Straight Shooting on Health Care “Reform”

Jay Cost, a thoughtful political analyst who is gentle on no one–left, right, or center–has really hit the nail on the head in his recent blog post.  He has called a spade a spade, suggesting that congressional Democrats are rushing toward an electoral cliff by abandoning their core principles and public opinion at the same time.

I have often wondered whether the individual mandate that is in the current Senate plan–that all Americans buy health insurance–is even constitutional: a super-requirement for citizenship.  Some in Congress have tried to draw the parallel between required auto insurance and required health insurance.  But driving and owning a car are elective activities, and living and breathing are not.  Here’s what Cost says: “…the United States government will require citizens to contract with private corporations as a condition of citizenship–whether they want to or not. If they don’t, the feds will levy a tax on them, the revenues of which will ultimately find their way to the insurance companies.”  That doesn’t sound like a Democratic ideal.  Fascists in bed with insurance fat cats, maybe.  But not Democrats, who used to be for the average joe.

Reading all the news and analysis about the health care debate crawling through Congress, I have also wondered whether it would be a good idea for everyone to just quietly let the whole thing just drop and start over again with the right parameters: bipartisanship, broad public support, and smart, incremental changes in regulations that will actually make a positive impact on Americans.  Or just walk away and forget about it altogether.  After all, does the federal government really have to poke its nose into everything?

Cost also raises the warning flag on the electoral reckoning that is coming for tone-deaf Democrats next year: “When the people catch wind of the full scope of this bill, and they will, there will be hell to pay. The public has been known to vote against big business and big government. Somehow, this compromised bill manages to deliver both–big government and big business, joined together, with the little guy forced to participate…Democrats were bound to lose seats next year because it is a midterm and they’re in charge. They were bound to lose extra seats because it’s a recession. But if they pass this bill, God help them. The people sure as hell won’t.”

Thanks for the straight shooting, Jay.

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2 thoughts on “Straight Shooting on Health Care “Reform”

  1. I shouldn’t comment without reading the blog and having a full understanding of the bill. But I will anyway. You have to choose. If you want everyone to be able to get health insurance and not pay extra if you are sick, then everyone has to be covered. So if you don’t want to require everyone to buy health insurance, then either the government has to pay for those who don’t buy insurance (read increased taxes for everyone) or those who are ill or have serious injuries will have to be declined or pay an extra premium. Otherwise the insurance system won’t work. And calling insurance companies “fat cats” is untrue. It has been documented that the health insurance industry has one of the lowest profit margins of any industry in the country. I have forgotten the exact figure, but the highest profit margin of any health insurance company last year was well under 10% and the average was under 5%. The profit margin for most industries was much higher.

  2. I guess I should have put quotation marks around “fat cats,” because that’s what the insurance industry folks have been labeled in Washington, by Repubs and Dems alike. I’m not sure why they are vilified, however, because, like you said, their profit margin is quite low, especially compared to other industries. I read recently that insurance companies set their profit margin at about 2%–hardly getting rich (in fact, insurance companies take great risks that may, including myself, are unwilling to do). Pharmaceutical companies can have up to 17% profit margins, but they sink a lot of that back into research and innovation.

    I’m no expert here, and I don’t know the magic solution to make health care more affordable for everyone while not sacrificing quality or accessibility. But I know that we’ve worked our way into a corner and need to figure out a better way. But from what I read of the current plans considered in Congress, I’m not sure they’re the right approach. In fact, having the mandate without the public option creates a funky, illiberal situation where citizens are forced by the government to buy something from a private company. That’s the part about Democrats behaving undemocratically.

    If I have a point, it’s this: There has to be a simpler way. If the federal government wants to do something, why can’t they make incremental changes that have broad support that might help hold down medical costs, which I suspect are forcing everything up? I’m kind of a fan of federalism anyway, so why don’t the individual states experiment with ways to achieve better, less expensive health care? Why do we have to be so centralized on everything? Maybe what’s good in Georgia isn’t the best idea for North Dakota.

    My $.02.

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