Friday, March 26, 2010

My Two Cents

PLEASE NOTE: I am writing this blog post as part theoretical query and part historical context. As such, I welcome comments that engage in philosophical debate. Please do not threaten my life. I think we have all had enough of that nonsense.

Life has gone back to its ho-hum existence since my trip to Munich; however the pressure of the next project is already on. In April I will be attending two conferences and will have to go to DC for four days and then Chicago for four. I should probably start writing that paper now. What is it that they say about no rest for the weary?

Of course there was something in the news this week that caught my eye.

Give me a second . . . what was it . . . oh, yeah, health care.

I thought long and hard about what I have to say about the US health care bill. You either like it or you do not and there is not much that I can write either way that will change your mind. The overwrought rhetoric from those opposed has made me so nauseous and confused, that frankly I tuned out and turned away. I still cannot figure out what exactly it is that so many do not like about the bill.

How can you oppose:
  • Children being permitted to remain on their parents' insurance plan until their 26th birthday (Boy, do I wish I had had that when I was in graduate school!)
  • Individuals affected by the Medicare “donut hole” will receive a $250 rebate, and 50% of the gap will be eliminated in 2011
  • Insurance company spending caps will be restricted, and completely prohibited by 2014
  • Insurers are prohibited from dropping policy holders when they get sick
  • Providing tax deductions for small business so that they can get health insurance for their employees
  • Possibly extending health care coverage to 32 million Americans

So what is the problem with the bill? After looking at a few news outlets today I determined that cost (a quite legitimate concern which deserves more thoughtful discussion and not yelling) and the federal mandate to have health insurance were the thorn in many a side.

“Federal mandates are unconstitutional!” This quote was from Mitt Romney, who thought that mandates were constitutional when he was governor of Massachusetts. “The government cannot require you to do anything!” Wish I had known that when I had to register my car, pay taxes and get car insurance. Guess I should have sued. I keep looking for the part about mandates in the Constitution, but cannot find it. Could someone help me out? This is not tongue in cheek, seriously, as a scholar I would like to understand the argument better.

Germany has a federal mandate, and has had one for a VERY long time. Boy has it led it down the road to ruin. (Yes that last sentence IS tongue in cheek.) I asked the German why this mandate goes unquestioned in Germany.

Health care reform in Germany goes back to the days of Otto von Bismarck. In 1883 Bismarck oversaw the passage of the first German Health Insurance Bill. Health care was but one of many programs that his government pursued which helped to establish the German welfare system. Otto von Bismarck was not a socialist. However, he did recognize the power of the socialist and worker movement. These laws were enacted in order to appease them and to preserve the capitalist system. Bismarck did this because he recognized a fundamental truth of politics.

If you kick a dog often enough, he will bite you.

You have to hand out a bone every now and again.

I find this to be an intriguing way to look at the issue. Health care was not a grand socialist experiment, but necessary to maintain political order and power.

The German also pointed out to me that health care is necessary because it is bad for the economy to have a sick county. If everyone runs around sick then they are not productive at work. Also, they could get “me” sick, which I really do not want, or they wind up getting so sick that they go into hospitals and I wind up paying for them anyway. As a self-interested individual pursuing my goals and enjoying my freedom, I also have an interest in making sure that the people around me have affordable health care.

The German is smart, huh? That is why I keep him around. He is also extremely brave. He firmly believes in listening to and examining all sides of an argument and so he downloaded and listened to Glenn Beck last night. He looked at me completely bewildered after awhile, “Did this guy actually go to school? And why does he keep talking about trading in gold?”

There is one last thing that has really bugged me. Something seems to have gotten lost over the cacophony of noise in the US media the past few months.

There actually ARE Americans that want health care reform. They, as well as I, believe that good health should not be for the rich, dying for the poor and the middle class is left to go bankrupt.

And that is my two Cents.


LizE said...

