Kadner: Health care and the battle for reason
By Phil Kadner email@example.com October 4, 2013 9:36PM
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. gestures while speaking on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, during an event to mark the start of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, with other lawmakers and people whose lives have been impacted by lack of health insurance. At right is Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Updated: November 7, 2013 6:27AM
Average Americans are reasonable people. That is our country’s greatest strength.
The Social Security system was launched in 1935, at the height of the Great Depression, when people were selling apples on street corners because there were no jobs.
Yet, people at the time understood that when folks reach retirement age and can no longer work, they shouldn’t end up in the poorhouse.
The debate over the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, really was about the same sort of stuff.
Working people were going broke because a child developed a catastrophic illness and health insurance wouldn’t cover the bill.
People with lifelong illnesses who wanted to change jobs could not because their new employer’s health insurance policy wouldn’t cover pre-existing conditions.
Many people who had health insurance policies were told their claims would not be covered because greedy insurance executives discovered that they could make more money by simply refusing legitimate claims.
Millions of workers were forced by employers to change health insurance policies on a regular basis due to rising medical costs, which often meant they could no longer go to their family physician.
I could go on with the list of problems that resulted in an outcry for government reform of health care.
Rising costs of health insurance created escalating employer and employee premiums for insurance, increased co-pays for medical care and greater out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs.
Each year, more working Americans were losing their health insurance benefits as employers decided that, to stay in business, they couldn’t afford the cost of the insurance.
And then along came the Great Recession, and many Americans lost their jobs and their health insurance.
Average people realized that something had to change. The old system of relying on employers for health care, in which companies paid a huge part of the insurance cost, was dying.
That’s how we ended up with Obamacare.
A lot of that history seems lost in the current debate.
I’m not sure Obamacare is what people had in mind when they demanded reform, and the truth is most people probably hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking it through.
The average guy trusted the government to work out the details and had good reason to suspect a positive outcome because every other industrialized nation in the world had a national health care system in place.
It should have been possible to go through those plans, analyze them and come up with the best parts of each. But that’s not what happened.
Some congressmen made it clear they would not support health care reform under any circumstances, calling it socialism.
Barack Obama, as a presidential candidate, made it clear that he was not in favor of European-style, single-payer health care. He wanted something different but never did clarify what that was.
And once negotiations started, there were politicians cutting deals behind the scenes to protect the insurance and drug companies and to benefit their states.
No one wanted to anger the millions of Americans who were happy with their health plans, so provisions were made that were aimed at appeasing them.
What resulted was a compromise health insurance plan, and it isn’t pretty.
It didn’t contain a specific tax, like Social Security or Medicare, to finance it because, well, the public didn’t want a tax, and politicians didn’t want to support such a tax.
That’s a big problem with the plan now, but the people screaming loudest about the country’s inability to fund Obamacare are the same who oppose a health insurance tax.
A recent poll showed that about 70 percent of the people in this country want Congress and the president to compromise and settle the current government shutdown.
That sounds like a reasonable approach. And Americans are a reasonable people.
We want things to make sense. We want the government to work. And we don’t like it much when it doesn’t.
In an ideal world, people who disagree could still work together to provide the best government for everyone.
There remain those who maintain that the free market should be allowed to reign, who seem to believe that employers will always provide health care or that people can save enough money through medical 401(k) savings plans to pay their medical bills.
No member of Congress has volunteered to leave his federal health insurance plan behind for such a plan, even though some of them could actually pay a $1 million bill for cancer treatment in cash.
If the current political battle doesn’t destroy the country, reasonable Americans eventually will demand reasonable changes in Obamacare and they will be made.
There will be problems with the new system. Mistakes will be made.
But the people who focus on these tend to ignore the fact that Americans are hurt every day by decisions made by private health insurers whose main motivation, whose very reason to exist, is to make a profit.
That’s sound business practice but doesn’t always result in the best medical care.
Ultimately, this is not about Barack Obama or Tea Party Republicans or Democrats in Congress seeking a political edge.
It is, or should be, about what’s best for the health of the American people.
That’s where the focus ought to be, on devising the best health care insurance plan in the world.
Being a reasonable people, I trust Americans will eventually figure that out.
Powerful political forces are forever attempting to co-opt our democratic process, to divide and conquer, to achieve their own ends.
What is right for the average person? What is fair?
Answering those questions correctly is the path to greatness.