Wednesday, September 30, 2009

So Much To Say ...

Earlier this month, someone unfriended me on Facebook.

Someone I've known since I was four.

She identifies herself as a conservative.

Given my recent spate of Facebook postings, I suspect she got tired of reading my liberal political bias.

That's fine. I had hid her in my news feed for the very same reason, conservatively speaking.

We will never agree politically. Such is the legacy of George W. Bush. When he famously said, "You are either with us or against us," he removed the possibility of middle ground, not only in the war against terror but in relationships of all stripes.

Politics in the United States has never been more black and white, and I'm not talking about race. Not at the moment, anyway.

I believe that those who voted for Bush the first time truly believed in what he had to say.

I also believe that those who voted for Bush the second time were misguided. But I also believe they were afraid.

And that fear has grown into dread.

I understand that politics has always been a touchy subject, but I clearly remember a time when those who identified with different parties could talk to one another. Politely. Rationally.

But there is no possibility of debate in this climate. When a Representative of Congress called the President of the United States a liar during an address to the joint session, we reached the political nadir. We reached the civil discourse nadir, too.

I understand that people will have differing ideas. That's a good thing. If we can come together and discuss things, we can understand an issue from many angles and form good policy.

But painting swastikas on the signage of an elected official? Shouting down anyone who tries to voice an opposing view? Shouting down those we elected? Openly displaying guns at political events? Hanging effigies? Suggesting that a military coup might be necessary to deal with the "Obama problem"?

There is no way any reasonable person can defend that behavior.

Yes, people marched on Washington during Bush's reign, most notably to protest a war based lies.

Then, folks were ejected from events for wearing anti-Bush T-shirts. Now, protesters are showing up at Obama events carrying automatic weapons.

Yesterday, someone on Facebook posted a poll asking whether Obama should be killed.

Killed.

I'm not saying that everyone who is a conservative is so extreme, but what we've seen escalate in these recent months is beyond the pale. There are blatant lies and distortions that do nothing to advance finding a solution that will help all of us, and all of us need help.

Rush Limbaugh recently called Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, "a hemorrhoid."

Classy.

And it was recently revealed that 35 percent of New Jersey conservatives think the President might be the anti-Christ.

Hemorrhoids and Obama the anti-Christ.

Just two topics that the Right has added to our political discourse in recent weeks.

I will not – I cannot – stand idly by while this insanity rages on. I will call it out, on my blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, because Fox News and Rush and all the other right-wing pundits and even elected Republican officials are so busy offering up if not outright lies then distortions and half-truths.

Obama's speech to schoolchildren was not "indoctrination." It was, for all intents and purposes, a pep talk. Yet from the moment it was announced, never mind that no one had yet seen the speech, hysterical talking heads immediately started comparing Obama to North Korea and China's Chairman Mao.

For those who will accuse me of extreme bias in the other direction, let me assure you that my primary source of news (and spare me the citation of the "Obama lovefest" – a report out last week points out that the media has become markedly more negative toward Obama) is ABC, specifically World News with Charles Gibson and This Week with George Stephanopoulos. I also watch MSNBC.

I know that many consider MSNBC to be the other side of the Fox News coin. It is not. Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow spend a lot of time combating the inaccuracies being spouted by the talking heads on Fox. I mean, somebody has to, right?

I read the New York Times as well as the Washington Post, Newsweek, and local newspapers.

My point is: I read and watch a number of sources.

Why?

Because I want to gather a number of points of view, I want to read assorted analysis and reportage.

And then – here's the key – come to my own conclusions, understand the issues of the day in context.

Blindly following the radical Right, absorbing everything it spews at face value without taking the time to understand whether it is in fact news or, as it is in so many cases, propaganda, is the height of irresponsibility, now more than ever.

As part of the health-care debate, many are revisiting a recording Ronald Reagan made in the early '60s. In it, he warns of impending socialism if the country begins down the slippery slope of Medicare. (You can listen to it here.)

This August, in town-hall meetings, nearly 50 years after Reagan's dire warnings, many shouted "Keep your hands off my Medicare!"

Of course, the shouters don't understand that Medicare is government-run health care, the very thing of which they're so afraid. They also don't understand that Medicare has not led to socialism, as Reagan warned.

