Health Care Reform: Small Change This Christmas

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Road sign titled health care reform As I think about where health care reform is headed this holiday season, I can’t help but think about the red buckets of the Salvation Army we see outside stores every December.  A place for small change that helps us feel better about ourselves as we go about our business as usual.  Health care reform has turned out to be a place for the politicians to toss us some small change, an act that makes them feel good about themselves as they go about their political business as usual.  My, what a cynical view, eh?  I admit to it and agree that the reality of the Salvation Army’s red buckets is that they do a tremendous world of good; they get all my spare change every year.  The cumulative result of all of our loose coins and dollar bills can not be argued with.   I just can’t see the same positive results coming from the health care present Washington is trying to offer us this Christmas.  Some people, however, do take a more measured and thoughtful view on health care reform.

Thursday I read an article by the NY Time columnist, David Brooks in which he detailed his reason to support, and oppose, the latest version of health care, (insurance), reform.  Although I don’t often read the NY Times, I have seen Brooks on TV and a few times in print.  Mainly I remember him as the guy who coined the term Bobo, although I did not know he had written a book on them.  Anyway, the op-ed article was quite well written but got me feeling a little frustration with the way this has turned out.  I wondered how anyone, from the most liberal to the most conservative could be happy with where this “reform” appears to be headed.  As I thought about writing a post responding to each of his points, I looked online for others who may have already done the same thing.  I found this article on the Atlantic web site that responds better than I ever could have done.   Read Brook’s original article and the response by the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson to get a great summary of where this health care reform monster is certain to end up.  (Update Sunday: Thompson published an interesting follow up article yesterday.)

The discussion about the innovation gap is actually one of the best arguments for a public option to health insurance reform, an option that is now officially off the table.  Both Brooks and Thompson weigh in on the fact that many ambitious, bright, U.S. workers stay in jobs that do not fit simply because they need the health insurance their employer allows them access to.  These workers do not contribute to anywhere near their potential which is a definite problem for our global competitiveness and technical innovation.  Does the expected final reform package do anything to address this issue?  I say not much, but Thompson, in his Atlantic article, puts it well, appearing to think the jury is still out on this point:

It’s true that the health bill offers subsidies and creates exchanges that presumably make it easier for those on the individual market to compare policies and pick the one that suits their needs (and presumably gives insurance companies incentives to bring down prices when more people join the exchange market). But it’s also true that both the House and Senate plans work to preserve our employer-based system.

One thing the final bill seems sure to address in a positive way is the issue of pre-existing conditions, revoking your coverage if you get sick, or charging you more for the same coverage that another person pays for.  This issue is one of the “unintended consequences” Brooks seems so worried about, but I am firmly in agreement with Thompson on this one.  It may be the only thing of any positive significance in the final bill.

I feel the final bill leaves out almost all of the real reforms Obama discussed, (promised?), during his campaign.  In the end a huge amount of time, money, and political will has been spent.  The final result seems destined to disappoint almost everyone, everyone that is except the politicians in Washington who are sure to attempt to hold this up as their greatest accomplishment.  We who vote, no matter our political persuasion, need to hold the feet of these politicians to the fire in the next national election.

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Will Sig
1 Dennis the Vizsla

A recent New Yorker had an extensive article about and analysis of the health care bill and compared it to an agriculture bill that was hammered out in the early years of the last century, with similar opposition from the Republicans, and similar disappointment from the people who were hoping for reform. Assuming their analysis is correct, I’m cautiously optimistic. We’ll see.

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2 Reza

I agree with you. This is a importent thing and should be done.
.-= Reza´s last blog ..Free Vector Graphic and illustration Resources [ZLWOlist] =-.

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