Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Real Question in the Health Care Debate...

In yesterday's Washington Post's Erza Klein wrote of how in T.R. Reid's book "The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care", Reid addresses how other industrialized nations, specifically Sweden and Taiwan overcame the political resistance to a public option for health care:

"Both countries decided that society has an ethical obligation -- as a matter of justice, of fairness, of solidarity -- to assure everybody has access to medical care when it's needed. The advocates of reform in both countries clarified and emphasized that moral issue much more than the nuts and bolts of the proposed reform plans. As a result, the national debate was waged around ideals like "equal treatment for everybody," "we're all in this together," and "fundamental rights" rather than on the commercial implications for the health care industry."

I have well meaning friends who truly believe that a public health care option would be the death knell of American capitalism. The popular talking point being; "Do you want the Government standing between You and your Doctor?!". Which while sound byte ready, and easily repeatable is total nonsense. Right now health care profit margins more often than not, stand between patients and their doctors. But that isn't the real issue. Both Reid and Klein talk about what actually IS the real issue. How do we as a nation view Health Care?

Is Health Care a for profit business that should be left to market forces, or is it an ethical obligation of a civilized society?

If you favor a market driven for-profit system, that is a completely legitimate point of view. But then be honest enough to answer the same kind of hard questions you demand of people on the other side of the debate.

Opponents of Health Care reform never address the issue of the over 40,000,000 Americans with no health insurance. Nor do they ever address how the costs of caring for those uninsured are in fact currently passed on to everyone else. I work for the largest HMO in the United States. When uninsured patients show up in our emergency rooms for even basic primary care, what happens to those costs? They don't just magically disappear, they are passed on in increased premiums and co pays. Opponents of reform never like to admit that Americans are already paying for universal health care, we just aren't getting it.

Think back to your High School Economics class. What is the basic force in any capitalist economy? Supply and Demand right? So why can't opponents of public health care be honest and admit that in their view Health Care will never be affordable for everyone. It's basic economics. When demand for any good or service is greater than the supply, what happens to the price? It goes up. Likewise when supply exceeds demand, the price of that same good or service will fall. Capitalism 101 right?

So if you favor a market driven health care system you are saying you accept a situation where prices will never fall but instead, keep going up forever. Demand for health care will ALWAYS far outpace the supply. Opponents of the public option should be honest and call their approach what it really is. Economic Darwinism. Survival of the richest. Newt Gingrich and his ilk, scream of health care rationing under a public plan when in fact, that is exactly what we have now. Rationing of care based on income. If you believe that is a good thing, fine. But be honest and call it what it is.

As a nation we had far less public debate on whether or not to wage war to avenge the deaths of 3000 people on September 11th, than we are now having about a health care crisis where 84,000 people die every year as a direct result of health disparities in the United States.

If you oppose a public element to American Health Care you are saying that a certain number of Americans dying because they can't afford medical care is acceptable to you . Ok then, those of you who oppose a public option, be honest and answer one question for me;

How many American lives are you willing to sacrifice to be ideologically comfortable?

For once in this debate, be honest. Give me a number.

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