Thursday, August 13, 2009

The health care debate debacle

Every person in this country should have the right of access to quality, affordable health care.

No caveats, no conditions, no strings. Everyone. Health care is and should be treated as a fundamental right. Instead, certain individuals and groups in my poor, confused country are trying to make the opposite argument. They're doing it through the use of scare tactics, gross distortions, and blatant lies. And all the while, they're willfully stirring up fearful, ignorant masses and egging them on toward massive public disruptions and even violence, making meaningful debate about this incredibly crucial issue almost impossible.

It's fucking despicable.

The most vocally anti-health care reform Republicans have decided that their own political ambition and desire to see Obama taken down a peg or two trumps the well-being of their fellow Americans. That's the cold, hard truth of the matter. Petty backstabbing and one-upsmanship has taken precedence over honest discussion and work toward bettering the health care situation for their country.

How we've allowed this to happen is beyond me. There's plenty of blame to go around: Democrats too spineless to stand up for what's right or make clear what's really in the bill, politicians too willing to sacrifice work for the great good in the name of ambition, everyday folk too susceptible to the bald-faced lies and fear mongering, a media too ready to spend more time covering nonsense than issues and events that really matter.

The underlying issues are even more complicated. It's fairly obvious that questions of race and class insecurity permeate much of this debate. Selfishness, ignorance, pride, arrogance, and greed play their part, too.

But I want to scream at the top of my lungs that the health and well-being of our fellow citizens should always trump that sort of shit. Always. And how anyone can allow themselves to be distracted from that fact...I spend more time shaking my head these days than not.

  • Upwards of 47 million Americans do not have health insurance.
  • 8.6 million of those are children.
  • The United States has the second worse infant mortality rate in the developed world.
  • Prescription drug prices are some of the highest of any industrialized nation.
  • More than 60% of bankruptcies in this country are caused by medical bills. (Sidenote: I have personal experience with this, and it's a major sore spot to this day - bankruptcy due to the care of a dying family member, or any other medical situation, should never happen)
  • Yet more startling statistics here.

The numbers are not good. The personal stories of those effected are even worse. So it should be glaringly obvious to most everyone that serious reform of the health care system needs to be undertaken right now if we're to avoid an even more massive economic and social meltdown.

And yet, we see these angry, sometimes disturbed, shouting, bizarre-sign-wielding protesters crashing town hall meetings and hijacking the national debate. Some have come up with their own reasons for hating the health care bill, many have swallowed the various ridiculous assertions coming out of the GOP. Almost all of the accusations are easily proved false.

  • A "death panel" that decides whether you're too old or enfeebled to get care? Not so much.
  • Abortions will be taxpayer subsidized! Crock of shite.
  • We'll go to a UK-style system of socialized health care where old/disabled people will be denied care! Um...that's a big 'no' - and the UK is miffed at the accusations.
  • Illegal immigrants will be given free health care! Not quite (though they should).
And on and on.

None of this is to say that the current bill is perfect - single fucking payer, anyone? - but it's a sight better than what we've got now and at least a starting point from which to do better. We won't get anywhere good, however, if the current reliance on irrational screaming matches and totally untrue statements from opposing lawmakers continues.

We need to decide, as a nation, what's more important: Meaningful debate about and changes made to our health care system so that no one has to go bankrupt because of needed medical care, or selfish and misplaced pride with a side of sensationalism?

The choice we make will have long-lasting repercussions, and probably change everything.


Em Richards said...

It isn't so much the topic or the arguments that disturb me; it's the lack of basic respect, civility, and public debate and discourse. Everybody wants to be heard, but no one wants to listen.

For example, Emily, I really doubt that anyone reading your calm, rational argument today is really going to find fault with it, or even disagree with it. I also doubt it's really going to change somebody's mind.

These crazy protesters have the upper hand. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, or in this case, airtime. Precious, precious airtime. What it's all going to come down to is if our side can convince a majority of the electorate that the other side is totally fuckin' nuts.

Unknown said...

BTW Em, I just wanted to drop you a line and let you know how much I enjoy your posts. Keep up the good work.

Emily said...

Em - I'm in agreement that it's the overall disrespectful, crazy disruptive tone that's most disturbing, but the lies being tossed out are pretty damn bad, too. And you're right, of course - I have no illusions about my post changing the minds of those already on the fringes. I just really needed to vent. :)

Michael - Thanks very much!

Dave Reid said...

This whole thing is pretty sad really. There is no debate, there is no discussion. It is just scare tactics, and miss truths very sad.

whitecollargreenspaceguy said...

he Government already has the funds to pay for Universal Health Care. It is time to stop the madness and violence at the health care reform meetings. Using shift work for white collar jobs could cut the cost of the 500 million square feet of office space currently in used by the federal governe=ment by up to 50%. This would save enough money to provide universal health care. It could also reduce the carbon footprint by 50%. For details go to:

Now featured on under the heading:
"Using Shift work for white collar jobs to greatly reduce the fiscal and environmental cost of new office space"
When you need to fake grass roots participation in town hall meetings and press conferences rent human look a likes from Astro Turf Fighters Robotic Rentals.

Dustin Christopher said...

Spot on... and depressing as well, another sign that it's spot on.

Test said...

Well, I agree that these disruptions are upsetting, but not all the town halls are pure insanity.

I went to a town hall meeting last week in Horicon, where about 140 people turned up to talk about the issue.

What was most striking about it was two things: The same sort of argument you make here was made there, to a mother of three by an Organizing for America volunteer (one from Dane County, actually). He got so frustrated about it that he eventually ended up yelling at the woman "Where's your compassion?" She quickly broke down crying and ran out of the room. Thankfully, she came back and they had a discussion. But obviously, it's a sign that emotion on both sides can shut down reasonable people on both sides of debate.

More striking, however, was the fact that the audience clapped at a lot of conflicting things. They clap for single payer mention. They clap when someone defends the insurance companies by saying they have too many regulations (Sort of an absurd notion, considering they're one of the groups whose profits are obscene in this situation). They clap when blames Doyle. They clap when someone mentions the need for universal health care. They simultaneously decry and cheer on everything being touted. This is middle America, and they have no idea what any of this means in the end.

I understand your frustration, and I hope we do pass something with a public option. But I also hope that they find a way to lower costs. And at this point, it doesn't look like that's going to happen.

But you're right in that we won't be able to discuss any of that with this "Death Panel" nonsense. I just wish most Americans had even the slightest idea what any of this means.

And on that note: Ever read "The Social Transformation of American Medicine?" Fantastic evaluation of how we got here, from 1776 to Reagan.

Anywho, no conclusion here, just my two cents. Keep up the lovely blogging, Emily.

Test said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

You are absolutely right, Emily. What we have in the United States is nothing less than a full-blown health care emergency. The insurance companies cannot be allowed to continue denying care solely on the basis of their bottom line.

The Lost Albatross