Saturday, December 19, 2009

Health Care: What the?


I'm interested to know what y'all think about the health care reform that is currently taking place. Also, how do you feel about our health care system in general? Please comment and let me know! This should not be a partisan issue; it should be about relieving people's suffering.

In light of current health care reform taking place, I read this really great book The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care, by T.R. Reid. I loved this book! The author travels around the world to see how other developed countries manage health care. He discusses what is and isn't working in other systems and then explains ways in which we can incorporate aspects of other successful systems into our own (without completely revamping the current system). Here are some of the strengths of the other systems that I found interesting.

1. England gives incentives to doctors that keep their patients healthy. In the UK "the greatest boon to...almost every other British general practitioner, has been an experimental payment called the Index of Quality Indicators. It's an effort to pay for results--to give a doctor more money if he treats his patient successfully and keep them healthy..."(122-123) This is a wonderful way of marketizing preventative medicine.
...modern epidemiological studies make it clear that preventative medicine--the discipline sometimes called public health--trumps individual treatment as a means for keeping large numbers of people healthy, wealthy, and wise...at a time when national health care budgets are stretched to the last penny just caring for the sick, it can be hard to find additional money for preventative treatment of those who are healthy. This means the health system needs a strong incentive--an economic incentive--to invest in preventative health care. Of course, governments invest in preventative care out of basic altruism; it is government's job, after all, to protect people. But it helps considerably if there is an economic motivation--an incentive structure that encourages the system to invest in prevention. Public health costs money--billions of dollars per year in the major economies--and the return on that spending may not be seen for years or decades. To get serious preventative care, therefore, you need an incentive structure that encourages long-term investment. This is where the national health system comes in. In a nation with a unified health system that covers everybody--which is to say, all the industrialized democracies of the world except the USA--it clearly benefits both the population and the system to invest in public health. But in a fragmented, multifaceted-system nation like the United States, the economic incentives for preventative care are dissipated. With numerous systems and payers, the temptations is to shift the expense of preventative care to somebody else. (185-186)
2. In France they save insane amounts of money by using digitialized records. "This carte vitale (green plastic credit card)...contains the patient's entire medical record, back to 1998 ...and it is the secret weapon that makes French medical care so much more efficient than anything Americans are used to...That's why French doctors and hospitals don't need to maintain file cabinets full of records. It's all digitized. It's all on the card. In addition to the certainty of the process and the resulting peace of mind, this national billing system creates major financial savings...the expensive layer of paper handlers found in every corner of American medicine doesn't exist in France." (57-59)

3. Many of these countries have privatized doctors and hospitals, but they use not-for-profit insurance companies that compete for prestige. So for example, "...on a national level, Germany offers universal care through private insurance that is available to everybody. The intense rivalry among the sickness funds demonstrates that there can be elements of the competitive free market even in a nonprofit health insurance system." (81)

4. Many developed countries subsidize medical school for doctors so they graduate with little or no debt.

I'm grateful in many ways for my own personal health care system struggles (getting denied coverage because of a 'preexisting condition,' getting many claims denied for no reason, etc.) because it opened my eyes to an important cause I can be passionate about! I only wish I had been an activist in this cause long before it became personal. Most of us think it won't happen to us, and we may be critical of others suffering through it, until us "hard working, healthy, educated people" get sick and lose coverage.
People who are uninsured are 25% more likely to die of treatable diseases than people of the same age cohort who have insurance...the Institute of Medicine concluded that 18,314 Americans die each year because they don't have health insurance and thus can't get the treatment that would save their lives...by 2009, there were some 45 million Americans who spent at least part of the year without health coverage. The Americans who suffer and die are not, for the most part, homeless or addicted or desperately poor. Most of those who die for lack of medical treatment in the world's richest country are working Americans who run afoul of the nation's complicated and restrictive health insurance labyrinth, both public and private. (208-209)
I've learned that there is no perfect health care system. I know we can learn from other successful developed nations and strengthen the weak links in our own system. Most developed nations successfully provide care for their citizens with privatized doctors and hospitals; yet the needy or struggling are still cared for. There are very few developed countries that implement true socialized medicine principles; yet like I said, everyone gets care.
All the [developed] countries like us have already made the essential moral decision--every person shall have access to a doctor when needed--and all of them have developed mechanisms to make that guarantee a reality... all the other rich countries provide high-quality, universal care, and yet they spend far less than the United states does. (162)
When pollsters ask the basic question--"Do you think everybody has a right to medical care when they get sick?"--More than 85 percent of Americans answer that health care is a basic human right. And yet our nation does not provide it. The result is that the world's richest nation allows twenty-two thousand of its people to die each year from treatable diseases. (217)
D. Todd Christofferson said that "Throughout history, the Lord has measured societies by how well they cared for the poor" (read the rest of the address here). It's important that we remember those that are poor in regards to health care, and it's essential that we take a stand for them.

