Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What's Wrong with the Debate on Health Care? Everything.

Right now the mass media and even social media are ablaze with so-called "discussions" of health care and the Obama administration's initiative to tackle the social monster which has been looming for years. The problem is that nobody is really talking about the underlying issues. The debate is a shrill screaming match staged for the cameras, microphones, and pundits, each of whom are standing on the sidelines, well outside the ring, shouting on their fighters. There are so many things wrong with this very important public discussion that I feel it necessary to divert, even if slightly, from discussing purely employment related matters to this "greater good," and point out what I feel is fundamentally flawed in the health care debate.

1. It's not a debate. Nobody is addressing the real issues. They are talking about talking points and about buzz words and about sensationalist phrases like "death panels" and "forced abortions" and "socialism" and other labels without readily discernible meanings. I have not heard anyone discuss the important issues like:

  • Cost of treatment versus likelihood of success;
  • Various approaches to health care cost containment;
  • Examination of the nature and extent of insurance company regulation;
  • Addressing life style choices which make health care more necessary or expensive such as obesity and smoking.
  • Underwriting approaches to "universal" healthcare; and
  • Geographic variations in healthcare issues from west coast to east coast and south to north.
There, I just listed six fundamental issues which I have not heard discussed in any town hall or shouting match, and I am no insurance expert, nor a doctor, nor a policy wonk. Why aren't we hearing these things? Do you know of other issues which we need to raise? Tell me. Comment here. Let's start our own intelligent debate.

2. Positions are being staked out without defining those positions. Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and pretty much all of Faux News have created a 'teabag' entity which stands for nothing except opposing the Obama Administrations efforts, regardless of what they are. It is almost as if Limbaugh willed Obama to fail and then recruited zombies to seek to ensure that he does. This is mindless pedagogy with no counterpoint. What is Rush Limbaugh's plan (other than free oxycontin upon demand?) what is Glenn Beck's plan? What has Bill O'Reilly offered? Has anyone heard a pundit on Faux News (or, frankly CNN for that matter) outline an "ideal health plan" and show how Obama's plan is different? Do you have a plan? Let's hear it.

3. Partisanship is more important than the product. The Republicans offered more than a hundred amendments to one Congressional Plan, and then threatened to vote against the plan anyway. What the hell is that all about? Who have they impressed? How can they in good conscience continue to accept a paycheck merely by being obstructionist?

4. Nobody is looking at the bigger picture. When Social Security was proposed by the Roosevelt Administration, there was a similar hue and outcry. "Socialism!" (Heck, they even called people communists back then, and there is not a lack of similarity between McCarthy and the right wing extreme now). And yet now we take Social Security, Medicare and many other government programs for granted and we can barely conceive of a time when they did not exist.

Mark my words, within ten or fifteen years people will say, "I can't believe there was a time when we did not have a National health care policy and system in this country. What the hell were those people thinking about?"

Well, we're not thinking about the issues. And until we do, we aren't going to get a whole heck of a lot done.

I'm tired of seeing angry citizens yelling at the President and at Senators. When did this become acceptable? When did this become appropriate? When did such a lack of civil debate and discussion become so commonplace that we have to watch it incessently blaring from our televisions and radios?

Where is the intelligent discourse where folks with differing points of views exchange those points of views articulately, intelligently, and with a nod, maybe even a respectful nod, to their opposition's valid counterpoints?

Yesterday morning Good Morning America put Anne Coulter opposite James Carville for a three minute "sound bite" on health care. Chris Cuomo tried to tee up the issues, but all I heard was shrill invective from Coulter and Carville could not outline the entire plan (or, for that matter any of it.) What was that for? Why did we need that? When did GMA become the substitute for the now-defunct Crossfire? That show was killed because John Stewart appropriately pointed out that it masqueraded as intelligent debate but was little more than a smack down.

We don't need a National Healthcare Smack Down. We need a National Healthcare Debate.

I can't wait do hear that. Neither should anyone else.


  1. Good comments, accurate analysis, thanks.

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  3. Not good comments. The obama plan does not address fundamental constitutional rights, it rejects them in favor of lifestyle punishment, subjective determination of treatment success and government solutions to what is an individual right to choose. The free market setup effective mechanisms to control costs and determine treatment success. Government intervention has distorted the free market checks and balances in favor of monopolies. The right has offered very clear options: remove state monopolies, limit tort and increase the use of HSAs, you have chosen to ignore these options because you do not agree with them.