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The uproar over health care reform

I have debated with myself about writing this post for several days. I want to be clear right up front. I am not writing this in support of the health care reform legislation before Congress, but neither am I writing this in opposition to said legislation. Clearly, our health care system needs to have some changes. Possibly, there are some good things in the legislation that is being debated in Congress right now. In fact, I would dare say it is more than a possibility and more of a probability. On the other side of the coin, there are things that I would not like about it. The most prominent of these would be the mandate that every American purchase health insurance and the mandate on businesses to provide health care coverage for their employees.

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I am no expert on the subject, but I am able to formulate informed opinions, as is most every other citizen of this country. The problem with the debate we are having over health care reform is that it is not really a debate. It has descended into a shouting match between the far right and the far left and I learned a long time ago that shouting usually results in zero accomplishments.

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First of all, it appears President Obama does not really want debate on the subject, he just wants a bill to sign. I base this assumption on his reaction to the way certain town hall meetings on the topic have been disrupted by protesters. (Don’t worry, I will get to that part of the story in a moment.) The White House blog has posted an article called Facts Are Stubborn Things and it bemoans the fact that a lot of misinformation is being spread around the Internet in chain mails and although they do not mention blogs in particular, I am sure they had them in mind as well. In this article, they ask that anyone who reads or hears something about the health care legislation that seems fishy to report it to the White House.

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This article immediately brought the response by conservatives that President Obama was attempting to get American citizens to report on other American citizens for political speech. Some of those charges came from people like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, which is to be expected. While I do not believe that is what the President is up to, I do know this is the way he has operated in the past. He is in pure campaign mode right now and he is moving to make sure his message gets out. I have no doubt he is not above trying to shut down what he considers outlets of misinformation. He proved this during the campaign when he threatened legal action against media outlets who were airing advertisements from the NRA that talked about his record against the 2nd Amendment. I do not necessarily believe that he is compiling an enemies list, but he has made it clear that he does not appreciate opposing voices. As for how Limbaugh and company responded, what else did you expect?

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This I will say about Obama’s request for reports of misinformation. There is certainly a lot of that going around on both sides of the argument, but there are also legitimate concerns. Those concerns have to be addressed before the majority of the American people will feel comfortable about the legislation Congress is trying to pass. He needs to understand that just because he won the election does not give him carte blanche to ram any legislation he wants down our throats. Trying to do so is one sure way to get the ire of the American people up in a hurry.

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President Obama has to be frustrated with Congress’ failure to pass health care reform legislation before their summer recess. I am sure he hoped to have it out of the way and possibly out of the minds of the American people. Having failed to do so gives us more opportunity to debate this legislation among ourselves and to question our legislators as they come home for their summer recess.

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Several legislators have been arranging town hall meetings with their constituents and trying to hear their concerns about health care reform. Some of these meetings have turned ugly and resulted in the shouting matches I mentioned at the first of this article. One such meeting was in Arkansas between the voters and Representatives Mike Ross and Vic Synder. If you remember, Mike Ross is the leader of the blue dog Democrats who helped force the delay in passing health care legislation until the fall. They were trying to negotiate a better reform package and to give them and the people who voted them into office time to digest what is going on in Washington. From what I have read about the meeting, I kind of felt sorry for Representative Ross. I may not agree with him on most issues, but it sounds like he was trying to do right by his constituents.

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The meeting in Arkansas has not been the only one to turn ugly and they have prompted charges by the Democrats that right wing activists have been recruiting people to go to the meetings in order to disrupt them. The liberal media has been going out of it’s way to “inform” the American people that these protests were those of a very vocal minority group of people and some have even suggested that the Republican party is coming apart. I have no inside information about these protests and have no way of knowing if the liberal media is accurate in their assessment of the situation. If they are correct, then those who are organizing these kinds of protests are doing a great dis-service to the debate on health care reform.

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As I have already mentioned, there are legitimate concerns about the legislation before Congress. I do not like the idea that some businesses would be required to provide health care coverage for their employees. As much as that might sound like a wonderful plan, it is not the responsibility of my employer to provide health care coverage for me or my family. There have been some concerns over how health care may be rationed, in order to keep costs down as much as possible. As a comment on one of my earlier articles said, the insurance companies are calling the shots now and the only thing they are concerned with is their bottom dollar.

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Along with the concerns that are real, we also have those that are not. World Net Daily came out with an article a couple of weeks ago that tried to make the case that the legislation would require senior citizens to have end-of-life counseling sessions. Once I actually read the section of the legislation they were alluding to, it was very clear that was not the truth. Now we have former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin posting on her Facebook page about how the Obama plan was evil and how he would create “death panels” that would deny care to Americans who needed it. One thing for sure, Sarah Palin knows how to keep herself in the news. As far as I can tell, this is also alluding to the end-of-life counseling sessions and it is complete bunk. Those sessions have nothing to do with denying care to those who need it or with deciding how or when someone will die. They are not mandatory and they are to cover living wills, final care, hospice, etc.

