A great debate now rages in the Democratic party about health care and health insurance and what rights America should grant its citizens, if any, to ensure that if we fall ill or are injured, we won’t have to worry that the exorbitant costs of care will lead us to early graves. Or dump us in the poor house.
It is one of the great political disputes of our time. Of a long time. The U.S. heath care “non-system,” as the AMA’s Journal of Ethics in fact lays out, has been a thorn for generations. Yet it seems that only one side of our two-party non-system acknowledges it. This may sound too left-ish to some, but I don’t see it as ridiculously partisan to suggest that, when it comes to this particular dispute, Democrats are scrambling for answers and tossing out all sorts of possible fixes and semi-fixes — Obamacare, Medicare For All, Medicare For All Who Want It, etc. — while Republicans simply sit back and say “No.”
Give it up for the GOP. They don’t have an answer. But they know this: Yours is wrong.
Before getting too deep into the healthcare weeds, a subject I’ve touched on before, and the question of whether healthcare is one word or two, it’s important not to lose track of the underlying issue here: Healthcare (health care, whatever) is expensive. Much more expensive here, in this country, than in most places. Much more expensive than it should be. You pay for doctors and all their equipment, for someone to tell you to step on a scale, for someone to take your blood pressure, you pay some pharmacist for a pill — Oh my God, the pills — you fork over for ferned-up waiting rooms in expansive medical centers, and for tests done in some lab somewhere and, of course, for the insurance that, theoretically, helps you pay for everything.
Oh my God Part II: the health insurance. That’s stupidly expensive. You’re damned if you get sick in this country, and you’re semi-damned if you don’t, simply by virtue (if that’s what you want to call it) of having to pay all those ever-increasing insurance premiums. If, that is, you’re one of the lucky ones who can afford to pay for health insurance at all. Under the Republican Who Now Is President, the rate of uninsured Americans grew last year for the first time since the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was enacted in 2010.
A lot of people — millions — just can’t afford insurance. They have to roll the dice on their health.
Somebody, somewhere, of some political party, ought to come up with an answer to the affordability question first and foremost. We need cheaper healthcare. And cheaper insurance.
But back to my first question: With healthcare (and health insurance) as expensive as everyone knows it is — Democrats and Republicans agree on that; hell, Thanos and Thor agree on that — should the U.S. government step in to cool down the costs and guarantee, in some way, that a major health setback won’t effectively ruin a life?
Never mind, specifically, how the government might pull that off. That’s another quagmire. Before we tackle that problem, or the question of cost overall, let’s make sure we understand the question:
Should the U.S., somehow, dictate that all Americans have a right to good, affordable, reliable healthcare?
As any American now knows, Republicans want no part of the government stepping in and promising anything when it comes to healthcare. That, on its face, is understandable. Big Government, like Big Pharma and any other Big Business, can get ugly and unruly. In a flash.
But what kind of country are we if tens of millions can’t afford health care, let alone health insurance? If many millions more are underinsured? If we have to pay outrageous sums to Big Insurance just to make sure a lifetime of hard work and savings isn’t dashed by some outrageously high healthcare bill? If we have to hang onto a job just so our employer can help us pay Big Insurance just so we’re not destitute when it comes time for Medicare (a Big Government program, by the way, that many people love) to kick in?
Republicans, and others against Big Government getting involved (or, given Medicaid and Medicare, more involved), warn that a massive public health program is going to cost us dearly. Forget the “death panels” that Obamacare opponents warned about. Forget Big Government all up in your health business.
Taxes will rise, they say. On everybody. And, fact is, that’s true. You’d better believe it. Even Bernie Sanders. the patron saint of Medicare for All, says taxes will rise.
Republicans, and others, also warn that this is a step toward socialism, which if you know anything about socialism — hell, if you can use a dictionary and spell socialism — you know is nothing more than a lame scare tactic. Still, to Republicans, the last thing you want to do is trust your health and the health of your wallet to Big Government.
But, come on: We’re supposed to trust Big Healthcare and Big Insurance and Big Pharma with our wallet and our health? Really? That hasn’t exactly worked out for us, has it?
To me, it’s past time that somebody puts a hemostat on this healthcare mess (stat!), and if that means jacking up our taxes to give government a chance, I’m all for it. Especially if, as Sanders has said, those taxes will drive down our overall healthcare costs (no insurance company to pay, no copays, no deductible, affordable drugs).
If you’re wary of a Big Government takeover and instead want to hold on to your overpriced Big Insurance plan through your employer, that’s fine. Keep it. That’s the Medicare for All Who Want It option. Maybe you get a little tax break. It’s an idea.
Who knows what will work? If there’s one good part about this whole pickle, though, it’s that we already know what doesn’t work. And who’s not working to solve it. We know who’s wrong.
We just need to get them out of the way so the ones with ideas can fix it.