25 comments:

Erika Hill said...

Hi Emily, if you want to hear some more thought provoking things about the American healthcare system, you should listen to episodes 391 and 392 of This American Life--they're titled "Less is More", and "Someone Else's Money" respectively. Also, T.R. did a documentary for Frontline called "Sick Around the World" that would probably act a little like reading the book in 1 hour.

I don't know how I feel about all the debates in Congress right now, or how I will feel about the final bill that emerges (which I think will probably get passed in the end...), but I do feel that something needs to change. The laws of supply and demand that generally regulate our markets aren't in operation in our healthcare system. Some people are getting way more procedures than they actually need, and others are denied services that they desperately need.

One of the economists that the TAL team talks to states that either we need a system where the government completely stays out or one where the government completely takes over. I don't know that we really need to go to either extreme, but I do think there are some practical (and accomplishable!) ways that the health-care system could be improved:
1. Everyone needs to be able to practically acquire insurance. Eliminating pre-existing conditions clauses is a good start. Eliminating the for-profit motives from insurance companies is another start.
2. There needs to be a reasonable cap on malpractice lawsuits. Some hospitals have taken things into their own hands in this way; the clinic that I go to for infertility treatments has patients sign a form saying that they will choose arbitration rather than a lawsuit. Certainly citizens need to have recourse for malpractice, but there needs to be a limit.
3. Eliminate fee for service plans. I read this article (I would hyperlink, but I don't know if you can do that in comments so here is the URL:http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1930501,00.html ) about the Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, and their practice of eliminating fee for services and instead setting one cost per procedure (an appendectomy--prep, op, post-op, and everything that entails costs X amount of dollars for everyone) has saved thousands of dollars.

I also think we should keep our eyes on Massachusetts' effort to enforce a policy requiring everyone to buy health insurance. I don't know that I'm ready to require a law for that, but if it provides more pros than cons, then I say go for it.

This is a long comment, so I should probably stop. A few months ago I wondered how a huge system like ours could ever effectively be reformed (we are not going completely socialized in the course of one administration, it's just not that simple...), but I think that there are a few things that, if done throughout the country, would really help.

Benjamin Thevenin said...

Em, awesome post. Erika, great comment. I don't have much to add to what's already been said. I guess, my greatest frustration is with the polarizing, partisan rhetoric that seems to dominate any discussion about the issue. The majority of the country's citizens are open to a public option. And while the issue is obviously more complex than that, it seems like the ongoing debates in Congress (and on those glorious, 24-hr news programs) don't reflect the concerns of the public. I hope that despite all of the controversy, some helpful health care reform will pass. And more than anything, I want to do my part in encouraging helpful, civil, and effective discussion about important issues like health care.

Ben said...

Besides the Military I cannot think of one thing the Government has successfully operated; especially, without driving us further and further into debt because the program exceeded all expectations on expense.

For example, Social Security will be bankrupt in less than 15 years and Medicare is already bankrupt.

If we allow the government to takeover almost 1/5th of our economy, then they will be in control of every faucet of our lives, since they already control the banks and auto industry.

We continue to tell ourselves this will be "Deficit Nuetral", but whe has the government ever stayed on budget with any program? They keep saying, we will tax the wealthy in order to pay for it, but what happens when the rich decide to stop investing or creating jobs becasue they can no longer afford too?

