Watching the news and reading articles about the state of healthcare reform is depressing, especially if you are on the side of those wanting healthcare reform. On its own, healthcare policy is complex, but when you add in partisan politics and special interests groups it becomes dizzyingly so. Pair complexity with a constituency that doesn’t have the time or inclination to be informed on the issues and it is a recipe for disaster.
Our current healthcare system is terribly broken. According to the WHO, the United States is around #34 on the healthcare quality rating list of developed countries. I think we are above Slovenia. We spend the most, but our quality leaves a lot to be desired. The Republicans hem and haw about the evils of a government take over. They scare people into a scenario where government bureaucrats stand between the doctor and patient determining who gets this procedure and that medicine. Unfortunately, that is what happens now. Instead of government bureaucrats, it is big corporate insurance companies who make these decisions. When I quit my job and we all had to be on my husband’s insurance (thankfully we had that choice), I was delighted to find out that our teeth cleanings were “free” or that there was no out of pocket co-pay. However, there is a 12 month waiting period before the company will pay for any “sick” dental care like filling cavity’s. Why is this? Well, they want 12 months of premiums to build up before they will pay for this. This sort of policy is to the benefit of the company and not the patient. It has nothing to do with fostering quality care. What if the person needing the cavity filled waits a year and the decay spreads? After 12 months, the insurance company will be paying more. It is all a numbers game for insurance companies. Try to pay out less for maximum profit. The scenario I just described is light compared to some of the horror stories about people being denied care for life threatening illness and suffering serious financial hardship because of a hospital bills. There are over 50 million people without basic health insurance, a staggering statistic in America.
President Barack Obama was elected by an overwhelming majority of Americans who wanted sweeping change in our healthcare system. The forces are strongly aligned against him.
First there is the GOP…It is well documented that the Republicans do not want reform. In fact they do not want the President to do anything but fail so that they can regain the White House and the Congress. The President and his administration has bent over backwards trying to work with them, but they have been on message every time: “Nope”. I wish President Obama would put the American people before the Republicans and move forward without them. Instead he continues to make concessions to them while letting them frame the debate. Over the last several weeks, the debate has been drowned out by lies and smokescreens planted by the GOP and special interests groups masquerading as grassroots efforts. In addition to spreading lies about what is really in the bill (death panels, rationing, etc), they are also capitalizing on those whites who are shell shocked that this black man is the president. They are not really debating healthcare, but protesting President Obama. The townhalls are a repudiation of the president that is bordering on mutiny. It is a powder keg fed by the GOP, Fox News, and conservative talk show hosts and radio personalities.
Next, there are the corporate interests… Premiums have doubled in the last decade while coverage has decreased. Insurance company profits have increased by 100 % and insurance company CEOs bring in tens of millions of dollars in salary. The pharmaceutical companies are the fattest of cats. They made secret deals with the Obama administration, promising $80 billion towards the new plan if certain concessions were made starting with $80 billion as the limit of what they would contribute. Wow! Republicans and Democrats receive millions in campaign contributions from these corporate interests and they have dispatched hundreds of lobbists to Washington to persuade them to stand in opposition to reform.
Then, there are the Democrats…who have never seen a majority they could not squander. The Dems can’t seem to use the same play book. The Blue Dogs and so called centrist democrats can’t seem to be distinuguished from their Republican colleagues. They are working against each other. Those Republicans sure do stick together. Why can’t the Dems. On a constituent level, I haven’t seen the big crowds for President Obama since the inauguration. Where did all those people go? Why hasn’t President Obama been able to harness and use that energy that got him elected? At one time, I was amazed and awed by how he could bring opposing view points together. For example, the whole notion of the team of rivals with Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and Joe Biden as Vice President, all former rivals. His “reaching across the aisle” to conservatives over dinner and cocktails in the name of the now elusive “bipartisanship” was admirable. It was a real life example of those values we are taught as children, but abandon as adults. In this case, the President’s reaching out and concession making is hurting his cause and that of the American people. Unfortunately, the GOP could care less about, well, anything but whipping up the base and ensuring this administration’s failure. Surely the President and everyone around him knows that!
I hope the President doesn’t abandon the public option like the media is reporting.
Oops! I forgot one more tide against reform…
Then there is the media…Where to start? The media is less about facts and more about advancing the sensational and controversial stories all in the interest of ratings. Many of the stories are leading and manufactured. The pundits are rarely fair and balanced. I wonder why many of them are called on to speak. Media Matters for America is very helpful in pointing out the inconsistencies.
It is likely that the President will get a healthcare reform bill. However, if he doesn’t take the reins and ensure that it is real reform and not a watered down version, it will surely fail because of that. Cue the Republicans voices of dissent saying, “I told you so…vote for me!”
I have not given up hope, but I recognize that this Sisyphean task is taking a toll on any real reform. President Obama tries to roll healthcare reform up the hill and the detractors are there ready to push it down before it reaches the top.
Mr. President, please do what we elected you to do. Galvanize those behind you and we will get that ball to the top, eluding those who want to cast it down.
Keep hope alive!