A View From the Cheap Seats

March 16, 2010

Healthcare Reset


By Rich Trzupek

The President appears to have surrendered on health care, finally acknowledging what everyone else has figured out: that Congress simply doesn’t have the votes to pass a health care bill in anything like its current form. During his State of the Union address, Obama somewhat petulantly complained that he hadn’t done a good enough job of explaining the two thousand plus pages of legislation, as if that would have made all the difference.

Aside from those who hang out on the far left, Americans instinctively distrust big government and a giant, unexplainable health care bill is about as scary a prospect as one could imagine. Poll after poll showed that Americans didn’t want anything close to what the Democrats were proposing.

Looking deep into their two-page playbook, liberals immediately blamed their failure to pass a health care bill on Republicans. “They’re the party of no,” they cried, a description that, while not altogether accurate, does have some relevance.

The GOP has never said “no” to health care reform, they’ve just said “no” to what would effectively be government control of our health care system. In this case the Republican party undoubtedly reflects the will of the majority of the American people, who have been yelling “no” louder and louder since this debate began.

It’s also disingenuous to blame the GOP for this debacle, as several pundits on the left have been honest enough to admit. Until last month, the Democrats enjoyed absolute control of the executive and legislative arms of government, including a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Republicans could shout “no” until they were hoarse, but until Scott Brown was sworn in as the junior Senator from Massachusetts, there was nothing they could do to stop Democrats from passing any damn thing they want.

So to those wringing their hands over the demise of Obama-care, or Pelosi-care, or Reid-care, don’t blame us over on the right. You had a year to make your dreams of socialized medicine come true and you couldn’t do it.

Where do we go from here? There are problems with our health care system, but it’s high time that we acknowledge the fact that we can’t have it all if we’re going to fix what’s wrong. A basic flaw in every program the Dems presented was that their plans purported to make health care both: a) more accessible, and b) more affordable. The fact is that you can’t have both, unless you define “affordable” as creating an even bigger pile of public debt that our children and grandchildren will be expected to pay off.

We often hear there are 46 million uninsured Americans. This figure, while accurate in a sense, doesn’t actually mean very much. Included in that 46 million number are millions of illegal aliens, millions who are wealthy enough to forgo insurance and millions of young people who could afford insurance, but choose to spend their money on fun stuff, counting on the resilience of youth to make health care unnecessary.

When you subtract all of those groups, you’re left with somewhere between 10 and 12 million citizens who want insurance, but can’t afford it. And, let us not forget, those 10 to 12 million are not denied health care. They get it, but they are forced to go to the emergency room for treatment, where they can’t be turned away. This is not the best, nor the most cost-effective, means of treating those 10 to 12 million uninsured, but it’s something.

The overall picture, therefore, is not as horrifying as political rhetoric would lead one to believe. The biggest issue, for the vast majority of Americans, is cost-containment. If Congress is going to take another swipe at health care, they should focus solely on reducing costs. Universal coverage is a separate issue, and it’s one that can – and should – wait until another day.

There are things we can do to reduce health care costs. We can, and should, encourage more competition by allowing insurance carriers to sell their wares across state lines. We can, and should, reform Medicare, which effectively sets the prices – often outrageously high prices – for treatment programs, drugs and a host of other aspects of our health care system.

The President has expressed a willingness to sit down with Republicans and listen to conservative ideas about reforming health care. Here’s hoping that he really listens and doesn’t use this as another opportunity to bash the opposition for saying “no.”

America has rejected socialized medicine. It’s time to chart a new course.


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