The argument that people in America are dying because of the lack of health care is such a falisy. At anytime, anywhere within the US boundaries anybody can walk into a Emrgency Room and receive the best care in the entire world.

If we have the worst health care in the world and other nations have a better socialized system, then why do Canadians and Europeans travel to the US for services. My sister lives in Canada and the waiting list for an MRI is 6 weeks, in the US 24 Hours. Additionally, they make less than $100k a year, but pay about 45% of their income in taxes, mainly because of the burden of health care costs.

I agree our system is not perfect and needs to be improved. However, I do not think that turning it over to the Government is going to solve anything, but in the end make it worse.

The following is a list of things that would lower the cost of Health Care overnight:

Expand Health Savings and Flex Spending Accounts.

Sell/buy insurance across state lines.

No drop law for pre-existing conditions

Require citizenship checks for all who receive healthcare.

Retort Form, which would eliminate high cost frivolous lawsuits.

Give tax breaks to corporations who provide health insurance.

Give incentives to insurance companies to provide healthy people better rates.

Make people more aware of what a service actually costs, so people will start forcing doctors to lower overall costs of services by bargain shopping.

Lastly, create incentives for private groups to provide intitutions, such as, Primary Children's Center, where unfortunate people can receive great care at no cost.

This is America and it was founded upon the principles of private enterprise, not reliance upon the government to provide a cradle to grave society. Even if the stat of 45 Million people are unisured, then why would we change the entire system just to insure 15% of the population.

The Government Option before us is about Money, Control, and Power.

Benjamin Thevenin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Em said...

I really appreciate everyone weighing in! I think this is a great conversation that needs to take place.

- Thanks Erika and Ben for making this great point. I agree there needs to be an elimination of pre-existing condition clauses.
- I also like the point Erika makes about keeping an eye on Massachusetts' efforts to provide health care to everyone.
- I like the idea of having standardized fees for every health care procedure and/or fees need to be more transparent to people can bargain shop.
- Also, I know that in other countries doctors have to pay a lot less for malpractice insurance because they aren't getting sued as much as US doctors are, so that lowers health care costs in other countries.
- I like Benjamin's point that the media is polarizing the argument which makes it hard to come to some kind of agreement.

Benjamin Thevenin said...

Thanks for contributing Ben--like I mentioned in my earlier comment, these issues need to be discussed like this if we are to ever address these problems in any type of informed, helpful way.

So, in the spirit of informed, civil discourse, allow Em and me to discuss a few of your points:

You are right in suggesting changes in pre-existing condition clauses, tort reform, more transparency in prices, and larger incentives for healthy living. These are all a good start to solving this big problem.

You are right in your skepticism of a government-controlled health care system. Large, bureaucratic institutions are clumsy and costly (although I don't hear many complaints about our government-run police and firefighting forces). However, we are not advocating a single-payer, socialized system. In Em's original post, she discussed how in Germany, privately-owned insurance companies compete in a free market but are not profit-driven. My comment about the majority of Americans (72% according to a CBS/NYT poll) supporting a public option does not refer to a 'government takeover' either. Instead, the government would provide an 'option' (like the USPS with shipping; or the health-care system available to government employees) available to the public, along with the existing privately-owned insurers.

You are right in your concern about over-spending. This seems particularly appropriate considering the hundreds of billions of dollars we've spent in our military ventures in the middle east in the last eight years. (I'll leave the 'successful operation' of the military for another discussion.) But again, we're not talking about an complete overhaul of the system. So, your claim that this will allow the government to control 'every faucet [sic] of our lives' is an exaggeration. (And I think it's important to mention that the bailout of the banks and the auto industry--while controversial--was the government's attempt to save the country from an economic collapse caused by the exploitation of free market logic by 'private enterprise.')

You are right in your statement that the US has the 'best care in the world,' but this care is only available to those with insurance or wealth. You can't go to the emergency room for chemotherapy or treatment of chronic illness. Individuals with these conditions are routinely denied coverage by their insurers and forced either to pay out-of-pocket or to miss treatment. And (according to one of your suggestions) you won't be able to receive medical care if your citizenship status isn't verified. You are right that individuals from other countries travel here because we have incredible medical solutions, but those solutions are not available to all who need them.

