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A Few Thoughts on the Health Care Bill March 22, 2010

Posted by A. Robinson in Life, Loathin'.
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I’ll just come out and say it:  I’m unhappy that the House passed Obama’s health care reform.

I’m not, however, unhappy for the typical conservative reasons.  I’m glad that the abortion clause was taken out, but it wouldn’t have been a deal-killer for me.  I’m actually glad that it will require all Americans to have health insurance, and that it is going to provide an affordable option for that.  Let’s be completely honest with one another–uninsured Americans cost the health care industry billions every year.  That cost has to be redistributed across insurance payers, other procedures, etc.  This will, ultimately, be a good thing, if not screw over illegal immigrants.  Does it rankle me that people will have no option in this matter?  Sort of, but the ultimate point of the matter is this:  most people who don’t have insurance in this country don’t have it because they can’t afford it.  Those who still don’t want it aren’t the rich who can pay for their own medical treatment but the POOR who don’t want to pay for it at ALL.

It’s not that I’m not for health care reform.  I am.  There are plenty of people in my life who struggle with their health and can barely afford treatement.  Some examples:

1.  A good friend of mine’s father has recently been diagnosed with chronic leukemia.  He’s the sole breadwinner for the family, and although he’s a University employee, his health insurance won’t cover enough of the cost for sustained chemotherapy and radiation.  He cannot afford treatment; instead, he and his family have turned to alternative therapies to treat the disease.

2.  My pastor and his wife both have preexisting conditions that keep them from switching insurance providers.  Right now they pay 35% of their income after taxes to keep their insurance.  Though they could get a bit of a break by changing companies, that would mean that they wouldn’t be covered for any of their preexisting conditions for a year–tough, considering one of them suffers migraines.  My pastor is looking for a second job in order to keep his health insurance.

3.  John and I have a close friend whose nephew was recently diagnosed with cancer.  Because the boy’s family doesn’t have health insurance, he wasn’t diagnosed until January even though he had been having fairly severe symptoms since September.  Once he was diagnosed, the family struggled to find charity care at a hospital because they couldn’t afford treatment.  He died last week.  (To be fair, there’s a lot more to this story besides health care reform and insurance, but it still made a difference).

I love these people.  I want them to have everything they need to make their lives comfortable.  However, I think we are going to pay an awful lot of money for a health care band-aid, not reform.  This bill is not transformative enough.  I also think this is just not the right time to pass the bill.

Let me start with that last bit first.  Look, guys.  We’ve just paid out BILLIONS in bail-out money.  BILLIONS.  The economy is in a hole.  Unemployment in this country is at an all-time high.  As of yet, I have heard of no compelling plan of action for actually PAYING for this bill.  Instead, it inflates the deficit without any thoughts of reducing it.  I don’t understand why this bill couldn’t have waited another year for the economy to stabilize a little more in order to support such continued, sustained, massive spending.

I also think that this bill has been pounded through Congress with little thought to actual health care reform.  The one issue that is critical to reducing health care costs substantially has been little addressed: tort reform.  Right now, doctors run tons of unnecessary tests in order to avoid lawsuits.  The amount hospitals and doctors pay in malpractice insurance is incredibly high, and doctors that lose malpractice suits often find themselves jobless.  They become a risk that clinics and hospitals no longer want to assume.  Though I think it’s important that we keep doctors accountable for their actions, we’ve become sue-happy, which drives up costs.  But tort reform is unpopular.  Lobbying groups pretty much kept that discussion from happening.  Secondly, we need to streamline our healthcare system.  It’s SO SLOW.  However, this is going to require automating a lot of processes and eliminating jobs–also unpopular.

Anyway, I”ll be interested to see how all of this unfolds, but I’m not optimistic about its long-term feasibility.

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