Sunday, September 6, 2009

Health Care Reform

Probably I'm going to regret posting this, but as I'm getting tired of posting on the trivialities of my life, I'll risk losing my 12 readers. I'm going to assume that everyone who strays by this blog is intelligent and polite enough to keep the rhetoric to a dull roar. Perhaps that's a fallacy, given the Internet, but I'll just take my chances.

The health care reform debate has been on my mind quite a bit lately. So much that I'm sitting here blogging about it when I should be practicing. I'm going to say it right out: I support reform, complete with a public option. I once said that I felt reform was meaningless without the public option. I don't quite feel that way after reading more and more of H.R. 3200, but I still think it's essential.

The kinds of misconceptions I've seen, mostly on Facebook, have been astounding. Most conservatives I've had the opportunity to chat with seem to believe the entire proposed bill is a description of a federal plan. No, page 16 does not say you cannot get health care, and no, page 59 does not say the government will have access to your bank account. Page 16 actually describes grandfathered care for individuals, then goes on to say that after a certain date, insurers will no longer be able to enroll new customers in grandfathered plans. This is significant because grandfathered individual insurance plans presumably won't be subjected to the minimum standards set in the bill.

But that doesn't mean we'll have individuals walking around who are suddenly unable to get insurance (which, actually, if you think about it, we have right now). It means that any plans offered to new individual customers (i.e. the self-employed with no employees . . . like me) will meet the standards set in the bill. Currently members of Congress pick their health plans from an Exchange of something like 269 insurance companies. New individual plans will also have to be part of an Exchange, but it's still private insurance companies competing for your money.

Page 59 is actually part of a section that outlines basic things insurance companies will have to do, which mostly are things they're already doing. You know, things like offering electronic debit and handling your claims in a timely manner.

We're not even going to talk about the crazies, the ones who believe Obama is going to start a death panel or wants to kill old people. I understand that many conservatives simply like the ideas of smaller government and personal responsibility and are opposed to health care reform for those reasons. We can all come up with anecdotal evidence to argue for and against, but for me it comes down to whether we're going to try to build a just society in which everyone gets to play the game or not. I've read and heard too many heartbreaking stories of people who are just eking by because a loved one is sick and can't get proper care or they can't get care at all because of a pre-existing condition. My best friend's mother, a 62-year-old woman, lost her company-sponsored health insurance in January because of raised rates and ever since has been shelling out $400 a month for insurance that, in her words, "might give me a bandaid if I severed an artery."

So I'm sorry, but if you're the kind of person who doesn't want reform because you're afraid you're going to end up paying for some faceless guy's deep-fried Snickers bar habit, you're not paying attention to the real problem—and you're behind on what the actual reform will be. I've paid taxes into a public school system that I don't use and paid taxes to the fire department and the police department—which, hold on to your hat, Chicagoans, I haven't yet used, either. I gladly paid taxes into them because I knew they were important and they were part of what our modern society needs to function. If I ever get back into a tax-paying income bracket (grad student), I'll gladly do so again. Besides, not all the reform is going to be government care. Hell, at this point we'll be lucky if any of it is government care. Much of it is going to be regulations the insurance industry will have to meet.

Thoughts? (Not that my regular fellow bloggers have been anything but, but please keep your arguments reasoned and polite, please; reason I say that is this debate seems to be a real trigger.)


Sarah Laurenson said...

You're not saying anything inflammatory that I can see.

I've known people who hit their lifetime cap because of a bout with something like leukemia. I've known people who cannot get insurance because of a condition that can be serious but is not giving them any symptoms.

I've tried to get my own insurance and they jacked the cost up to an unreasonable amount because of things like I broke my nose when I was 5 yrs old and may want rhinoplasty. Haven't wanted it for over 40 years, but you never know, eh?

I am behind the times and have not even begun to read this bill, but I do know the system is broken and needs a serious fix.

stacy said...

Dammit! It seems I'm mild even when I'm trying to be inflammatory.

Robin S. said...

I'm not against health care reform, but I am against government-run health care reform.

Just look at how well-run Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are run. They suck, and are bureaucrat-ed up hell's half acre.
That costs money - our taxes - that could be better spent on actually providing services.

I'm not saying our health care system is the bomb, or whatever that phrase is, but I am saying, the bill as it exists now (go and read part of it, it's a fucking nightmare of double-speak gobbedlygook, as per usual) is fixing nothing, but only adding layering of bullshit on the bullshit we already have on the books.

stacy said...

I'm not for a single payer, completely government run system, but I do support a public option. I think a mix of government and private insurance could work well in our society, and in the long run reduce costs. There's a great article in the NYT I just read about how passing health care reform will be the first step to reforming the food industry. (Diet-related illness is a huge part of the cost of health care; once insurance companies see that preventing Type 2 diabetes can add money to their bottom line . . . well, you get the idea.)

Here's the link:

I agree that the health care bill is worded poorly, but what I've read looks pretty good as far as content. A lot of it just seems to be reforming the private insurance industry in the sense that they'll have to meet minimum standards. I do think at the very least some serious regulation is in order. Too many people are suffering because insurance companies are doing what they want instead of what's best for their customers.

If I ever make it back into a tax-paying bracket, I'd be happy to pay more taxes to cover a public option and a more functional government. I think Obama did say the public option will take premiums as insurance companies do, rather than taxes, and if they can set it up that way, great. Even better. But even if it were taxed, I wouldn't mind paying it.

I'm a little disappointed my post didn't attract any extremists. I was looking forward to having a little fun with them.