Mind you, people should indeed be angry.

They should be angry that more than 44,000 people will die in the next year because they don't have health insurance.

They should be angry that health-insurance premiums have continued to rise at the same time as health-insurance companies continue to deny more and more care.

They should be angry that even if they pay their premiums, they are not guaranteed coverage when they need it.

They should be angry that the plan set forth by Senator Max Baucus requires every American to buy health insurance but does not provide a public option. Baucus's plan is nothing more than a gift to the insurance companies, the insurance companies that have brought us to this harrowing and deadly place.

Health care should be a right, not a privilege.

Consider flu shots: You can get one just about anywhere. For $25. But what if you don't have $25? Do you think it's fair that you should be more susceptible to the flu this season because you don't have the money to spare while those who have the money should be protected?

It is absurd that health care in this country is a for-profit business.

It is absurd that families are forced into bankruptcy in the wake of an unexpected illness.

It is absurd that we spend more money on health care than any other industrialized nation yet nearly one-sixth of our population has no insurance and among those who do have care, we have worse outcomes than countries in which all citizens are covered.

It is absurd that last year, a member of my family was in the hospital for fewer than 36 hours for nothing but tests and observation, and received a bill for more than $10,000.

Health care is the issue of our time. It has been an issue for more than a century, but the crisis is at hand.

It saddens me that our nation has become so divided that rational conversations are no longer possible, that neighbors are shouting down neighbors, that friends are defriending friends.

But I also believe that the day will come when we will have moved beyond this.

I look forward to the day when this national schism will be healed.

Until then, I will continue to find my voice.

Because I cannot stay silent. Too much is at stake.

39 Comments:

Blogger Doreen said...

Bravo.
Kudos.
Finally.
Thank you.

10:21 PM  
Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

First off, let me say I admire your passion for health care. I also don't plan on changing your mind, but offering a different perspective.

Wouldn't it be nice if everything was provided for everybody? As long as we're making Health Insurance (and we're talking about health insurance, not health care) a right, we might as well make housing, hair cuts, and chocolate bars a right too.

We have the best health care in the world, bar none. Your access to the worlds best treatments and diagnostic machines can only be dreamed about by other countries. In fact, hundreds of Canadians with state sponsored health insurance come down to the US every day to get treatment. The worlds advances in Cancer, Heart Disease, and every other health concern (except, apparently face transplants) come from your research hospitals and drug companies. Sometimes people toil away at a discovery for years only to find out it doesn't work. But sometimes they do work. Somebody has to pay these brilliant people for this work. With the NIH cutting back every year, that funding is non-existent from the Federal Government.

I agree it's sad when anybody dies. But 44,000 don't die every year because they don't have health insurance. Health insurance is not a medical condition. 2.5 million people die every year in the United States. According to your calculations, 2.456 million people die every year because they have health insurance.

And why is it absurd that a two day stay in a hospital costs $10,000? A hospital is not the Chicago Hilton at $329 a night. How many people were dedicated to your loved one's care? Probably more than you are aware of.

Regardless of all the theoretical arguments for or against nationalized health insurance, the big question remains of who is going to pay for it? In a country where 47% of the population doesn't pay one cent of federal income taxes, exactly where do you expect all this funding to come from?

6:39 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Thanks for your comments, Jeff. It's my hope that one day, everyone will be able to have conversations like this.

Of course, typed out in comments, we'll never get anything else done. : o )

So let me just comment one point: No, health insurance is not a medical condition. But people who don't have health insurance typically do not go to the doctor because they can't afford it. That very issue just came up with one of my friends: He felt very ill but doesn't have insurance. He can't afford it. So he wasn't going to go to the doctor. He did, in the end. And I didn't ask if he went to a free clinic or paid for a traditional visit or took himself to the emergency room.

But why did he even have to think twice about it? H e was ill. He shouldn't have had to weigh whether or not he should seek care because he didn't think he could afford it.

We're not talking about making chocolate bars a right. Let's not get silly. But police and fire are "socialized" services. You don't have to have fire insurance on your lovely home. You don't have to pay to use the library in your town. We have lots of socialized services supported by our taxes.

And I'm not even calling for national health care here as in Britain, though I believe that's the way to go.