You are wrong that this country was founded upon the principles of private enterprise. Our country was founded on the principle stated in our Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Right now, the health care system refuses life, liberty and happiness to a large number of people in our nation. And while it may be inconvenient to reform health care, it's our duty (at least according to Thomas Jefferson and D. Todd Christofferson) to ensure that those people are cared for.

Em said...

I liked the article that Erika linked to (point #3) in Time Magazine.

Taylor said...

A couple of quick points.

If you eliminate pre-existing conditions, everyone must be required to purchase health care. I don't see how they can be separated. It isn't fair for insurance companies or their premium payers to have someone not carry their load when healthy and jump on when they need it. That is not insurance, where we buy something in hopes that we will not use it, but as a safety net.

If you require everyone to have insurance, then you need to provide subsidies. This could be debated, but that is how I view it.

Also, while I agree that we will be judged by how we treat the poor, I do not think government is part of that equation. I think we will be judged equally harshly if we don't do anything personally and just rely on government intervention.

A minor quibble, but Thomas Jefferson would never have put forth the argument that it is the federal government's duty to provide health care. He felt that the federal government's role in providing life, liberty, and pursuit of government was to be completely out of the way. He considered the dissolving of the national debt (Hamilton's tool to make the federal government larger) and the complete removal of a federal income tax as the highest achievement of his presidency. I would highly recommend the last chapter of "American Sphinx" by Joseph Ellis for this discussion.

Having said this, the question comes down to who you trust. Democrats say you can't trust the insurance companies. Republicans say you can't trust the government. Both arguments are overstatements. The real question is if you can trust the government to play fair with a public option or trust the insurance companies to be just and not chase profits by dumping people when they get sick and honoring real claims. The pre-existing conditions clauses are fine if they are truly insurance companies, although I don't personally like them. At this point, I guess that I am alright with trying some government intervention to see if things can be improved, but leery that they won't be able to keep their hands off of it or back off if it doesn't work. I also despise most republicans for being absolute hypocrites by using medicare as a scare tactic when they oppose it in principle. And I don't really think it matters much what I think anymore because the ship has sailed, one way or the other.

Benjamin Thevenin said...

Taylor, I agree that reforming pre-existing condition clauses would mean mandating health care. And mandating health care would probably require subsidies.

I'm aware of Jefferson's opposition to strong federal government, and I am not saying that he would have advocated government involvement in health care. (And to clarify, I'm not necessarily advocating government involvement either. But we need some serious reform, and so far the debate has been generally limited to 'public option vs. not public option.')

I only mentioned Jefferson in the context that life, liberty and happiness (not private enterprise) are the principles on which our country was founded. And I'm eager to read 'American Sphinx' to learn more about Jefferson.

And as far as government's role in caring for the poor--I don't know that it's possible to remove government from that equation. It's not an issue of either/or. I think that if our representative democracy operates as it should--as an realization of the will of the citizenry--our personal efforts to care for the poor will manifest itself in both private and public spheres. This is pick-your-self-up-by-the-bootstraps, will-of-the people type stuff we're talking here. And maybe that's why I think it matters that we're thinking and talking about these things. It's important that we address complex problems, develop opinions and work to implement solutions. If the only ones thinking and talking are the ignorant at town-hall meetings and the obnoxious on cable news, then we've given up.

Erika Hill said...

I find it interesting that someone mentioned running the military as the only system that the government hasn't screwed up. If that's the case, why not run the country's medical system the way that the government runs the military health care system? My dad was a pilot for the Air Force for 25 years, and has had great health care. He's against health care reform under the argument, "If it's not broken, don't fix it!", but of course he feels that way; my parents have never had to pay a substantial medical bill! Prescriptions? Free. Lab work? Free. Regular visits to the Flight Surgeon (general practitioner)? Free. Visits to specialists are regulated much like other insurance companies (here are the providers who take Tricare, etc.), and such visits are then treated as regular insurance claims, with my parents hardly paying anything out of pocket.

Ultimately, this government-run, private-sector-supplemented system seems to work very well for the military.

So as I talk to more and more people about this, it seems like maybe the solution isn't in government but rather in an informed citizenry that will actually do something to try to affect reform in smaller ways. But is this enough?

