Friday, September 11, 2009

So what's the point of health reform again?

From today's New York Time's Editorial Page: A Clear Responsibility. And what is that responsibility? According to the Times, to provide health care to the 46 million uninsured.

In the moving peroration of his speech to Congress Wednesday night, President Obama cast health care reform as a moral issue that reflects on the character of our country. He also made clear that there are some problems that are too big for individuals to solve on their own — and that guaranteeing that all Americans have access to health care is one of them.

“Our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem,” he said. “But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little.”

Any critic who still questions the need for health care reform or rails against a “government takeover” of health care should look at the latest Census Bureau estimates of the number of people without health insurance in this country — and the number who have avoided disaster precisely because of government help.

The overall number of the uninsured rose from 45.7 million in 2007 to 46.3 million in 2008. The fact that tens of millions of Americans may be one major illness away from bankruptcy is unacceptable. But there is also some heartening news: The increase was relatively small considering the depth of the economic crisis. That is only because government programs helped offset the decline of private insurance and employer-based coverage.

An aging population made more people eligible for Medicare, that much-maligned “single-payer” government program that provides coverage to almost all of the nation’s elderly, usually to their deep satisfaction. And deepening poverty rates made more people eligible for Medicaid, a joint federal-state program to cover the poor.

A strong push to enroll children in either Medicaid or S-chip, the state health insurance program for children from low-income families, has driven the number and rate of uninsured children to its lowest levels since 1987, the first year comparable data were collected. This is a stunning achievement — courtesy of your federal and state governments.

The most worrisome trend is that the number of adults under age 65 who lack insurance is high and rising, reaching 20 percent of that age group last year. The number of uninsured adults increased by 1.5 million in 2008. The toll in 2009 is likely to be worse as unemployment rates continue to rise, depriving workers of their group coverage, and more companies drop or shrink health benefits.

The health care reform plan that President Obama and many Democrats in Congress are calling for could do a lot to reduce Americans’ vulnerability and stem that tide. Likely reforms would require employers to provide health benefits to their workers or pay a fee to help cover them elsewhere, thus slowing the erosion of employer coverage. Reform would also expand Medicaid to cover more poor people, create exchanges where people without group coverage at work could buy affordable policies and receive subsidies based on their incomes and prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage or charging exorbitant rates based on medical conditions.

Critics of health care reform have done Americans two great disservices. They have obscured and denied the very real suffering of tens of millions of uninsured Americans and the very real danger that millions more could soon join them. And they have twisted and denied the goal of health care reform when they rail against a fictitious government takeover.

As Mr. Obama said in his speech, when facts, reason and civility are thrown overboard, he said, “we don’t merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.”

All good and fine, but doesn't every Democratic proposal out there do a lot more than simply "help the uninsured?" The old fashioned liberalism of LBJ or FDR has to be scaled back and hidden because the public knows the costs of such massive government are unsustainable. The truth is, we've have Medicaid in this country for like forty years and none of these proposed health care reforms are about doing any more than we already do for the very poor. This is about helping the middle class, albeit a section of the middle class that's been screwed for over 60 years by government policy which discriminates against those without employer-provided health insurance.

You'd have to be pretty dense to admit there were no problems with our current system, but you're equally dense to dismiss all critics as ignorant fear mongers. The big question of critics isn't why we need reform, but why the answer to the problems created by government isn't to fix what government did in the first place, but to add more layers of government BS.


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