As for the $10,000 hospital stay? Honestly? You can justify charging someone $10,000 to receive some tests and the lie in a bed and have a nurse check vitals every couple hours? Ten thousand dollars? For 36 hours? Nope, sorry, I can't understand that. Maybe you can afford bills like that. I know I can't.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

I don't know your friend's circumstances, so I honestly can't comment. But I know I make hard choices every day and I have to live with the choices I make.

And as for this "socialized" stuff. I don't buy into keywords like the conservative media does. There are certain things that we as a community agree that the community pays for. We agree that fire, police, and education are something that we want to support as a community. The government doesn't pay for these things, you do with your taxes. That's your tax dollars sending little Johnny and Mable to school and paying Sgt. Joe to come to your house because your alarm went off.

The fundamental question still remains to be answered. Who is going to pay for it?

And you know why the hospital bill was 10 large, right? It's because your friend and hundreds of people like him flood emergency rooms knowing that they're going to get taken care of. Your loved one probably got about $3500 of care, but the hospital had to cover the costs of the four people that came in before them that had no insurance.

You see, a right is not something taken away from one person so another person can have it. A right is an individual freedom that doesn't infringe on others.

8:44 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

But that's precisely the point, Jeff: Why do those people not have insurance? Some choose not to pay for it, true. But others truly can't afford it.

I have insurance. But I don't go to the the doctor because I can't afford the deductible. I'd have to pay for everything out of pocket until I reach that deductible, and then, knock wood, hope that something big wouldn't happen to require serious care that the insurance company would actually pay for. Maybe. If they decided they wanted to. Unless they found a loophole.

Yes, I'm well aware that it's my taxes that pay for fire and police and education. That's fine with me. I choose to live in a place that has higher property taxes and, by extension, has better schools. I don't have kids, but I want the kids who live here to get a good education.

So why is it that people are fine with police and fire protection being paid for with taxes, and education, but when it comes to health care, the most basic need we have (because if you don't have your health, you really don't have anything), we don't want to fund that? Why is that left up to private companies that deny care and increase premiums? Why is that OK with everyone?

My taxes also help pay for Medicare. Which helps my parents and countless others. And that's fine with me.

You know what's not fine with me? My tax dollars being spent to fund the war in Iraq.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

How do we pay for it? Are you willing to pay $3000 more a year in taxes? How about $10,000?

9:04 AM  
Anonymous Diane said...

Beth, I could not agree with you more... people have become so divided, so irrational and so close-minded that it is actually a bit scary.

I live in a very conservative area. When Obama's inauguration was shown in our grade school there was actual outrage. I couldn't believe that parents would not support a school showing an historic event in our nation... regardless of political views! And when our President addressed the schools last month the local school administration, apparently still stung from the inauguration backlash, did not even entertain the possibility of showing it!

I find it ironic that most of these people make accusations of Obama "brainwashing" our children when, in fact, isn't that exactly what they are doing themselves? By sheltering our children from hearing other opinions, aren't we just performing our own method of brainwashing?

Anyone who is afraid their child will be brainwashed simply by hearing another opinion must certainly be worried that their ideals are already on shaky ground. In our home we are open for a healthy debate of issues. I have found that in some cases, the debate may even strengthen our own opinions in the end.

Interesting story (then I will get off the soap box)... my 17 year old daughter and I differ on the pro-choice issue. Oddly enough, I am pro-choice; she is pro-life. We have discussed many times in our home. A while ago at church there was a petition passed around in support of the pro-life movement. When the petition came to us, I passed it on unsigned; she immediately took it and signed it. Despite our difference of opinion, I was so proud of her. I never want my children to be bullied into an opinion... either by someone else or by me. For her to hear all sides of the debate, and form her OWN opinion, support it, believe in it... that is a proud moment for a parent.

Keep talking, Beth. We are listening!

9:06 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Jeff, let's stop funding an illegal war. That'll free up boatloads of cash. And then let's reform healthcare and make it run efficiently; let's get rid of the waste and excess that inflates costs for everyone. Then let's look at the books and see where we stand.

Am I willing to pay more in taxes if we need to cover a shortfall? For healthcare? You bet I am.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

And thanks, Diana. That's awesome that your daughter has the courage of her convictions. And how great that the two of you can stand on two sides of a very divisive issue yet continue to love and support each other.

