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Monday, June 25, 2012

The Politics of Health Care Reform

I was interviewed this morning by a college radio station. The focus of the interview was on how people with a disability or those with a chronic health care concern will be affected by the Affordable Care Act. Note I refuse to use the derisive term Obamacare.  The ACA is not about Obama it is about reforming the grossly dysfunctional American health care system. It is about the tens of millions of Americans that have no insurance or those with inadequate insurance. It is about people like me. It is about my son. It is about my neighbor. It is about any person that might happen to read this post and is an American citizen. And sadly much of the ACA is about politics and the conservative justices that make up the Supreme Court. This thought came to me as I was reading Wesley Smith who has a blog Second Hand Smoke. Smith is not my favorite commentator. In fact Smith reminds me of Sydney Hook. Like many others in the 1930s, during the Great Depression Hook embraced communism. Later he renounced his radical views and during the Cold War helped the FBI destroy the careers of many Leftists. Smith is not intent on destroying anyone's career but he is polemical in the extreme.

Here is what Smith has to say about the ACA, Obama and the Democratic Party goals:

They wanted to federalize a huge swath of the economy for political and ideological purposes.  Indeed, Obama has already used Obamacare as a method to hand out constituency goodies–at insurance company expense–and use the law to create false wedge political issues, a primary reason for the culturally imperialistic Free Birth Control Rule.  Obamacare was also a seizing of power.  It is part of elevating the already extensive influence of the technocratic class–which is why I worry it will be allowed to stand by the Supreme Court that tends to reflect technocratic thinking.  It is also about erecting a bureaucratic state unaccountable to the people. In short, the law is about making us less free.

Yikes this sort of rhetoric makes me yearn for the delights of the Tea Party. Smith was responding to the "liberal columnist" E. J. Dionne who had an Op Ed piece in the Washington Post over the weekend entitled "Will We Love the Healthcare Law if it Dies". Does Smith really need to label Dionne as a liberal columnist? No, the only point of this characterization is to undermine his credibility. What did Dionne write that was so objectionable? Smith used this quote from Dionne:

Maybe now, supporters of the ACA will find their voices and point to the 30 million people the law would help to buy health insurance, how much assistance it gives businesses, how it creates a more rational health insurance market, how it helps those 26 and under stay on their parents’ health plans, how it protects those with pre-existing conditions. “Obamacare” isn’t about President Obama. It’s about beginning to bring an end to the scandal of a very rich nation leaving so many of its citizens without basic health coverage. However the court rules, we need to remember why this whole fight started in the first place. 

I fail to grasp how any person with an ounce of common sense can defend our health care system as it is currently constructed. Health care costs are the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States. Most Americans are one serious illness away from financial disaster. And what about those of us with permanent long term disabilities? We are uninsurable.  We are a financial drain on profits. As Michael Berube noted no one wants to talk about disability. It is the skeleton in the closet. We people with a disability are silently shipped off to nursing homes never to heard from again. I am sure Smith will think I am being just as polemical as he was. There is a big difference between us however. I doubt he fears going to the hospital. I am sure no one will suggest he is better off dead than receiving life saving antibiotics. This is not rhetoric, this is the reality I have experienced. It is the dark under belly no one wants to talk about. 


Elizabeth said...

Great and poignant post, Bill. I don't think people GET it -- what those of us who have actually used the healthcare system continue to have to endure. And while I know this country is fat and happy in many ways, it's all the more reason that the morass that is the American healthcare system needs to change radically and dramatically.

Do you read Jeneva's blog. She is one of the most intelligent writers on disability that I know of. I think you'd appreciate her blog. The link to her latest post on this subject is:

Becs said...

I know a man whose brother makes well over $150,000 a year. Brother is in his 50s and has chronic asthma. Yesterday, I overheard him say that he had been hospitalized six times in one year and owed one hospital over $100,000. At the time, he was between jobs.

He ended up declaring bankruptcy.

william Peace said...

Elizabeth, Thanks for the kind words. The health care system in this country is a disgrace. Many fine people work in the health care system but all those i have met working in the trenches throw up their hands and say there is nothing I can do. I find this unacceptable. We need the ACA. I just read and essay by Dan Callahan who reported that $232 million spent on ads opposing the ACA. $700,000 has been spent promoting it. No wonder people are deluded into thinking we have the best health care system in the world. Just access that system and a radically different reality exists.
Becs, You story is all too common. I am frustrated in the extreme.

Dr. Kold_Kadavr_flatliner, M.D. said...

Sad to say, we live on an imperfect planet where the filthy rich control everything; thank God we'll croak in 77ish years, then, we may go Upstairs where everything is perfect. This finite existence is but a test. Deal with it. Won't be long. I assure thee. God bless you.

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