Cross-posted at The Exchange & The Political Hoedown
Much is being made of Health Care/Insurance reform of late. Look on any major news site, op-ed page or political blog and you’ll run into several pieces posted just this week covering the breaking news! over Blue Dog Dems dealing or Obama pushing or Republicans pushing back, not to mention the pontificating on both sides of the aisle over what “reform” really means for health care in America, co-op vs. public option…and the shouting at Town Halls! It’s more than part of the news cycle – it’s a key argument about our future.
It’s the first major legislative battle Obama has had to fight, and for the Democratic Party, it’s a chance to reverse a fifteen-year-old loss. More than these, it is a new theatre of war in the battle for our civil liberties.
The Bush Administration is still fresh in our minds. How many readers have lamented that since 9/11 (or afterwards, when the Patriot Act was passed), our civil liberties have been trampled on/infringed upon/lost? It’s a common topic that talks of the individual freedoms we hold valuable in our country.
(Less directly, those voicing dissent were also realizing a harsh reality: that these “truths we hold to be self-evident” and divinely-granted exist only due to the government’s benevolent, diverse structure and state.)
The thinking is this: we have a measure of control (freedoms) over our personal lives (and by extension, choices) that cannot be impugned by any governmental body. The most common freedom referenced is that of Speech, tying into the freedom to disagree with the government and its members.
So were our freedoms infringed upon over the last seven and change years? And how does this factor into health care?!
Short answer: 1) no, and 2) health care reform as exists in draft form (ObamaCare) is a direct interference in our lives, a diluting of our personal liberties.
Not-as-short answer, we’ll talk first about Bush (yay, that hasn’t been done a lot!).
Aside from the flag-draped coffins arriving in cargo planes, the biggest uniquely “American” tragedy of the recent Bush years is the “loss” of civil liberties/personal freedoms. But let’s take a look further. Yes, the TSA interrupted our travel, causing frustration. We were also limited in the quantity of cosmetics we could bring on planes (still no guns). Regarding dissent – freedom of speech in general – if anything, Bush’s time in office saw a flowering of free speech. Having worked in a book store, I witnessed firsthand the number of anti-Administration books that were published – harsh tomes that didn’t hold their punches and outright derided, accused and insulted most of the top officials. Few were spared. One novel, by Nicholson Baker, had its main character fantasizing about killing Bush (though he was talked out of it).
In the theatres, we saw the scathing documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, which took aim at the Administration’s run-up to and early execution of the War in Iraq (as well as the handling of 9/11 itself). “Critical” is an understatement. And how many times did we tune in to a left-leaning pundit, talk show host or guest lambasting Bush or Cheney or Rumsfeld as evil, fascist, corrupt, or at the least questionable in their morality?
Is this provocative newsmaking? Strict journalism? No, much of what was published, printed, screened or screamed by the cable punditry was personal opinion, heavily biased and often filled with fervent desire to see those in power toppled like an Iraqi statue, i.e., brought low by impeachment. While this never happened, “administration change” was a stated policy goal of many armchair politicians.
So freedom of speech. Freedom to (angrily) travel. Abortion and gay-related issues existed at the end of term where they were at the beginning, from a national perspective. Your taxes went down (yes, for all of you; a new lower bracket was even created). Your incomes may also have gone down, or your home values or 401(k)’s; insurance premiums did rise. But those aren’t “freedoms,” but rather a part of living in a capitalist, largely market-driven society.
More importantly, during this time your freedom of choice wasn’t altered. Choice to drink or smoke, to have a hamburger, to drive an SUV.
To not be insured.
We require our drivers to get car insurance, mainly to pay for repairs when that other guy hits you while turning left out of a Taco Bell parking lot. It’s a safety net for those responsible in traffic accidents, so they don’t go broke when their ’89 Civic rear-ends a Bentley. There are multiple parties involved.
Health insurance is a different beast. It’s about you and your body. It’s a choice you make about protecting that body and your pocketbook in case of injury or serious illness. We don’t cover ourselves to pay for cold medicine; as John Stossel said recently, insurance isn’t welfare, but instead coverage for a potential catastrophic incident. It secures against the potential maladies that can’t be solved by a trip to CVS or Walgreens, those things that cost a lot to fix.
But we still – as of this writing, and since insurance was invented – have a choice whether or not to buy it.
Our employers might cover us. They certainly don’t need to provide insurance. Tying your health care to where you work has shackled many to careers they’d rather not have. But we expect it, don’t we? It’s taken for granted that if you work for a major corporation, “benefits” will be included – benefits being medical coverage, dental, vision, emergency room service, etc. When it’s not offered, many throw their hands up and moan. What am I going to do? they cry.
