The long-discussed health care reform package may or may not make its way out of Congress and to the President’s desk this year or anytime in the near future.
While you can take issue with many parts of the proposed legislation – at least those parts that we know about – you can’t disagree with this: medical costs are out of control in this country and are threatening to sink our economy if not now, in the not-too-distant future.
There’s plenty of blame to go around.
Here are some things that I think any overhaul of the nation’s medical system must include.
One, we have to reduce our reliance on the work of under-paid, under-insured illegal workers. As long as a large portion of our economy is based on the work of illegal aliens, it is only fair that they be able to share in the health care and educational opportunities of the U.S. Our nation was built largely on the backs of slaves and indentured servants. Even if paying migrant workers a decent wage means that the cost of our produce and fruit may go up, it is the only way that we can hope to get a handle on our practice of modern slavery and relieve our hospitals of a large part of their indigent care expense.
If we can get migrant workers to contribute to the tax system by bringing them out of the shadows, they can afford to pay a fair share of their health and educational costs.
Second, we all have to realize that there is no free ride. Every bandage, every syringe, every test has a price that someone, somewhere, has to pay. And that someone ends up being you and me. A few years ago, my Mother was in the hospital. While she was there, she was brought a walker, which she did not need. When she told someone about it, they said “Don’t worry. Medicare will pay for it.” She was upset because she didn’t want someone to have to pay for it, even if that someone wasn’t her. It’s a lesson we all need to take to heart.
Third, we all have to realize that in any comprehensive health care reform plan, there will have to be compromise. The insurance companies, the pharmaceutical companies, the doctors, and yes, even the patients, will have to compromise. We cannot continue down the road we are on.
For those who cry “we don’t want socialized medicine,” wake up and smell the novocaine. We already have it. We just have to figure out how to make it work better and still give people some latitude and control over their own health care.
There was a lot of discussion in the past year about so-called “death panels.” Guess what? They already exist! You want a heart-lung transplant. OK. Are you ready to give up smoking? Are you ready to get rid of all of the pets in your house, whose fur is clogging your lungs? No? Sorry, no heart-lung transplant for you. It only makes sense. Is it cruel? Perhaps. But you have to measure the costs against the benefits. And decisions like this are made every single day in this country.
So let’s get past the rhetoric and demagoguery and try to fix things.
If you have a Senator or Congressman who is only saying “no” to the current plan without making any concrete contributions to the discussion, vote him or her out. Because that lawmaker is not looking toward the future. He or she is only trying to protect his or her own hide.
We all have to realize that with a system as huge as our medical complex, there are billions of dollars at stake. And wherever there is that much money in play, you will hear from lobbying groups on all sides of the issue, fighting for their slice of that huge pie. Whether it's AARP or the American Medical Association, everyone is fighting for his own constituency. But who's fighting for us, as a nation?
I have to confess that I do not know nearly as much about the proposed plan as I would like to know. But you can bet it’s not as perfect as some of its supporters claim and it's not as horrible as some of its detractors would like you to believe.
I also know that President Obama can’t please everyone. If he had crafted a bill of his own, as Bill and Hillary Clinton did in the 1990s, and sent it to Capitol Hill as “his” plan, it would have been pronounced dead on arrival. The fact that he allowed and encouraged Congress to come up with its own plan, built around a few basic principles, was probably the only way to move this difficult issue forward. But it has taken him the entire first year of his presidency, and he has spent a lot of political capital that he will wish he had not given up so early.
While I may not like all of the things that are contained in this proposed health care plan, and I am opposed to creating any more giant, governmental bureaucracies which can’t run things nearly as well as a private business can, we have to do something. Is anything better than nothing? Not usually, but in this case, perhaps it is.