The problem isn't just that some people have access and some people do not (though this is a big problem). The problem is that everything is getting so expensive that even moderately successful people who have insurance are spending much more of their income on health care than they did in the past.

I guess that much of the debate about whether or not the government should be involved in health care ultimately comes down to this: is health care a right or a privilege? Clearly this is a personal decision, but it underscores the debate in a major way.

If health care is a right, then the government should be involved, because there are people who are not getting the health care that they need because emergency rooms don't cover everything. If it's a privilege, then they government should probably stay out completely (which might mean dropping all government run medical programs like medicare and medicaid) and let things resolve themselves the way they often do in this country (you get what you pay for).

So which is it? A right, or a privilege?

Benjamin Thevenin said...

I just came across this quote in one of my readings and it seemed appropriate to our discussion.

"Freedom exists only where intelligence and courage succeed in cutting into inevitability."
- correspondence between Roger Caillois and Victoria Ocampo, 1956

Benjamin Thevenin said...

Oh, and to answer Erika's question, it's a right.

Ben said...

The Government role should be as a watch dog, not as a player in the health care arena.

What the Founders meant by Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness was that the Government would provide protection from our enemies and equal protection and justice for everyone under the law.

It wasn't to ensure the Government would provide Medical Care, Cars, Homes, Insurance, Welfare or any other good or service. These are all privileges not rights assigned to us by the constitution. The Government's central role is to provide an atmosphere where these privileges can be attained, not given out.

Some of the original hospitals that began in our country were because wealthy citizens decided to give back to their communities at their own free will, not because the Government forced them with high taxes or jail time if they didn't participate.

The Church teaches us by their own example and in its doctrine that we are to be self reliant and not to count on anybody, if we are able. After we have achieved self reliance we are commanded to give to those who cannot provide for themselves, food, shelter, clothes, medical care, etc...

The Government needs to look closer at this model, instead of the one the forces us to pay higher taxes or penalties, so they can provide corrupt and fraudelent social services.

Lastly, I do believe all men are created equal. Unfortunately, our tax code doesn't, www.fairtax.org, and neither do politicians. Everything is looked at through the scope of money, power and race. These are the underlying intentions of this Health Care Overhaul, its not about actual Health Care.

BTW: I am a Tea Partier, Fox News, Watcher and Talk Radio Listener!

I hope we can still be friends ;)

Good Discussion!

Erika Hill said...

The church also teaches that it's never wrong to seek government that reinforces your own principles (else why the focus on Prop 8?), and certainly helping the poor and the needy are part of our doctrine!

I agree that in an ideal world those who have would just share with those that don't. Doing this without government assistance really is the best way. However, we don't live in an ideal world. We live in world where some people are great, and others simply use their money and power to gain more money and power. When this goes unregulated, civilizations collapse (or at least that's one thing I get from studying the Book of Mormon).

I agree that the church's welfare system--a focus on self-reliance and working for assistance--is a fantastic model that can and probably should be emulated. But before we get there, there are certain measures that we can take to try to help our fellow brothers and sisters (I've seen my own brother and sister-in-law go practically bankrupt because of medical bills with their premature daughter) try to stay healthy. And while that chance remains, I think we should take it.

The bill being debated right now is far from perfect, but at least it's attempting to address the problem. I know that "at least" probably isn't a good enough reason to pass a trillion dollar bill, but I'm glad for the dialogue that's happening.

Benjamin Thevenin said...

Ben, thanks for contributing. Em and I prefer to be friends with people with diverse perspectives. To address your points:

I would love for the government to act as a watch dog. Again, Em and I are not necessarily advocating the public option. If Congress passed legislation that allowed government to better regulate issues (of pre-existing conditions, malpractice lawsuits, refused/revoked coverage etc.) and if this reform sufficiently addressed those inadequacies, we would absolutely support it. Some foreign countries have successfully achieved this (as Emily pointed out in her original post). Other countries (also capitalist democracies) have found success with government-sponsored insurance available as an option (which Em also pointed out). If increased regulation was unsuccessful in adequately addressing the current problems with the system, we would be open to such an effort.

