3 weeks or 3 months. Unless ANY change is more important than good change.  Why make these 5 bills imperative and untouchable....unless we care more about ideological point scoring and less about the actual outcomes? 

Finally, a word about hysteria.... if you are dealing with someone who is hysterical what's better calculated to alleviate their fear? Calling them Nazis or un-American? Assuming they're not genuine, but are instead paid-for shrills? Brow beating them as somehow disobedient to "the USCCB"? Or arguing from the actual text of the various thousand-page bills that their fears are unfounded? I would think the latter...but then, I haven't seen much of that from proponents. Instead I hear and read quite a lot of ad hominem from folk who darkly warn of "vitriol" from the other side. Make your case from the 5 bills. If you can't, then maybe the 'other side' isn't so irrational after all. At least, that's how an openminded, non-judgmental person would approach the issue.   

8 years 3 months ago
The Austrian Economists consider all governmental action socialist and tinge it with Marx and Lenninist connotations.  They are simply ignorant, especially in ignoring how the capitalism that they defend is related to the central bank which they loathe.  They are free marketeers when it comes to providing health insurance, but rely on the state to allow health insurance companies to operate.
8 years 3 months ago
Even though people think they are protecting their health by having health insurance, they are actually protecting their wealth.  We have insurance so that the thing we cannot control, which is our succumbing to disease or injury, does not undo our personal financial planning.  However, those among us who have no money to worry about have no incentive to purchase insurance.  In this case, we prefer to take our chances because most of the time the cost of purchasing insurance is more than the cost of obtaining medical care even if we have to pay out of our own pocket.  
Think for a moment like the uninsured and question whether we really need to turn to insurance just because something involves obtaining services from a medical professional.  Whether we realize it or not, we pay a whole lot more for insurance year after year than it would cost most of us to pay for the medical care we actually receive.  
Perhaps we should insist on mandatory medical accounts for ourselves to which we contribute tax free dollars and which we access when we need to pay for something medical, which do not expire at the end of the year and which can be left to our children to supplement their medical accounts.  If our accounts are insufficient to cover our expenses and thus become "overdrawn", the government would make up the difference.  All elective procedures would be ineligible for this program.  An abortion is an elective procedure.
8 years 3 months ago
Marie said, "Even though people think they are protecting their health by having health insurance, they are actually protecting their wealth. We have insurance so that the thing we cannot control, which is our succumbing to disease or injury, does not undo our personal financial planning."
I agree. In fact, that is exactly what I have in mind and consider as regards myself. I never thought of it in such bold baldface brevity, however.
I have seen a woman lose everything including her house when her self-employed  psychologist husband without medical insurance died from complications of an appendicitis operation! The hospital had her house within one week and she had to move into her college daughter's studio apartment! I worked with this woman in a hospital so I know this happened. She was my secretary! This was the University of Washington Hospital, highly supported with tax dollars, highly motivated to use every opportunity  and law to help themselves, regardless of the negative human effect. 
I have also visited a man in a psychiatric unit who was there because the bill he got for his wife's hospitilization wiped out all their finances and he "freaked out" from worry and uncertainty. This was at a Catholic hospital in Saint Louis.
People need medical care, but also they need to know that even a minor illness will not destroy their lives financially. Marie hit this insurance business on the head!

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