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We have a real situation on our hands with the debate over health care reform. The liberals have more than enough votes to pass any legislation they want and they know it. The only way conservatives can slow them down is to have the help of the blue dog Democrats who are fiscally conservative enough to want to stop the massive spending that will undoubtedly accompany any health care reform legislation. A lot of conservatives seem bent on yelling their heads off about concerns that do not really exist, instead of focusing on fostering a real debate about the concerns that are legitimate.

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So now we have that shouting match I mentioned earlier. We have Nancy Pelosi saying some protesters were carrying swastikas and Rush Limbaugh comparing the Obama health care logo to a swastika and the Democratic Party to Nazis. If we are not careful, shouting is the only thing that will come out of this and even though health care reform legislation is likely to pass Congress, we may very well miss a real opportunity to see real change take place. One thing I have learned from watching politics and Washington, D.C., the more things change, the more they remain the same.

About LD Jackson

LD Jackson has written 2053 posts in this blog.

Founder and author of the political and news commentary blog Political Realities. I have always loved to write, but never have I felt my writing was more important than in this present day. If I have changed one mind or impressed one American about the direction our country is headed, then I will consider my endeavors a success. I take the tag line on this blog very seriously. Above all else, in search of the truth.

  • “Clearly, our health care system needs to have some changes. ”

    Based on what Larry… Democrat talking points or the state controlled media talking points?

    I personally posted a list of over 50 healthcare facilities in OKC alone that already are providing FREE and low cost (what you can afford to pay) medical care from dentistry to womens health to pediatrics to pre-natal and neo-natal care…. did I mention FREE?

    The phony healthcare crisis is just as real as the phony climate change crisis… both are mere figments of the liberal mind brought to life by Democrats and the Democrat controlled news media.

    Don’t fall for it.
    America has the very best medical care facilities and doctors and staff in the world. That is why leaders and the rich from countries with socialized medicine come HERE when they get sick.

    Oppose socialized medicine NOW or suffer the consequences of a GENUINE healthcare crisis later.
    .-= red stater´s last blog ..Next Time You Get The Chance To Vote…. Vote for "Change" =-.

    • First of all, Red, I am not advocating socialized medicine and I am not saying we do not have the best doctors and hospitals in the world. I just feel like there are some things we could do better. For one, maybe the influence the insurance companies have over health care could be reduced. We would be fools to not realize there are things that could be changed for the better, but that does not mean I am advocating turning it all over to the government and let them run the system.

  • Mike

    Excellent post Larry. Of course very few of us have anything close to expertise on this subject but those of us who’ve taken the time to read and understand the issues see the existing problems, the potential fixes, and the holes in many of the arguments. I think the two problems you mentioned at the outset are significant but, as I understand it, the individual mandate is a necessary prerequisite. I’ll try to explain it as I see it.

    Despite what Red says there clearly are problems with the current system: 1) the uninsured use hospital emergency rooms (the absolutely highest cost medical service) for cuts, bruises, and the flu, not to mention more serious medical problems, and those costs are passed on to the rest of us through higher overall medical and insurance costs; 2) any employed person with an existing medical condition is either stuck in their job or unemployable elsewhere because the preexisting condition will not be covered should they leave or get fired — and if they are the only employed family member then the entire family loses insurance coverage; 3) doctors charge by the procedure not by the sickness. They are incentivized to run every possible test because they get paid for each and every one and they can get sued should they miss something that might have been caught by a test they failed to perform. Malpractice insurance is enormous and driving doctors out of business especially at the General Practitioner level where reimbursement rates are very low; 4) medical costs now comprise rought 17% of our economy and that number will continue to grow if nothing is done to intervene — the growth since the failure to reform in 1994 is a good indication of what will happen in the next 15 years and it’s not a pretty picture. We will be forced to raise taxes and cut other services on a regular basis going forward just to keep pace with growing medical costs.

    And of course there is much more. What do these major issues have in common? They have nothing to do with the current state of our medical care. Red is right in the narrowest sense — Americans are largely happy with their medical care today and therefore see no reason to make a change. Those who’ve suffered from some of the existing holes understand some of the issues; but most of our problems are macroeconomic ones and getting that point across is extremely difficult and easy to fight against. Red’s argument about free clinics is too simplistic. There is no problem with low level, basic care. That’s not where the issues exist. The problem is when health issues get serious, when medical procedures, invasive surgeries, MRIs, CATScans, rehabilitation, chemotherapy and radiation treatment, clinical trials, etc become necessary. You get involved with our medical system at those levels and you begin to see the problems.

    Those holes are what need fixing in order to keep our medical system viable without threatening the health of our economy or the security of our country. So why the individual mandate? Because if we create a public option that is relatively low cost insurance and covers people with preexisting conditions then there is absolutely no incentive for a healthy person to buy insurance until they get sick. We end up with a system only insuring sick people and that is even more expensive than what we have right now. If healthy people are also paying into the system then revenues and expenses are better balanced and the system can sustain itself. When I wrestle with the individual mandate I have to come down on the side of agreeing with it in large part and giving appropriate rebates or tax benefits so the poor have little or no out of pocket cost and middle income families get some relief.

