Arguing About Health Care

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by Hayden Hollingsworth

It’s truly amazing what politicians will argue about!  Not only was everyone caught by surprise with Chief Justice Roberts’ siding with the liberals in the Affordable Health Care decision, it was equally amazing how polarized the language became about what it meant.  “It’s a tax . . . the greatest tax increase in history.”  “It’s not a tax, it’s a penalty.”   That people on all sides of the issue were saying both at the same time added to the confusion.   Neither of those statements is true nor do they add clarity to what we are facing.

One thing, I haven’t heard is, “All right, the Court has spoken; let’s get on with figuring out how we’re going to deal with it.”  Our governor has decided to sit on his hands and not investigate setting up a health exchange.  Precious months may be lost in the hope that if Romney prevails, then he will overturn the law “on my first day in office.”  Never mind that the law is basically what he proclaimed as a rousing success during his tenure as governor of Massachusetts.

There are a number of things depressing about the whole business and no one is addressing those problems.  How the Affordable Care Act will be financed is a matter of smoke and mirrors.  That it will cost more than we can afford goes without saying.  Where will the money come from?  Entitlements will have to be reallocated or the debt will soar to unbelievable heights, not that it isn’t already out of sight.  Counting Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, the true national debt is close to 60 trillion dollars, not the piddling 16 trillion that we are currently told.  No one is talking about that.

If you are, as are many, unhappy with the ACA, with what would a republican administration replace it?  The optimistic words, “We must have health care reform,” always draw applause.  “We must have truly competitive health care.”  What does that mean? That’s equally disingenuous. Has anyone heard a detailed program of how that would be accomplished?  Our congressman proudly claims he has voted more than 30 times against the ACA but we’ve heard nothing but fatuous promises.  The suggestion to just get rid of the current administration and all will be well is a message than only assumes the stupidity of the voters.

That the United States is the only developed nation that doesn’t have some plan in place for health coverage for all its citizens is worth a comment. We often hear how dissatisfied residents of France, Germany, Britain, and Canada are with their health care and the current debt crisis in Europe is partly due to their health care system. When you talk to individuals, the story becomes different.  Most don’t seem anxious to lose their care and are pleased with the service they have personally received.  Here at home, have you heard anyone on Medicare claiming how much they want it repealed?  It was ironic that during congressional writing of the ACA, many senior citizens were railing against it ignoring the fact that Medicare has worked quite well for them.

I recently read a survey that showed more that 30% of health care costs in this country are expended on paper work.  Electronic medical records are a great boon but it does take time away from patient care and it’s expensive. Most of us have had the experience of visiting a physician, and after initial greeting the rest of the encounter finds the physician or nurse at the keyboard entering data.  When a patient was asked, “Are you depressed?”  he answered, “Of course, I’m depressed.  I’ve been with you for 20 minutes and you haven’t taken your eyes of your computer!”

The most depressing thing of all and it goes far beyond health care, is that those who make our laws seem to have only two things in mind: Defeating the opposition and getting re-elected.  I hope that accountability can be brought into the elections, but I certainly am not counting on it.

We ourselves must assume a lot of the blame.  We want all the benefits, we don’t want to pay for them ourselves or increased taxation, and we don’t want the government intruding on our personal freedom.  Whoever can figure out how to balance that equation has a Nobel Prize in economics waiting.