Death threats? Oh good grief where has the ability to disagree civilly gone? Oy vay. Okay so yeah I think this bill is a big ‘ol mess and the threat of Communism has nothing to do with it :D

I think most Americans want reform but this is a bad bill. Cost, cost, deficit, cost is my new mantra. I think it is simply too big (student loans, WTF?) and people don’t understand it. That alone makes it hard for the public to get behind. I would have preferred they go after the insurance companies and wish they had put in the talked about trigger.

I agree whole heartedly with Bob Samuels and his article The Progressive Case Against the Health Care Bill which you can find here: It’s worth a read and lays out the points better than I could.

Oh except for one thing. Twenty-six year olds are not children and I really believe that the insurance option in the bill is another step toward the extended dependence of this generation. Taxpayers are picking up the bill for this and it makes no sense. Again with my cost mantra. Yes I would have loved to have not had to work an additional job in grad school to afford health coverage (because with my health issues the standard college plan was worth bupkiss) but it was my responsibility and not the taxpayers.

On a related note, this whole thing was politically mishandled. There are a number of moderate Dems now in jeopardy of losing their seats thanks to a vote that ultimately adopted the Karl Rove strategy of 50 plus 1. It has been frustrating to watch. I do give credit though to Speaker Pelosi. As much as I dislike her, okay loathe her, she did her job and in the process we got a front row view to the process. It was a lot like seeing how the sausage was made. All the wheeling and dealing which, while certainly nothing new, was done with such abandon even I was less amused than disgusted.

cliff1976 said...

Yes I would have loved to have not had to work an additional job in grad school to afford health coverage (because with my health issues the standard college plan was worth bupkiss) but it was my responsibility and not the taxpayers.

So, you had health issues which were your responsibility. So does everyone. Mine are being fat and not flossing every day.

But I'm damned glad my appendix needed to come out at 13 and my gall bladder at 30. Had it been 10 years earlier (the latter) or later (the former), I don't know how it would have worked out. I don't think my cheapo campus health care plan covered surgery at all.

Would you really have seen organ removal as my own responsibility as a taxpaying student employed as a luggage salesman at the mall and pizza restaurant waiter?

Beth said...

I have never tried a cheeseberger with sauerkraut, although it sounds interesting. I love how you refer to your husband as "The German" or "The Scientist". You can call me "The Accountant" or the "Grad-school Roommate" or whatever you want. I don't care to engage in a political debate, because I generally am not informed enough to win but will add my one and a half cents. I think all the things you mentioned are valid reasons to support the healthcare bill. But the key question is how much will it cost me, the hard-working, full-time employed, childless, healthy, single woman? I already pay many thousands of dollars in taxes each year and for the good insurance I have now. I can't afford to pay any more! (Oh yeah, and why do the congressmen exclude themselves...)

LizE said...

Actually chances are that standard college health plans would have covered that because it falls under the emergency category. Much more insidious would be something that would require ongoing prescriptions not covered. And don’t forget prescription reform is not adequately addressed by this bill. But I still go back to the fact that at 26 you are an adult and not a child. At some point, personal responsibility has to come into play. By the way, you can be as snarky as you like but it really never advances the argument.

AstroYoga said...

Thanks for that. I'll have to find out what it is that you do. I was in DC for two years working in science policy with the AAAS (I miss it terribly!). I left just before the 2008 election.

Here's my 2 cents on the 'up to 26 deal'. I think the deal to add kids until their 26 is they need it is a realistic acknowledgment of the current state of education and the job market. Most jobs require a college degree so the days of moving out of mom and dads arms at 18 and starting your life are long over (my dad quit school at 16 to wash dishes and ended up getting training in the military because of the draft). Many jobs require some experience that is often had in the form of 'internships'. Salaries for such positions often range from 'modern slavery' to nothing (because it is such an honor to be exploited for a well known company), forcing even recent graduates to either live in abject poverty (often internships are in expensive locals) or depend on support from mom and dad in some way.