    Should business foot the bill? I agree with you — that’s a bad idea. I urge you to read the article by Joe Klein in the recent issue of Newsweek (I know — left leaning magazine — but that doesn’t mean they aren’t correct from time to time). Klein talks about the health care bill offered by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon that includes an individual mandate, an individual tax on health care benfits provided to employees (something the unions killed early on in the process), and an offsetting tax credit of $17,000 to offset the cost. Sounds reasonable, right? The problem is that it has something that everybody on either side can be against so it has no support from lobbyists. Have a look at the article and follow up with the bill. From my perspective it’s th best thing out there but people from both sides will have political problems with some aspect of it — and that’s how it should be because at the end we need compromises from both sides or we’ll end up with a wishy-washy bill that will be a political windfall for both sides and do nothing to help us deal with this issue.

    • Mike,
      I know first hand of the problems with our health care system when a person’s health problems get too serious. My wife has been struggling with an illness that no doctor has been able to diagnose yet. I can get her to all the basic care she needs, but when they run out of options, they just simply shake their heads and say they do not know what to do. The last doctor tried to find a specialist clinic that would take her case and without insurance, they said no way. My Mom keeps telling me that I need to buy insurance, but I would have to be working a second job, just to pay the premiums on my wife. That is, if I could find anyone who would insure her with her pre-existing condition.

  • Laurie. Oregon

    Great post, Larry.

    You have nailed it. As with so many necessary reforms, this one has boiled down to a public discourse comprised of shouted talking points from the far left and the far right-a place where a very slim percentage of Americans live. Over the past decade and a half, this becomes a signal to us all-including our politicians-to hunker down and “win”. When that happens, everybody loses any hope of middle ground and reasoned thinking is lost. This sort of thinking gives way to the nastiest, lowest form of “communication”, and brings forth things like the rally in Pueblo, Colorado where a speaker combared President Obama to Pol Pot, Hitler and Robert Mugabe. Nancy Pelosi isn’t just “saying” that swasitkas are prominent at these protests-they’re being featured all over the country. Of course, that sort of behavior gives way to the very easy shot from the left that the discourse is “un-American” (read Pelosi and Hoyer’s op ed today)…And on and on. Meanwhile, good people all over the country are stuck without options.

    As far as the mandate, I have to say I agree with Mike. His reasoning is sound, and here’s another. I heard a congressman from Georgia state that if a healthy 25 year old man wants to save money and go uninsured, he should have that right. Sounds reasonable, except when you consider that everybody is healthy until they get sick. What happens when that man has a medical event that he can’t pay for? Medical bills are a common cause of bankruptcy and who pays? Ultimately, we do.

    • I understand what you are saying about the mandate, Laurie, but I have to disagree with you. If I am mandated to purchase health insurance for my wife, I literally would be unable to do so. I have health coverage through the Cherokee Nation, but she does not. I honestly do not know where the money would come from to cover the issues she has.

  • Laurie. Oregon

    Fair enough, Larry. The mandate is a sticking point. Without asking for more info than you’d like to give, can you tell me if you and your wife incur regular expenses related to her condition? Is it possible that an affordable insurance option-guaranteed to cover her condition- would be cheaper in the long run? I’m crystal-balling it here, as I don’t know that this is the case. But I think any reform has to address a situation exactly like yours to be viable. How do we find out specifics?

    This is part of the reason that I’m so upset about the current rhetorical focus and the unruly town hall meetings. I’m certain that most people who are showing up to them go with legitimate questions. But when emotion and fear takes over, nothing gets answered and the focus becomes the fight for who’s “right’, not for what’s best.

    • Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you, Laurie. Where we are at right now with Tammy’s illness is this. We have went to several different doctors and multiple tests have been performed. Some of this has been done at the basic care level, but several years ago she was able to go to the OU Medical Center in Tulsa. They even did a biopsy of one of the sores she has on her back and it came back negative. They have tested her for Lupus, arthritis and other forms of autoimmune disease and everything is always negative. The last doctor she went to had more blood work done and he came to the conclusion that her potassium and thyroid levels were very low, which would account for her very low strength and energy levels. She has been taking medicine for those problems.

      The problem we run into is that after they have reached a certain level of care, they basically give up and say she needs to go to a specialist. I simply can not afford to do that. I would gladly pay the medical bills out of pocket if they would let me pay them out in a payment option and wouldn’t care to do so for the rest of my life. If that is what it takes to see Tammy get well, then I would jump at the chance. Finding a clinic willing to do that has been impossible thus far.

  • Laurie. Oregon

    Thank you for sharing, Larry.

    Forgive me for pressing the point, but wouldn’t an affordable insurance option be best for you? It seems like this would allow you to pay for care in monthly installments, open the possibility of a visit with a specialist, and possibly lead to answers to her medical “whodunnit”. What am I missing?

    • If I could find health insurance that I could afford, given her pre-existing condition, yes that would be the best option. So far, I have been unable to find one I could afford.