We agree with your definition of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. We disagree with your definition of medical care as a privilege. However, just because we consider medical care a right does not mean that we believe it is to be 'given out.' You mention our right to protection (through police & military defense). Just as we pay to receive that protection, we must also pay to receive medical care. Now to help manage the cost of this protection and medical care, each individual is part of a larger pool. Some people in these pools may require more protection or more medical care than other people, and the pool accounts for this difference. So, we pay to have police and military to provide protection, and we (ideally) receive it. We pay private insurers to provide medical care, but because insurers refuse to pay claims, revoke coverage, etc., many in need of care are denied it.

To help illustrate this point, imagine if the police ceased protecting people living in a neighborhood with a high crime rate because of the relatively high cost (compared to a neighborhood with a low crime rate) of providing that protection. We would justifiably want to reform that police system. Right now, insurance companies routinely deny medical care to sick people because of the relatively high cost (compared to healthy people) of providing that care. And that's why we want to reform that system. People living in neighborhoods with high crime rates need protection and are willing to pay for that protection in the same way that people with illness need medical care and are willing to pay for that care. There are no free lunches. Our publicly-run police system and are privately-run health care system do not contradict the doctrine of self-reliance. We are not 'counting on anybody.' (And again, this comparison is not to imply that our health care system should be government-controlled like our police system).

I'm not sure what points you're trying to make about tax policy, 'money, power, and race,' (these sound like Glenn Beck sound-bytes), but I'm eager to hear your explanation of them.

Taylor said...

I have a quick question about what we are using as the definition of a Right. One of the main benefits, if not the primary benefit, of health care is access to doctors that have spent their time and money to acquire on expertise that can save our lives or make them better. By saying that health care is a Right, are we saying that they must give us that care. Although this scenario is not plausible, if all of the doctors in the world decided to stop practicing medicine, would it be alright to force them to do so? Would this impinge on their Rights? If so, can health care be a Right.

I am not saying that nothing should be done, because I think action needs to be taken. I am just saying that the rhetoric we use in saying this has to be used carefully. This was what I was trying to get at by referencing Jefferson. I did not mean to belittle anyone's knowledge of history or social theory, especially yours Benjamin, since it is far greater than mine. I apologize if it came off that way. But if two people such as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had honest disagreements about the meaning of the Declaration of Independence, it seems that any argument based upon it is open for valid opposite interpretation.

Back to the question of Rights (I like semantics). What would make health care a right? If it is due to the lack of health care deterring us from life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then there are significant other areas that would also be Rights. Such as being provided energy. Should I be compelled, as someone who has a skill that helps provide energy, to deliver that. Or should the government provide that.

I don't think I would classify health care as a right or a privilege. I think this is the also the case with police or military protection. However, those things are roles that the government should fulfill, and maybe health care should be also.

Last, I agree that helping the poor and needy are definitely part of LDS doctrine. And Benjamin's point that this doesn't have to be separated from government and may not be able to be separated is well taken. The point where I get a bit conflicted is if those who do not wish to do so are forced to, even if they are in the minority. This goes against agency, even when we use this agency to damn ourselves. And maybe that is what we are doing by not making sure everyone has health care.

Benjamin Thevenin said...

Great points Taylor. I'm still thinking through this definition of care and protection as rights (I agree that it's truly a complicated issue). I don't know that I would extend the claim of medical care as a right to forcing doctors to treat patients, as you mentioned. Maybe it would be helpful to equate our right to medical care to our right to a fair trial. If all the judges and lawyers refused to practice law, I don't know that we would force them to. But the government should allow for a system that is equitable and non-discriminatory that provides for that right.

As far as forcing the populace to care for the poor, I'm unclear on the logic of the argument. I think we've established most our laws in order to reinforce moral behavior (we have laws against theft, violence, destruction of property, libel, etc). Because these laws are in place does not mean that citizens are denied their agency. They are free to steal, assault, etc. but with the understanding that these actions are punishable by law. If the government was to create a public option for health care (which, again, we're not necessarily in support of), and if this option was subsidized by taxpayer money (as opposed to premiums paid by the insured), then citizens would still be free to evade taxes, but with the understanding that this action would be punishable by law.

