Josh wants to clear up a misunderstanding in the health care debate

I have read so many posts with some variation of:

“I can’t understand people are so stupid/uncaring/stingy/crazy that they oppose government health care reform that will cover everyone in the country without rationing and not add to the deficit. How can people be so stupid/uncaring/stingy/ crazy??!??”

The truth is (except for the exceptions of course), people who are against government getting more involved in health care are not stupid, uncaring, stingy or crazy. They simply think the bills as they are shaping up in Congress will create more problems than they will solve. They believe more people will be worse off than better off if these bills pass, and that there are far preferable alternatives.

A national program that provides quality health care for everyone that runs efficiently and controls costs is a wonderful idea. No one would be against such a program. In fact, most would agree that this is theoretically possible.

The debate is, that some people think the probability of Washington DC actually achieving that goal in reality is high, but others think that not only are the chances slim, a program like this is likely to result in a worse overall situation than we have today, that hurts most the very people such a program was designed to help.

Any unbiased student of history and current events would agree that people skeptical of Washington DC’s ability to get it right on health care have valid points. For example, according to the trustees, Medicare’s unfunded liability at this point is $74 trillion. For reference, this is higher than the annual GDP of the entire world. It’s possible that with a public option or single-payer system, our unfunded liabilities would go much higher, so we’d be forced to put more and more cost controls and rationing on all health care which could result in a substantially worse health care system than before. One might feel this is improbable, but given the government’s track record only the naive would believe this outcome is impossible.

Informed people know that European countries that have adopted more government-controlled health care systems have some significant problems as a result. One can conclude that the pros outweigh the cons, but it’s unarguable that some or many of these problems are a direct result of government policy.

And with the U.S. federal government already controlling 40% of health care expenditures in the U.S., and heavily regulating every aspect of health care (such as exempting insurance companies from antitrust laws), it’s also undeniable that the U.S. does not have anything close to a free market health care system.

Whatever one believes, stereotyping people who are against more government involvement in health care as stupid, uncaring, stingy or crazy is just as unconstructive as accusing Obama of setting up “death panels.”

The sarcastic, hateful right- and left-wingnut speech is not constructive. Only a tiny minority of truly heartless people are unconcerned about people who go broke or die because of lack of access to quality health care.

But some people feel the many charities that provide financial health care assistance to those who cannot afford it are far more efficient than a government bureacracy will ever be.

For example, 91% of donations to The Chronic Disease Fund go directly to patient co-pay expenses:

Some people think a single payer system or public option might end up be closer to 9% than 91% efficient, and health care for those who canot afford it is better achieved by strengthening incentives to donate to these many efficient charities.

Some feel intelligent health care reform should start with repealing the federal laws that have driven up health care costs, and driven down the quality of care up to now. Some people wish for a health care system not controlled by insurance companies, government and big pharma as it is now, and as it will be even more if the health care reform bill passes, but instead, a system controlled by individual consumers, as is the case with buying food or clothing for example, two “systems” which no one complains about.

Here is an eight point health care reform plan by John Mackey from Whole Foods that deserves careful consideration and study from any open-minded person concerned about the present and future of health care in the U.S.:

Whether you think his eight point plan is a better solution than the 1,000 page bill in Congress or not, no one except the most prejudiced would deny that Mackey’s proposal is intelligent and well thought out, and is a compelling alternative to a government controlled “public option” or “single payer” system.

The point of this note is not to say who is right and wrong. It’s simply to say that rather than trying to rush through a massive health care bill that creates 46 new government agencies with unprecedented control over what medical treatment will be covered or allowed and to whom, people should open their minds and educate themselves on all alternatives – single payer, public health care option, and non-profit co-ops, as well as free market reforms that give power to patients instead of insurance companies and Washington DC. The truth is that all these options have pros and cons.

People who blindly plant themselves into one of two tribes and feel that their tribe is “right” and “good” and the enemy tribe is “wrong” and “evil” are succumbing to powerful animal instincts honed over millions of years of evolution. These divisive, hateful impulses are easy to stir up by the Rush Limbaughs, John Stewarts, Ann Coulters, Bill Mahers, Glenn Becks, and Keith Olbermanns, but instead of becoming puppets of our instincts, it’s more constructive to become aware of them and channel them in constructive ways while keeping our minds free from prejudice and bias and open to all viewpoints.

“I will listen, especially when we disagree.” – Barack Obama, election night speech


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