Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Nazi" Really Is a Four-Letter Word

Whenever the topic of "health care" and "United States" come up in this household, the German gets a perplexed look on his face, looks at me and says, "I do not understand why Americans do not want health care?!" These feelings found their way into his comments on the video yesterday. This seems to be the only thing that is talked about these days, and has made its way to our dinner table. It is about time I tossed in my two cents.

President Obama, and all of those currently promoting health care reform, seem to have the best intentions. In fact, they have very good reason for taking up this cause. The facts are shocking.
  • The number of uninsured in American increases every day. In a newly released report, the US Census Bureau estimates that nearly 46.3 million people in 2008 had no health insurance. I have read critiques which argue that the estimate contains individuals who are "not citizens," and thus the number of uninsured Americans is actually lower. Um, okay. If you want to look at the number that way, then there are "only" 36.8 million uninsured Americans. Gee that number is so much better. (Despite what critics say, you should take a look at the new Census Report on Income, Poverty and Health Insurance. It really is eye opening.)
  • People in the US ALREADY die waiting to get treatment because they are either denied coverage for pre-existing conditions or refused referrals to specialists.
  • In the US hundreds of thousands of people go bankrupt because of their health care costs. One recent report from the American Journal of Medicine estimates 60% of 1.5 million bankruptcies (or about 900,000).
  • Americans spend more on health care but are not any healthier and do not live longer. In its 2000 report, the World Health Organization ranked the Unites States 24th in terms of life expectancy (Germany was 17th). In almost all of the rankings I looked at, the US was never in the top 10, and in one ranking ("health performance") was even 72. You know who was almost always at the top: France.
  • For more facts, you should really check out the National Coalition on Health Care Fact Sheet. They use a lot of different sources.

Is this really a system worth saving? All of this begs the question, what have the reformers proposed and why are some people so against reform? Let's talk about a few details, which President Obama laid out in his speech to congress.

1. All Americans must have health care.

This proposal is shocking to many Americans. "You can't make me have health care! If I do not want coverage, that is my choice. Live free or die!" Um, okay. The problem with this argument is that one person's "choice" might actually cause me to get sick, or worse cost me money. In Germany everyone is required to have health care. It is not negotiable. This month the American Journal of Public Health estimates that 45,000 individuals die every year because they do not have health insurance. Also, requiring people to have health insurance is good for business. Think of all those new customers!

2. Reform would make it illegal for health insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or to place a cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or in a lifetime. It will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses. It would require insurance companies to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms.

Yeah. I do not have anything to say about that. It all seems good.

3. A possible public option that would provide health care to those who cannot afford it.

This has been a sticking point for many. "It is SOCIALISM!" Calm down, people. First, in a socialist country there is no public "option" there is only the public plan. A public option might be able to provide the vast majority of uninsured with health care. It also is not directly opposed to capitalism. By providing an affordable option, the system would increase competition and force private companies to provide better coverage.

If you think the government should not be involved in this kind of "socialism," should we also get rid of medicaid, medicare and social security? If the government cannot provide good health care, then what is it providing to its military or government employees? I often hear people say, "He's got a government job. Good benefits." Hmm. What benefits are they talking about?

Now, much of the opposition to health care reform has involved shouting and pointing and disparaging remarks, none of which ARE ACTUAL ARGUMENTS AGAINST HEALTH CARE. However, we do need to think critically about reform and what the best way is. Mr. Wilson, when people get upset with you because you yell at the President, it is not because you yelled, it is because YOU LIED. There is a provision to ensure that illegal immigrants are not covered. Mr. Wilson, no one wants to muzzle you, but we would like you to stop grossly exaggerating and lying in order to produce fear and actually act like an adult and engage in reasonable debate.

These lies about reform have got to stop, as they lead to the hate filled comments, which are the worst. When many of my Democrat friends called President Bush a "Nazi," I called them out. As you may expect and understand, where I live, calling someone a "Nazi" is about the worst thing you can do. The right-wing movement, however, seem to have latched onto an idea and are not letting go.

What is it about health care reformers that makes them "Nazis?" Do you mean the LIE about death panels?? Nothing like that is going to happen! Do you know where is actually DID happen: Here in Germany.

The German's Opa has told me some stories. His mentally retarded sister (aunt? I am fuzzy about this detail as Opa speaks Plattdeutsch and I cannot always understand) was actually taken by the Nazis to a "hospital." Opa's father came home from work and found out. He immediately went to where his daughter was held, shamed the soldiers there (he was a field officer in WWI, so pulled a little rank), and got his daughter (sister?) back. When I think of some of the things that the German's family has been through (including Oma's escape from Prussia, fleeing from the Russians, and Great-Grandmother's rape in a refugee camp), then I have to look at some at these posters and right-wing accusations and say, "YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE HELL YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT!"

That's right. I just used all capital letters. But, I hope that you see where I am going with this. End of life counseling is NOT THE SAME as a gas chamber. Demonizing someone and using vile language is not an argument. It does not convince me, nor the majority of Americans.

Now there is an argument against reform that is pretty good. Um, Mr. President, how are you going to pay for this? I was not totally convinced by the statement, "Reform will pay for itself." I think I may need to see some numbers first.

When it comes to reform, I am sometimes not sure if this is the right time for it. But then I am reminded of a quote, "If not us, who? If not now, when?" The German told me something very interesting the other day. "Health care is like roads and clean water. It is a public good. You should not be allowed to make a profit from it." If only more people thought that way.

So, that is my two cents . . . for what it's worth.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for another thoughtful post. I think that was worth way more than two cents - euro cents or $ cents.

vailian said...

Absolutely. Well written.
It is a pity that the Americans who are so terrified of health reform don't have the patience to actually learn the facts.
I challenge anyone who is on that side of the fence to come to Europe (especially Germany or France) and see how it actually can work.

bus said...

Same i also thought why they don't agree for health care plan??????

honeypiehorse said...

I think everyone has a right to basic health care (vaccinations, mammograms, paps, etc.). I don't think it's reasonable for everyone to have unlimited health care. I am uninterested in whether it's socialism or not, I just don't think it can work.

Jeffrey said...

What works in one country may not work in another country for a variety of reasons. On this subject the size of the US population -- well over three times larger than Germany's -- is one of them. Second, there's the basic feeling among Americans that when the government runs something they often do it very badly (not always, but often). Compare, for example, the US Post Office with UPS. Americans believe, with good reason, that competition among service providers will reduce prices and stimulate new technologies -- look at the computer industry, that little old free-enterprise American business. Imagine if the computer industry were run by the US government, with a thousand bureaucrats holding weekly meetings to decide what the optimum size of a monitor should be.


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