Taking the burden of over-priced individual insurance plans from young workers can help them survive and hopefully get busy doing the work of rebuilding the economy. If I could have, I would have stayed with my parent's plan until I was 23 and able to get insurance through graduate school.

Anonymous said...

As a former worker in the healthcare industry, I do know a few things. So for the record, here is my two cents worth...
First, this bill is bad in so many ways. The cost, the process, has divided this country more than ever. Back room deals, strong arm tactics, is not how it should be done. A bill could have been done if both sides worked together to achieve a common goal.
I have not met a single person that does not believe in healthcare reform. No one should be denied coverage for a condition that they have no control over. Saying that this is where the ideas end. There where already tax deductions for small business/self employed.Healthcare dollars were considered "pre-taxed". Now under this bill those dollars will be taxed. Auto insurance is mandated by each state, and each state has their own laws. In our state if you do not have auto insurance, they pull your tags, and you can't drive. The same with healthcare. Each state has a pool with insurance companies that supply coverage. The consumer has to pick which company/coverage they want. A better idea would be to allow the consumer to go over state lines to get the best deal/coverage they can get. Since insurance is a commodity, the goverment cannot force you to buy it. Also, keeping your dependent on your policy is not new. Most policies would allow a dependent to remain covered to age 25 as long as they are a full time student.You where on my policy until 2002.
We have goverment insurance it is called Medicare/Medicaid. There arguement is that it doesn't work. Maybe they should fix that before trying to take over all of healthcare.
Of those 30 million who are not insured, most are under the age of 30, and chose not to have healthcare. Again, you cannot force people to get something they don't want.
When Obama got up and said this was about his presidency, he proved once again that he is out of touch. When the majority of people are against this, he should listen. His job and that of congress it to do the business of the people who sent them there. This is not about their own personal agendas.
What this bill will do to us is increase out taxes, and our healthcare premiums will triple (yes, we where already notified).
So, there you have my two cents worth. If you don't like it, please do not throw a brick through my window, since we will not be able to repair it!

jen said...

Where do you download Glenn Beck? I've been looking for his show because I need more comedy in my life. It's not on iTunes.

I get so enraged over this health care business or rather the republican response to health care that my cousin and i no longer talk. At all.

I don't understand. At all.

"Back room deals, strong arm tactics" this is fox media hype, verbatim. If the right had tried to do more than stop the process, it could have been more bipartisan, but they didn't. McCain should be ashamed of himself.
Sorry for disagreeing with your mom, but i just can't keep my trap shut today. i think I'll leave it there before i get into real hot water.

Anonymous said...

It's not fox media it's the truth, and the way we feel. The only ones who feel ashamed are the people who crammed this down on us. You are already in hot water, so why stop!

Claire said...

Hmm . . . should I respond?

I like the Accountant's comments the best. Wink! Hi Beth! She was one smart girl when we lived together, I can see that she still is!

First: I think allowing individuals to stay on their parent's health care does not necessarily create dependence. We overburden students with student loans and when they get out of school they cannot afford anything. Helping people out when they are getting started is not a bad thing. And if you think it will make your kids dependent . . . don't do it.

Second: Strong arm tactics, shoved down the throat . . . um, this is the way Washington works. People trade votes and do each other favors.

It could have been better if they came together . . . One side made it perfectly clear that they were not compromising.

Half of that bill was full of Republican ideas that they now disavow. Mitt Romney is the worst. Apparently what was good for his state is terrible for the country.

Third: Obama said it made a statement about his presidency. So what? I think it says that he was not afraid of a fight, that he was willing to do what is right.

Fourth: Nobody wants it? Then why did they elect all those Democrats back in November 2008?

Fifth: The government makes us do a lot of things. Where does it say that it cannot? I got no answer for that and no one even responded to my comments about Germany.

Sixth: You can get Glenn Beck via his website. However, it is a bit strange and full of commercials.

And last but not least . . .

Why isn't anyone angry with the insurance companies? They made BILLIONS in profits last year. Before a bill is even signed they raise rates?? It sounds like money gouging to me.