Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The New Law

The health care bill passed and was signed into law today. I have mixed feelings about it; I wasn’t planning on writing anything but then I saw Michael Moore on Larry King Live last night and he had some good points, and I saw a really good comparison of health care to a fire department on the internet a while back and that made some good points, and I have my own feelings about what I think government should be, so I threw that in the pot together and mixed it all up. What it boils down to for me is this is not the law I wanted AT ALL, but I do believe that, given the contentious climate in Washington and the political pull of money from the insurance companies and their lobbyists, that this is the best we can do for right now. It's a foot in the door. People will come to expect to be able to find affordable health insurance; I don't believe the politicians will ever be able to take that away again. Same for being able to insure our kids until they are 26, although they may have more success with nudging that age. People with pre-existing conditions- same thing. Basically all the good things they are touting as coming from this legislation- I don't think they will be able to close the door on any of it.

What would I have done personally? I would have started a brand new public health care system. Hospitals, clinics, the whole 9 yards. Yes, socialized medicine. I don't care what label anyone puts on it, it would be the right thing to do. Now, I wouldn't outlaw the current private hospitals, or private health insurance. There's still a place for that just like there is still a place for private schools even though we have a public school system. To find doctors I would provide incentives for our top students to go to medical school, including full tuition payments if they agree to “enlist” as public doctors for a given amount of time. Qualified students would get free schooling to become doctors, physician's assistants, nurses, medical technicians, and all of the various professions we need to run the healthcare system. I would also allow immigrants into the country if they qualified to go to medical school and also “enlisted” for a certain number of years; they could stay on and become citizens after their years of service. Yep, I would also raise taxes, by about the amount that people are already spending on health insurance. Companies that wanted to ditch insurance would be able to do so, and many would. Those companies would have to give raises in the amounts that they were previously spending on health care, to equal the taxes. Basically I would try to make things even out, then if anyone wanted to pay for private insurance, possibly give them a slight tax break. There would be employers who still need to attract the "cream of the crop"; they would of course still pay for private insurance since private is always seen as better than public whether it is or not.

For me it goes back to what I think government is for, and I could care less about -isms so label me however, and again, I don't care. I think government's primary job should be to protect the little guy from the big guy, whether the big guy is a foreign country trying to blow us up or a corporation trying to lie to me to get me to buy bad products or an insurance company giving me the bait and switch after I've paid premiums for forever, or a car company selling me a dangerous car, or the financial industry playing roulette with my money all the while assuring me everything is fine, or a credit card company changing my interest rate without telling me because I was late with the water bill, or a manufacturer hiding the fact that they are putting GMOs in my food, or a toy company selling me toys with lead paint that will damage my children, or a factory polluting the water I have to drink, or a religious group telling me I can't marry whomever I want when that person is a consenting adult just like I am. It’s about fairness. Life sure isn’t fair, but governments are there to level the playing field as much as they possibly can.

I also believe our government should provide essential services the private sector is unable or unwilling to take on. Fire stations, police departments, the mail, education, and now that it has become a life saving industry, health care for every single citizen instead of only the fortunate. (Heck, I wouldn’t turn immigrants away, either; they are people too after all.) Health care is an essential service as much as our police force. It wasn't that way when our Founding Fathers wrote our Constitution, I mean they thought bleeding people was a good idea, but it is now.

Such a system would not be perfect any more than our current public school system is perfect, but that’s a different fight altogether. You can’t make people be perfect and all of our various systems are run by people. There are mistakes and carelessness and abuses in our current healthcare system but there are also amazing successes, just like there would be in a system of public hospitals.

But it wasn't up to me. It was up to 435 representatives and 100 senators, and just try to get that many people to agree on something perfect. It's a wonder anything ever gets done at all, then you throw in Fox News and the insurance industry working in the background trying to sabotage anything they think will affect their bottom line. Nope, I’m not happy with the law, but I think it’s a step in the right direction.

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