So, maybe we need to further discuss the government's level of involvement in reinforcing personal morality--is it fair to be legally obligated us to help others just as we are legally obligated to not hurt others?

Ben said...

If the bill before the congress passed today, I would be legally obligated to pay through taxes for Abortions, which are legal, but against my morals.

Benjamin Thevenin said...

Good point Ben. I think that's why it's so important that we be informed and involved so that we can help shape policies that correspond with our moral perspective.

Ben said...

You make some good points Benjamin. I know you and Em definately have a different paradigm in which you view the current state of the Health Care system. I appreciate that perspective. This is truly a complex and diverse issue, that not one solution fits all involved. Health care reform is something that cannot be solved with one bill, but we need adaptation throughtout the future.
My biggest concern is that we have politicians running this country, both dems and repubs, that do not care about their constituents. They seem to be more focused on maintaining their power, lining their bank accounts with money and solidifying their base by giving out stuff to their voting bloc.

Therefore, my core tells me to keep as much information and my choices out of their hands.

Additionally, I believe that before we spend trillions of dollars on a reform package, we should look at more economical ways to try and make a difference.
We are on the brink economically and thi bill will demad we all pay more taxes, which will stymie recovery.

We need common fical sense approaches, I just don't think we will get it with this bill.

BTW: How's Colorado? I believe that's where you are :) We need to play some Wii when you get back in town!!!

Em said...

Thank you everyone for weighing in on this complicated problem! I love hearing everyone's different opinions. I'm very interested in getting as much intelligent information from as many different people on health care as possible, so I can have an educated idea of what is best for our country. So here are some of the main questions I gathered from all your great posts.

1. Is health care a right or a privilege? Does someone that's self-employed, a plumber, or someone working 2 part-time jobs have the right to chemotherapy the same as a wealthy lawyer? Or is that a privilege only those who can afford it or who have a job with good benefits can access?

2. Doctors are in fact providing a service, so who subsidizes the cost for the care of those who can't afford it?

3. Can we care for those suffering adequately enough without gov't involvement? How do we do that? How do we avoid 'hand outs'? Is it dangerous to give gov't more control in the matter?

4. How do we get more involved as citizens so we can shape better policy?

5. How do we enact change without hugely increasing the deficit?

6. What can we learn from other countries' approaches to health care?

7. I also know that many health insurance companies deny coverage to those in need. How do we regulate this system so it is fair?

I feel a lot of empathy for those fighting to reform health care. I want change for those suffering, and 'Are we not all beggars?'

Ben said...

Went to the Festival of Trees this weekend and what a great event. All of the proceeds go to Primary Children's Hospital, which provides Health Care to Children who do not have money or insurance to pay for their special needs.

This Private Institution is making a huge difference in the lives of many families without insurance or the financial support. All because of the donations from Good Americans across the country with no Government involvement. There are countless non-profit organizations such as Primary Children's that should be commended for the work they are doing.

The Government should provide support to help these programs grow to assist all those in need of Health Care, instead of trying to creating a Gov't bureacracy to stand between you and your medical professional.

People are suffering and we do need to take some steps to reform the system as it stands today, but giving the Gov't any bigger role will only harm progress.

Below are some Words of Wisdom from Ronald Reagan and Ezra Taft Benson discussing the need to do everything we can to keep the Government from controlling our lives. Especially, when it comes to something so personal as Health Care.

Copy and Past the Link into your URL.

Ronald Reagan:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hx3ycMDTfw4

Ezra taft Benson:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTDmGt1Pafw

Benjamin said...

Ben, sorry I haven't responded earlier--I've been swamped with final exams--but I thought I'd take a little break to address some of the points that you made in your last comment.

First, in almost every comment you've made, you've expressed concern about a large government bureaucracy controlling health care. Please note, that in almost every comment I've made, I've clarified that I am not in support of a large government bureaucracy controlling health care. (If we don't respond to each other, then how are we to find solutions?)