That's all I'm asking of my country. We're all in this together, folks. We're more alike than we are different. Let's focus on what we have in common first.

9:14 AM  
Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

The country decides where the money is spent. If the country decides to spend it on Obama's illegal war in Afghanistan than so be it. If the country decides to spend the money on health insurance or chocolate bars, then so be it. But the waste and excesses are there (as they are with any big entity be it governmental or private enterprise) because there is so much money involved. Is it right? No. Will government make it better? No. Keeping the health insurance industry in the hands of private insurers will continue to squeeze inefficiencies out of the system.

There is no question there are problems with our health care system. But making it a public system takes away all incentive for companies to invest in new technologies and treatments.

9:54 AM  
Blogger Doreen said...

OBAMA'S ILLEGAL WAR? ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? I do not want to get in to a pissing match on Beth's blog, but you are greatly mistaken Jeff.

If you want to live in a fantasy land of this being Obama's war ... what about Bush ignoring warnings we were going to be hit? What about him protecting all the Saudis in the U.S. at the time to protect his family's oil interests?

What about NO WMD's?

What about letting Osama Bin Ladin (sp?) get away at Tora Bora? G-d forbid we catch and kill or try him ... they need an enemy ...

That's right ... the RIGHT NEEDS AN ENEMEY.

They need a boogie man ... and they have it in our current President.

Obama's War? Are your eyes brown Jeff?

Beth ... I apologize, but can not let that comment stand. You can deal with his health care fallicies.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

Take off your tin hat, George Bush has been out of office for 9 months.

B. Hussein Obama is expanding the war in Afghanistan as we speak. All the lefties said W ignored Afghanistan and that hurt us. Now B. Hussein Obama is going to rectify that and send even more young men and women home in body bags.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

And it's just this level of vitriol and anger why we can't sit down and have a logical discussion.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Doreen said...

Yes Jeff ... I have anger when I am presented with lies and what appears to be using someone's middle name as a weapon.

Does the world turn all magical and sparkly when Barack takes office after 8 years of GWB and his Dark Lord Cheney ?

They used the Constitution for toliet paper!

There are huge messes to clean up.... You can not un do 8 years of a clogged toliet in 9 mos.

2 wras (unfunded) and paid for "off the books"

Guantanamo Bay - Hi there we are the nation that ignores the Geneva Conventions and tortures innocent people (innocent, tortured, and RELEASED I might add. Not to mention the records of the detainees remaining in Gitmo are so poorly kept thye will most likely be released too)

Healthcare Reform (parts of which were made worse by GWB and parts that were vetoed by him and passed by Barack)

The financial system collapse, bailout (done by GWB), and subsequent b.s. surrounding literally giving away trillions of dollars with NO strings (GWB).

You do not know what PRESIDENT BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA is going to do about Afghanistan ... quit projecting until decisions have been made.

I am ANGRY because we have been lied to.
We have been manipulated.
We have been sold a FALSE bill of goods.
We have been spied on.
We have been TAUGHT to stay in a constant state of fear.
We have been ripped off.

Hell yeah I am angry ... and I can not have a logical discussion with someone who is still defending what was done in our name and blasting the current President ....

He's doing the best he can with what he was given.

11:30 AM  
Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

See, that's the difference. I'm looking forward to solving the problems of the country while others look back to point fingers. I'm not defending what the Democratic Controlled Congress did while George Bush was in office any more than what the Democratic Controlled Congress did while Obama (better?) is in office.

The fact is the Democratic Controlled Congress spent 700B of your children's dollars to save the financial and automotive industries and the Democratic Controlled Congress let Obama spend another 787B of your children's dollars on ... pork.

Yes, he is doing his best. And we're still near 10% unemployment. I don't know how much more "Hope & Change" we can afford.

11:46 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Jeff, the "tin hat" and "B. Hussein Obama" snark is exactly what I'm hoping people will avoid.

And you can't seriously blame the unemployment rate on Obama. The recession was well under way when he took office. No one can turn an entire economy around on a dime.

12:07 PM  
Blogger Doreen said...

Dems got control in January 2007.

Everyone said give them the $$ or the world wide economy will collapse.

Looking BACKWARD?

