One of the most interesting reactions to the ongoing health reform debate has to be the public’s revulsion at the prospect of increased government control of the health care system.
I understand concerns about additional financial burdens that come with new government programs … and concerns about adding to the nation’s deficit. I get that.
What I don’t understand is the apparent revulsion at the idea of government intervening to improve the health care system. I don’t understand it because I also see the public’s concern about the existing system – its steadily rising premiums, the private insurance industry’s denial of coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, the fact that people (even those with policies) can lose everything to health bills.
It’s so odd: the public wants to prevent additional government involvement in the health care industry when any honest citizen would agree that the private industry could have used at least a little more – and probably a lot more – oversight. Seriously, how can it have taken THIS long for the government to step in and stop denial of policies over pre-existing conditions?
But the other thing that stumps me is the shouting that I hear in town halls about how – and I’m paraphrasing – the government will screw up health care like it screws up everything else. The government can’t do anything right?
I could ask whether the military should be privately run … or whether we should just let private industry decide where and when the next interstate will be constructed … or whether we should just let banks police themselves. But I’m going to stick with health care. And so my question to those concerned about what government will do to health care is this: Do you have any idea what government is already doing?
Serving those who are proud to serve …
- Do you know that the government covers 9.2 million Americans through Tricare, the system set up to care for active-duty military?
- Did you know that Tricare – like Canada’s Medicare – is a single-payer health care system? (One payer – the government.)
- Did you know that even the most vocal opponents of more government intervention believe Tricare is “first-class health care?“
- Did you know that within this single-payer system (Tricare), users do not face rationing? That patients are not refused because of pre-existing conditions? That users have choice of physicians? Yes. This is government-run health care AND it’s single-payer health care.
… and those who have served
- Do you know that the government covers 5 million Americans through the Veterans Health Administration? Do you know that it owns and operates “a vast network of hospitals, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, residential rehabilitation treatment programs, and readjustment counseling centers?”
- And do you know that means? It means that the VHA is socialized medicine. It is a system where a single entity owns and operates everything: it owns the hospitals, pays the physicians. And while the VHA has received plenty of criticism in recent years, it’s also been hailed increasingly as a model of efficiency and possibly, a model for a national system.
- Who else does the government cover? As the President often points out, government employees get their coverage through an insurance exchange called the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. That’s right, folks. It’s an insurance exchange just like the proposed Health Insurance Exchange – and with almost 9 million covered, it’s considered the largest employer-sponsored group health insurance program in the world. The employer? The government.
Protecting Grandpa, Grandma and their friends
- And how about Medicare? The government covers 44.8 million Americans through the program. When you hear people at town halls raising their voices, they’re often yelling, “Don’t touch my Medicare!” and “Save my Medicare!” They understand that the system has funding problems and it may not be the best system possible, but they also know that people who are approaching retirement are eager to enjoy its benefits.
- Do they know that Medicare is an example of a single-payer system? A single payer – the government – pays health providers for the care they provide to the users. Perhaps that’s why some nutty liberals have proposed expanding Medicare. But perhaps it’s because one study estimated that a “‘Medicare-like option with enhanced benefits’” would cost only $259 per month for individuals and $702 for families – considerably cheaper than many private plans.”
- In reporting the findings, the Commonwealth Fund goes on to estimate that the system could cover 44 million of the 48 million uninsured AND improve coverage for 60 million more “while increasing health spending by no more than 1 percent.”
So when opponents of proposed health reform angrily demand that members of Congress take their own medicine – a government health plan – it reminds me of the old Monty Python bit where the guy’s being “tortured” by having to sit in a “comfy chair.”
Those who have fears about the health care system have plenty to shout about: maybe about how the health insurance industry is not helping control costs or how the industry continues to operate on a model that’s based on denying coverage.
People should shout. But until opponents of a government plan, socialized medicine, a single-payer system or a Health Insurance Exchange know anything about those topics, I’d prefer not to hear their shouting.
As George Eliot noted, “It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”