The healthcare mess

Sam Smith

The underlying problem with the healthcare bill is that there are few precedents for such a purportedly well intentioned measure that is so incredibly complex in its language (and hence in its true meaning), so uncertain in many of its effects, so contradictory in others, and so remarkably tardy in coming fully into effect.

As things stand, we have years of debate ahead of us before aspects of the measure will even become law and meanwhile both sides can continue to mislead or lie, as one prefers to describe it.

Some of the GOP lies have been well exposed but the liberal myth that there aren’t any real problems with this measure continue, often without challenge. Further, the fact that the individual mandate is unconstitutional gets dishonestly dismissed as a wing nut fantasy.

Ask yourself this question: how many measures purportedly reforming some major problem in American life have been immediately challenged in court by 26 states? Reform is supposed to be more cheerful than that.

Further, I was about to quote some figures compiled by Rep. Henry Waxman showing how many people would benefit from the bill in each district. Just what we need, I told myself. And then I began to combine the figures from Maine’s two congressional districts and found that Waxman’s numbers increased the population of seniors in the state by about a third. Once again numbers were being used as mere adjectives.

Basically our problem is that the law is too hard to understand, too contradictory, too indolent in materializing, and too tempting for both sides to fib about in the meanwhile. Besides it amounts to a contorted way of subsidizing the health insurance industry with significant help from the presently uninsured, many of whom have strong fiscal reasons for being in this state in the first place.

It got so bad last night that I dreamt myself in the hospital for surgery and suddenly Henry Waxman and John Boehner appear on either side of my bed and start a knife fight over proper healthcare policy. I tried to suggest that this helped neither the policy nor my recovery, but they didn’t seem to even notice that I was there.

Despite it all, I supported the passage of the bill largely because it aided a significant number of people who otherwise wouldn’t have insurance. Further, it offered solid improvements in some areas.

But, while it may have appeased the insurance industry’s lobbyists it certainly didn’t appease their business offices which almost immediately began jacking the premiums.

Further, the individual mandate provision, even putting aside its unconstitutionality, will leave untold numbers of citizens with a choice between paying more than they can afford in penalties or much more than they can afford in health insurance premiums.

There is no easy solution apparent. We should, however, call it a healthcare mess and not a policy, and start to reform it all over again.

And not necessarily at the national level. It might be possible, for example, to create a huge health insurance co-op that could service states, businesses and individuals wanting to join, while at the same time undermining the profits of one of America’s least needed corporate industries. The co-op is one of the most underused alternatives in our economy.We should also watch closely Vermont’s effort to find an alternative.

In any case, it is a mess and you don’t repeal a mess; you reform it. And the sooner we start, the better.

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