Does that mean the moment Obama takes office all the CRAP goes away? I am not looking back I am pointing out what was/is there from the previous reign of the Imperial Presidency.

Just like if you lose weight ... you use a scale, a tape measure, or your clothes ... there is a MEASURE of progress .... you have to know that eating a box of twinkies, a 6 pack of coke, and a bucket of chicken was your FORMER way of eating.
When someone askes what you are doing differently - one generally says I changed what I was doing. You can finger point and blame the twinkies and coke - but they did not end up as part of your fat ass on their own.

We must look at the past to gauge how far we have come and what changes need to be made.

Yes, I am going to point out what he has to deal with - and the party of NO does not help clean up the messes.

I have no children and if I am not misaken we are oaying for our parents legislative mistakes ... and on it goes.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

Measures of Success:
Unemployment Rate: 7.6% when he took office, 9.7% in August.
National Debt: 12.8T when he took office, 17.4T when he leaves.
% of people NOT paying federal income tax: 38% when he took office, 47% today.

12:36 PM  
Blogger Doreen said...

Let's chart what GWB pissed away ....

http://thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/rchart4.gif

1:05 PM  
Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

Looking back, looking forward.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Gotta get the lay of the land, Jeff.

Obama didn't take office with a clean slate. The country is facing a lot of problems. We need to look at them in order to fix them.

It's not looking backward instead of looking forward. It's understanding where we came from so we can figure out where we're going.

1:25 PM  
Anonymous Alison said...

Great post, Beth.

8:48 PM  
Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

5.4 million disagree.
http://money.cnn.com/2009/10/02/news/economy/jobs_september/index.htm?postversion=2009100210

10:19 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Think of it like stopping a train, Jeff. An engineer can apply the brakes, but it's going to keep traveling for a long time. The recession is over but the job losses will continue. Lots of folks have said that. The key is that we're losing fewer jobs than we were losing. Not great news for folks like me who are among the jobless, but we're starting to stop the bleeding. Then we can start healing. Obama always said his is a two-year stimulus plan.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

Even a runaway train slows down when it runs out of gas.

4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said, Beth.

And Jeff, if this country has the best health care, why are insurance companies encouraging folks (and paying for procedures) to leave the country for expensive procedures like heart surgeries? Because it's less expensive, but just as effective because the docs were educated in the U.S.

I work in health care and can tell you that our patients DO NOT get good care. Insurance rules. I personally DO NOT get good health care. My physician doesn't even look me in the eyes when he takes the 30 seconds in the room with me. I miss the family physician of my youth, who knew me, my parents and my siblings. He cared.

Obama promised change. We wanted it. Eight months is not long enough to start saying change is failing, although Bush only needed 3 weeks to undo the peace and prosperity of the previous eight years.

4:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our country designed the presidency to be bigger than any single man--past, present, or future. I think we would all do well to realize that and look to where true politics lie--congress. Very little happens without them. That's why it is so vitally important that we all become involved with the senators and representatives entrusted by us to represent us. Whatever we may believe in, that opinion should be expressed and respected. Both the radical right and the radical left are exactly that--radical, and should not be given any more consideration than any other point of view. And all points of view should be welcome.

Whatever your political ilk, name calling and blame placing solve nothing. Perhaps we should all just 'work the problem' and find a solution.

10:11 PM  
Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

Anon,

We do have the best health care in the world, bar none. If there's a medical advance to come, it will come from someone trained in the United States. You know that thing called the Nobel Prize, it went to three Americans this year.

If you want treatment for stage three Cancer, are you going to Boston or Banglore? If you need a heart/lung transplant are you going to Las Chopas, Mexico or Los Angeles?

If your doctor is only spending 30 seconds with you, is that his fault or the insurance company's fault? You doctor is like any other service, he is going to try and maximize his profit. If he can't do that on margin, he's going to do it on volume. If you're not happy with your doctor, why not change? Why is it my responsibility (via the US Government) to find you a doctor you are happy with and pay for it?

And lastly, I hate to admit it, but you (collectively, because I don't know if you are two people or one) are absolutely correct. B. Hussein Obama has very little responsibility for what goes on the country. The Democratically controlled Congress that has been dolling out trillions to Wall Street and Detroit for the last few years has been reaching into your pocket and spending your tax dollars on Ponzi schemes and never-ending corporate entitlement programs.

