Sunday, August 16, 2009

Whose healthcare?

I like Meet the Press. OK, under Tim Russert there were times when he tried to ambush politicians and others with zinger questions. Occasionally he managed to seem down right mean, as when he talked to a local official of a Parrish outside New Orleans after Katrina, and essentially suggested he had lied about the danger the official’s grandmother had been in. Dick Gregory, on the other hand, does not seem to be as mean, but has less control over the show.

Which he really needed this week, with a show about the health care/insurance debate. MTP had Rachel Maddow, Dick Armey, Tom Daschle and Tom Coburn on, seated left to right in that order. The liberals defended the efforts of Congress and the President, while the conservatives attacked them. And I learned no new facts.

But I saw a debate where, when the Town Hall protestor images were presented of Obama portrayed as Hitler, Dick Armey was quick to us that had had ads depicting George W Bush as Hitler back in 2004. Well, in fact, the organization had solicited ads from private citizens, and then was going to run the best (as chosen by a panel of entertainers) to run. The submissions were sitting up on the website, but when the organization realized what these ads showed, they yanked them.

Armey didn’t mention any of those circumstances. Maybe brought the offensive images on themselves, but the details do paint a different picture. That Armey was willing to, at the very least, not present the whole truth is an indication of where the healthcare debate has gone.

Despite Jack Kelly’s column today, despite Sarah Palin’s wild exaggerations about the death panels and out of context repeating of Ezekiel Emmanuel’s past writings, the questions are simple. Is the current system good enough? Well, for some Americans, yes. Those with good jobs at large companies don’t pay too much of their paycheck to get coverage that mostly takes care of everything. Because their employer pays the bulk of the premium, taxes do not include that part of health care, although whatever the employer produces is impacted by the cost. And of course we pay taxes for other things, like being the only Superpower, and spending money and lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. Plus there is a fraction of the voting and non-voting public that is either uninsured or underinsured. For them the healthcare system is at best a trap; if they enter it that could be fatal to their finances, their lives or both.

The next question is absolutely tangential to the healthcare/insurance debate, and yet has occupied our attention for at least a week. Will senior citizens be forced to accept voluntary counseling for the end of life options by the government, and is that one of the ways the government is trying to save money. Coburn’s comments on this were interesting and informative. Coburn called it an intensely private affair, mom and/or dad deciding how they want to die, on the government should not have any part of. He also said (I can’t remember if before or after) that because of the pressure of defensive medicine, a senior citizen’s end of life directives might be ignored. Anyone with any sense might point out that if the government has your end of life directive on file, it might be less easy for doctors to ignore it.

I could go on with a painstaking examination of the Meet the Press episode or Jack Kelly’s column, but I think I will try to wrap it up. I want to mention my brother went out with a woman whose daughter had leukemia. She also had a low level job with no health insurance. I guess she had been on her mother’s plan when she got initial treatment for the leukemia and then it went into remission. When she started to feel bad later when she was on her own, she put off going to the emergency room until it was too late. Last night at the Blogfest I talked to a person who, along with his girlfriend/finance(?) work out of their home. They buy insurance, but very often it goes up rapidly. They were looking at an HSA/high deductible plan. But they would have to be lucky, for the next five or ten years they would have to not have any significant costs in order to build up some money in the Health savings Account. And then they would be trapped in the plan, having so much invested in it. These are the real people I have met who suffer under the current system.

But, as David Brooks put it on Friday (on the PBS newshour), it is the President who is telling “whoppers”.

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