In the case you don’t have employer-provided coverage, you can buy insurance (as the company is doing for its employees) from a provider, paying semi-annually to maintain the safety net against grievous injury or sickness.
But, again, you don’t have to; there is no requirement. If we’re not careful, however, there could be.
For lack of a better term, I’ll call what’s coming out of the Democratic Caucuses “ObamaCare,” and in its purest form it approaches a single-payer (that payer being the gov’t) system that many in America don’t understand, but also recoil from when it’s mentioned. As is being drafted currently, ObamaCare would include a requirement – punishable, if violated – for all employers to buy their employees health care and for all individuals to somehow have coverage, buying it if is not provided otherwise. A mandate.
So be healthy, or pay a fine. Or another way to look at it, Dear Leader says buy our healthcare.
It’s just a matter of time, if ObamaCare is passed, before the single-payer option is introduced in some pilot phase. We have a debate now between a government insurance program (the “public” option; run & owned by the gov’t and funded with your tax dollars) and the co-op (a member-owned group that uses their purchasing power to get lower costs collectively than alone).
(I’m more for the latter, predominantly because I think small businesses should have the option – should they choose – of collective bargaining that we think only unionistas are entitled.)
Public or co-op, under ObamaCare one way has to be in the bill to ensure “lower” cost insurance options, as we would all need to have something under pain of high fines. And here’s where the freedom of choice goes away.
We should not be forced by a governmental body to buy health insurance, something that affects solely the individual (if I punch you, and you need dental work, no health care plan of mine in the capitalist world would pay your bill). It’s our choice.
Many of those that are uninsured are post-college adults who either don’t have the job that supplies insurance or choose not to be covered, as they are young and healthy. Catastrophic risk is low for them, as relates to illness (we all can fall victim to accidents & injuries).
Why are we seeing a party that champions individual choice (we can cut to the quick with one word: abortion) refusing to allow the same regarding health care coverage?
This is a step toward a nanny state, and what do nannies do but take away the choices of the child.
If we are soon mandated to have health insurance, how long before fast food joints are fined for serving real beef burgers (too fatty!) instead of veggie burgers? Or bread producers (and their supporting farmers) ordered to make only gluten-free products, as some claim our bodies aren’t supposed to handle the stuff? Or regular pop – or pop in general, as diet might possibly in an alternate world lead to cancer! It’s all unhealthy, right? We shouldn’t consume these products, as they’d raise the potential for future maladies (and jack up costs)…right, Dear Leader?
What about the “legalize” movement, predominantly supported by the same left-leaning people who voted Obama into office? It’ll be a cold day before pot is legalized; in fact, it’s more likely that cigarettes face a 100% national tax – punishing smokers, isolating them, even more – on their way to an eventual banning.
And then there’s that can of beer you drink while watching a game. Prohibition was a failure, and it was the result of a religious-backed temperance movement that saw it pass. Well, “health care reform” advocates want your body to be insured and in tip-top shape; liquor doesn’t factor into that equation. Look for higher sales taxes, more restrictions on purchases by individuals and establishments, neighborhood bar & grill closures.
Because you have to be as healthy as the government says. There is no more room for personal choice when it comes to our bodies, right? That’s what I’m hearing with ObamaCare. Health care reform is no longer an issue of children being without insurance or the homeless being denied care. We’re not talking about lowering costs so the woman working two jobs can afford coverage to combat her returned cancer.
No, we’re skipping the true “need” aspect of health care (that being low, market-driven costs with state restrictions eliminated, co-op pools for small businesses, et al) for the ideological stance of a small group of policy makers too enamored with the concept of “universal coverage” to realize the dread cost to the end-consumer or the country as a whole.
The potential for failure to reform health care – to make it affordable for all – is high. No one likes to hear the tragic stories where if they had coverage Bobby would be alive, or little Susie’s heart valve defect would’ve been detected in utero, avoiding frantic emergency surgery, or Ted wouldn’t have gone bankrupt paying for his wife’s caner medication and treatment. Those stories will compound if nothing is done.
But the right action isn’t necessarily the one presented, and I’m not saying it’s 100% the Grumbling Opposition Party’s way either. What I do fervently believe is that we need to be mindful of the individual’s right to choose – and the related personal freedoms that could be endangered should we lose that right.
Our civil liberties come in many forms. A woman’s right to choose is not the only heath care choice we have the “right” to make. If we want to create a society that lets the person and not the government make the choice in the vast majority of cases, we cannot allow ourselves to turn a deaf ear when protest is raised on a topic we feel strongly about.
Take a few steps back. Slow down the process. Reform the health care system, but don’t devolve our rights in the process.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Cross-posted at The Exchange & The Political Hoedown