More government is not the answer for everything.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Doreen said...

As your pal Ronald Reagan would say - there you go again Jeff ... nice to know you are consistent in your ....hmmmmm ..... is it racism?

Peddle out the President's middle name when you have nothing else to prove your point.

Keep going back to the well with the same old tired crap.

Can not count on you for anything original.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Cannon said...

Maybe you don't understand, Jeff, because you've been told at least once before: the use of the President's middle name is a sad and childish gimmick employed by many who do not agree with his policies to tie him to either Saddam Hussein (to whom he is unrelated) or Islam (which he is not, and which is not uniformly a cult of armed thugs), and thereby send terrorist shivers up the spines of unsuspecting readers who do not entirely understand the depth and breadth of this illogic.

Good medical care in the U.S.A.? Sure, if you can afford it. And if you are free of preexisting conditions. Whenever I think of our medical system, I picture a racetrack with patients in those horrible hospital gowns at the start-line, and people in the stands betting on which patient will require the least amount of care. That's simply immoral.

Ideology can be helpful to a point, but beyond that it is--as Peter Matthiessen once said--a form of non-thinking. The only polictical ideology I have found useful over the years is that government should always err on the side of protecting those who can least protect themselves. That means the people who can't afford to fly to Boston or L.A.. It means the people who have to sell their house to afford a new M.S. treatment. It means the people that any one of us could become suddenly at any given moment.

9:34 PM  
Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

Congratulations Doreen, you've managed to call me a racist and unoriginal in the same comment. This is why we can't move forward; name calling and backward thinking.

Cannon, unless I didn't get the press release, I believe his name is still Barack Hussein Obama. If his name was O'Day would I have to assume he was Irish? Of course not. That's the man's name. Were you up in arms when people started calling Mr. Kennedy JFK? I doubt it.

Most of the talk of pre-existing conditions is a non-issue if you have maintained your health insurance. W. Jefferson Clinton made sure of that when he passed the HIPPA in 96. Can things be improved? Sure. Do we have to overhaul the whole system to do it?

And just for the record, I don't subscribe to any mainstream ideology. I am an independent thinker capable of weighing all the facts and making a decision. Sure, it make take me more then 72 hours to read through 17,000 pages of legislation, but I can do it. I believe I am the only one who can make decisions for me. I believe life isn't fair and I accept that sometimes not everybody comes out with a trophy.

So I'm sorry, I don't believe more government is the answer for everything. Nor do I believe government should legislate morality as morality for you may be different than morality for me. I support charitable causes that you may find reprehensible. You may support charitable causes that I feel are reprehensible. I'm not forcing you to support my causes, don't ask me to support yours.

11:27 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Jeff, I don't believe more government is the answer to everything, either. But health care isn't "everything." It's one thing – one very important thing – that shouldn't, in my view, be parceled out based on wealth or station in society.

Last night, a friend of mine who describes himself as a social liberal and a fiscal conservative said he doesn't believe health care is a right. I mentioned the Declaration of Independence. He said, "Which guarantees life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.:

To which I countered, "I submit to you that if one doesn't have one's health, the right to 'life' is in jeopardy."

So let me pose a hypothetical situation to you: Your next-door neighbor – good guy, pays his taxes, keeps his property up, always brings a six-pack when he comes over to watch the game, just your average Joe – loses his job and with it goes his health insurance. (Let's pretend they can't afford COBRA.) A week later, his wife finds out she has stage-4 breast cancer. They have two options. Option 1: Let her go through treatment, knowing in the end they're going to face, let's say, $100,000 in medical bills. Option 2: Not seek treatment because they don't have insurance and they know they can't afford the bills that will mount.

In your world, then, It's OK that they have to choose between 1) bankruptcy/extreme financial hardship or 2) the wife succumbing to cancer just because he lost his job and with it his insurance?

So Joe comes over to watch the next game and tells you of this wrenching decision he and his wife are facing. Do you feel any empathy? Do you think to yourself, "Bummer. But, hey, I have insurance. He lost his job and his insurance and now his wife is facing a life-threatening illness. Sucks to be him. I hope I get decent neighbors when he has to sell his house to pay his medical bills"?

