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Just thought I'd throw my two cents in as I've been following this debate. If we go back to the beginning of the conversation, and put aside the carefully parsed statistics and politics we can perhaps step back and look at the issue from both sides. That implies that this is a two-sided debate, perhaps it is more hexagonal in nature, but here goes.
It appears that people want healthcare reform, but are undecided about how to go about it. I'm reasonably happy with my health care insurance provided by my job but not a day goes by that I don't think about what would happen if I lost my job. My husband, with his pre-existing condition, would not be able to get health insurance on the open market. And if legislation goes through to force health care insurance companies to do away with pre-existing conditions, he could then buy insurance on the open market, but currently there is nothing to prevent an insurance company from selling him a policy, agreeing to cover him and then suddenly sending him a bill for a $3,000 a month premium.
It seems to me that there are valid concerns regarding both availability of health care and cost as well as who should pay for it.
I think you have to look at the public education paradigm. If you are fortunate enough to make enough money in America, you can choose to send your kid to private school. Great--hooray for Capitalism and all its choices. If you suddenly get laid off through no fault of your own, you have the PUBLIC OPTION of sending your kid to public school. Recently a friend of mine who lives in Greenwich CT, told me that the public schools there are suddenly seeing huge enrollments because of the layoffs in the financial sector and those people not having the money to send their kids to private school. Fortunately those people have this public option and their kids will not be deprived of an education.
Someone like me who wants the government to provide a public option doesn't support that because I think I'll need to use it, but because I feel that like an educated society, a healthy society is more productive.
Dow and I do not have children, but we pay school taxes. A lot of school taxes. Do we feel that we shouldn't have to pay school taxes because we're not utilizing those schools? No. We feel that our school tax dollars work to make our economy more sound and our community stronger by ensuring a well-educated population.
Likewise I know that part of our tax dollars to the government are going to provide health care for a segment of the population (Medicare and Medicaid) to ensure that they are healthy and productive and can enjoy the same pursuit of happiness that we do. It would not make my life one iota better to have those tax dollars back in my pocket and see the elderly couple across the street not get their weekly shipment of oxygen that they need to help them be able to live our their remaining days in the comfort of their home.
So yes, I believe that a fellow citizen having adequate health care, a good education and a place to live makes my life immeasurably better.
I do find it tragic that an industrial country like America doesn't compete with other industrialized nations in this arena. And again, I'm referring to access and affordability of health care to all of our citizens, not quality of health care and not availability. These are separate issues and when they are deliberately mingled, it throws the debate into partisan politics.
America has great doctors and we have great hospitals and we have an amazing amount of choice. This is all obtainable if you are fortunate enough to have enough money and a certainty that you will never lose your job or your wealth. Realistically, that's probably a very small portion of our population.
So those of you who don't want government regulation in the health care sector, I respect your position as you've most likely had to deal with government red tape at some point of your life. However, my argument is that Capitalism only works if there are safeguards in place to prevent abuse. For example Glass Steagal was passed during the Great Depression to establish the FDIC which safeguards your banking deposits. Imagine going to your bank to take out money to pay your health care premium and finding it closed and your money gone. Gone. Poof--just like that. Glass Steagal was also responsible for preventing banks from owning other financial holding companies. Consequently this aspect was repealed by Gramm-Leach-Billey in 1999 and thus the financial services industry was born with huge mergers between banks and insurance companies.
And no, I'm not happy that my tax dollars were used to bail out an industry that should never have been allowed to become "too big to fail" had Glass Steagal remained intact.
I'm bringing Glass Steagal into the mix because it positions both the blessing and the curse of government reform. If we pass legislation that limits what the health insurance companies can do that might work for a while, but there's no guarantee that a future Congressional body won't repeal that legislation. A larger government reform like expanding medicare or creating a public option might be harder to dismantle at the whim of future political interests.
Honestly, I respect both (all) sides of this argument. I understand the reluctance to create bigger government and I understand the desire to do so as well. I believe that it simply comes down to preserving the American position of choice based on an individual's ability to choose. If you have the money and the means, then buy private health insurance, if you do not, then you should have a public option of being able to stay healthy and a productive member of society. Or if not productive than at least not a drain on other resources with expensive trips to the emergency room for basic care. And I really, truly do not believe that a person who has worked hard all their lives to buy and maintain a home and a reasonable standard of living, should lose that just to pay outrageous medical bills. Again, using the example of my elderly neighbors--if they lost the government benefits that enable them to receive their medical care free or at low cost, they would lose the home that they worked hard to buy and maintain when they were young and healthy. There is simply no reason that the inevitability of age and infirmity should take that away from them.
As for those who have expressed a desire to not see additional government involvement because of a fear that this will discourage a segment of the population to not get a job for health care benefits and this will encourage their laziness--if a person is determined to live off the government, they will find a way to do so no matter what happens. You will never eliminate totally the segment of the population that does that. I don't believe healthcare reform should come to a screeching halt simply because a few people might take advantage of it.
Lastly, a word about using polls to back up your arguments. I participate in polls often because I know that they are used for a variety of purpose, some good and some bad. When I'm asked whether I'm happy with my health insurance company or not, I answer yes. So someone could look at the results of the poll I just participated in and say, "see people are happy with their health insurance, why bother changing it?"
However, that doesn't address my other worries--what would happen if I lost my job and we lost our health insurance. What if my copay became so big that I couldn't afford to pay my other bills? It's these concerns that are likely causing me to grind my teeth into oblivion while I sleep.
Unfortunately the mouth guard causes TMJ which requires physical therapy.
If only one of those things were covered by my health insurance.