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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.

Subtly Terrifying January 27, 2009

Posted by A. Robinson in Bus Songs.
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I rode the bus home on Friday; as I surveyed the bus looking for my seat, I realized that the bus was primed for crazy-talk.  There were groups of oddballs congregated at different spots.  I happened to catch a whiff of a politically geared conversation up towards the front.  Sounded like it could turn violent at any moment, so I plopped myself down within hearing range, but far enough away to avoid any flying debris.

The couple participating in the discussion were probably in their 50s.  I couldn’t see much of the gentleman; he was staring pretty intently at his old school clamshell cell phone, texting slower than anyone I’ve ever seen in my whole life.  He had a large red beard–which I assumed would be fairly unkempt if I was looking at him face to face–and a baseball cap.  His companion was in her 50s.  She was of average build and height, and her greying hair was cut in a bob.  Her mustachioed, oval face was slightly oddly shaped, probably because she seemed to be missing many of her top teeth.

About 15 minutes into the trip, as I’d hoped ,the conversation exploded.  All of a sudden, the woman begins to raise her voice. 

Lady:  “That’s irrational.  That is just totally and completely irrational!” 

She’s using big words, which is a plus.  She’s also yelling at the top of her lungs, which negates any SAT points she might have earned. 

Lady:  (continues)  “Obama did not take a pay cut because he’s black!  It has nothing to do with the color of his skin!  Hell, lots of people voted for him, too.  My whole family voted for him; we didn’t care that he was black.  He’s not getting paid less because he’s black, for God’s sake!”

It’s important to pause for a second and point out that this woman was arguing on the premise that Obama did, in fact, take a cut to his salary.  Now, to the best of my research, it’s my understanding that Obama put a freeze on raises for his White House aids.  The articles I’ve read haven’t said anything about the freeze or a deduction being applied to his own paycheck.  Not criticizing–heck, if I’d just been sworn in as the President of the United States, I wouldn’t assign myself a pay reduction, either.  Oh, but she couldn’t just leave it there.  

Lady:  “Besides, he’ll be dead in six months anyway.”  

And with that, she turns around, folds her arms, and starts pouting.  I, on the other hand, am sitting in my seat, staring, unabashedly slack-jawed.  She didn’t qualify that with “I hope that’s not true” or “God forbid.”  Her matter-of-fact delivery sent a chill up my spine.  

Look, it’s no secret that I didn’t vote for the man.  As a matter of fact, this election had me between a rock and a hard place.  I didn’t like either candidate (oh, Hillary!), to be honest.  However, even though I didn’t choose Obama myself, that doesn’t make him any less my President.  I do believe that he is–and will–do the best job for the nation that he can.  His election is historical, I admit.  I mean, I wish that race had not been a factor in the election for the sole reason that ignoring his genetic make-up would have been the real indicator that America is truly post-racial.  However, his presence in the White House is a huge step towards reaching that goal.  For him to be killed in office…no sane person wants to see that. 

So here’s sending a prayer up for you, President Obama.  May you have a safe and healthy 4 years in office.  


P.S:  This conversation is the most accurate I’ve ever recounted; I definitely recorded it verbatim onto my iPod Touch.  It’s a brilliant deception, really.  “Oh, you think I’m listening to music?  Haha, I’m actually blogging about you!  Take that!”  Tee hee.