I'm just trying to understand what goes on in the minds of people who are opposed to finding a way to provide coverage for everyone.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

First to the answer, and then on to the reality of the situation you presented.

I would say to Joe, "How can I help?" I would choose to help my buddy Joe, because I know he would do the same thing for me. Joe and Mary would get by on the help and compassion of friendship.

I would also council Joe to get on his ex-companies COBRA coverage. Most companies (if not all, I'm not sure) give their fired employees 30 days to decide what they want to do with their COBRA coverage. Second, I'd encourage him to verify that his coverage has actually stopped because most employers cover their employees until the end of the month on the current plan.

Why wasn't Joe's first priority to find a private health insurance policy, at least a high-deductible policy that pays for catastrophes when he was laid off?

Choosing between financial hardship and health is not even a choice. Personally, I would happily spend every dime I have to make sure my family is healthy and secure. I may not live as extravagantly as Joe with his two Jags in the garage and Mary's Escalade. But those are the choices I make.

And now for the solution. I think employer covered health insurance should be abolished. The Health Insurance market should work just like every other type of insurance (Car insurance, life insurance). You choose the carrier and either stay with that carrier if you are happy or change carriers if you are unhappy with their service. You pick and choose what coverage is right for you. I don't want some bureaucrat in Washington telling me I need "well baby" and "nutrition consulting" coverage when I don't. The way the employer paid health plans work now, you've got nobody that is looking out for your interests. The insurance company is looking out for their interests and the employer is looking to pay as little as possible (more or less, some companies actually use their benefits as a recruiting advantage).

Oh, what about people that "can't afford" private health insurance. You put them into high risk pools just like you do Automobile Insurance. If a guy with three drunk driving convictions can get automobile insurance, so can Mary. Will it be expensive? Yes. Will it be $100,000? No. The only government involvement needed is that they mandate that if you want to do business, you have to accept a certain percent of the high risk pool. Just like automobile insurance.

5:10 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

I never said Joe had two Jags in the garage and that Mary drove an Escalade.

But let's talk about health insurance working the same way as car insurance or life insurance.

My parents are both recipients of Medicare. But they also need supplemental insurance because Medicare doesn't cover everything.

My father is almost 70 years old. He continues to work, predominantly, because his job provides him with insurance. With his health history, he cannot afford insurance on his own.

My parents' greatest fear is what they will do when my father can no longer work or is forced to retire and they no longer have that coverage.

These are people who have contributed to society. They owned and operated a small business for many years. They supplied jobs. They paid taxes. Their employees paid taxes. They all pulled their own weight.

And now, in their "golden years," even with Medicare, they're scared of what will happen when my father no longer has that supplemental insurance coverage.

The insurance companies charge the most of people who most need the coverage. A public option – OPTION, remember – would inject competition into the marketplace and thereby demand that the private insurers become competitive instead of operating unchecked.

Why shouldn't people have that option?

5:22 PM  
Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

I agree that competition in the marketplace is the only way costs are going to come down. And by giving people a choice will make that happen.

The public option interjects non-competition in the marketplace. For profit companies can not compete with an entity that doesn't have to make money nor worry about it's expenses.

6:59 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

So how does competition get introduced into the market?

7:01 PM  
Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

Competition gets introduced into the market by giving individuals the choice of their health insurance provider instead of your employer. Individuals will shop rates and service just like they do for life insurance, home insurance, and car insurance.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

People have choice now. No one has to accept employer-provided coverage. The reason most do is because they're unable to afford insurance privately.

10:07 PM  
Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

Yes, and no. For most people, Health Insurance is part of their compensation package. Outside of the largest employers, most don't offer any choice of which plan you sign up for.

In addition, very few employers will offer extra compensation if you don't enroll in their plan. A few do, but most don't. You either join their plan or you say goodbye to a large part of your compensation.

Could you deny your employer's health insurance for free and get your own for $400 a month? Sure. Does that really make sense? The reasons most people don't do this is because common sense tells us it's not a wise thing to do not because they can't afford it.

If the tax laws were such that it made more sense for the employers to increase your base pay instead of loading you up with health insurance, then the individual would have a better choice and it would foster a more competitive environment.

11:13 AM  

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