Additionally, I find it interesting that your concern about bureaucratic control of health care excludes the current bureaucratic control of health care by private corporations. It's because of (at least in part) insurance companies' inefficiencies, emphasis on increased profits, and otherwise inability to address the complexity of personal health, that we are experiencing a crisis. So, you're right to be concerned about bureaucracy, but please extend your argument to include the bureaucracy that controls health care now.

Next, I don't recall in any of my comments criticizing non-profit organizations like Primary Children's Hospital. I think that these institutions are invaluable, and like I've mentioned previously, if we are truly concerned about caring for the poor and sick, these concerns will be manifested in organizations like this (as well as our religious organizations and our government).

I find it interesting that you are quoting Ronald Reagan and Glenn Beck in an attempt to make a point about the privatization of health care. Of course they are going to advocate decreased government involvement--they're both libertarian-leaning neoliberals. But it's not their advocacy for limited government that I find at fault with--I understand and respect why individuals would be wary of increased government involvement in health care. Instead, it's their alarmism that's difficult for me to swallow. To imply that the country is being subtly subjected to communist rule is alarmism, and to imply that we are currently living under communist or even socialist rule, is absolute fear-mongering. I think it's our duty to ensure that government reflects our values, but talk like that is not accurate and is not helpful.

Lastly, I think Beck uses the quotation from Ezra Taft Benson to unfairly invoke religious loyalty on this political matter. And not only that, but the logic of Beck's argument is faulty--he isn't treating Pres. Benson's (which by the way, was not president of the church for another decade) words as prophecy; it's Krushchev who he takes for granted. So, long after the Soviet Union fell and the institution of Communism has largely failed, Beck is still clinging to Krushchev's prediction that the U.S. will lose the Cold War and gradually submit to Communist rule.

Anyway, I don't know how much longer we'll continue this discussion here, but more than anything, I hope that this conversation has brought up complexities about the issue that cable news doesn't take the time to address. Hopefully, our personal conversations about these topics won't be as inflected with polarizing, sensational rhetoric that our politicians and news media are bound by. Because if individuals like us, with so much in common, cannot have a productive conversation about health care reform, I'm skeptical that we will ever be able to reach a common consensus as a nation.

Ben said...

Please know that I didn't intend to criticize you in anyway about Primary Children's or other institutions like it. I am sure we both agree those types of institutions are vital to our society. I believe this is the model our Health Care System should be based upon for those whom cannot afford care otherwise.

I recognize that you have stated you are not for Big Government involvement in Health Care.

However, the bill before us is nothing, but that. The reason we have such Private Insurance Bureacracies is because Government has inserted so much Red Tape and Regulation into the system that they cannot operate efficiently. I am not leaving them blameless, but I think more fault for this crisis is on the Gov't, just as the Financial Meltdown should be laid at the feet of the politicians. Such is the reason the Government needs to get out of the way of the process. More inexpensive and less intrusive policies have been proposed to make the system work better for everyone, yet none of those are in this bill.

Furtermore, we are getting closer to Socialism everyday through the Progressive Movement. We have never had more Government Control of industry and our daily lives than we do today. The US Gov't controls: the US Auto Industry (Chrysler and GM), are majority stake holders in the biggest banks and insurance companines in the US (http://bailout.propublica.org/main/list/index), Hold a considerable amount of the Home Mortgages in the US through Fannie and Freddie Mac,and will soon be taking over the Health Care system once business's start dropping employees because its cheaper to pay the fine instead of offer insurance and then let their employee's go onto the Gov't Program. Even though this bill may not include a Gov't Option, its a step towards that.

I know I am repeating myself, but we are on the brink of bankrupting the United States and we are talking about passing another Trillion Dollar Bill for which we don't have the money to pay for it.

Lastly, you are right Health Care is a complex issue and it affects everyone differently. Then I ask why are we in such a hurry to pass a bill that will overhaul the system as we know it? Shouldn't the process of something so drastic, complex and important be slowed down to make sure we get it as close to right as possible?

Howard Dean is right this Bill needs to be 'thrown out' and we need to start over with a Bi-Partisan effort that truly will make a difference for the better.

Hope you Ace'd your Finals!

Ben said...

Interesting Stats and Solution:

http://stossel.blogs.foxbusiness.com/2009/12/23/the-singapore-alternative/