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A well-fueled train of thought

The content of this article, “The Health-Care Ego Trip”, reminded me of Thomas’ faux fear before the presidential election of Obama becoming this unstoppable political force that would end up radically altering the course of history because of how popular he seemed to be with most of the news media and among some of our peers at that time.
“Politicians, in their most self-important moments, see themselves as instruments of national destiny. They yearn to be remembered as the architects and agents of great social and economic transformations. They want to be at the signing ceremony; they want a pen.”
A few months into his presidency, Obama seemed to have his sights set on how he intended to make history – universal health care.  At one point, I thought it was a reasonable goal – something that someone as seemingly rational as him would take gradual steps to achieve, but that’s probably part of his flaw, part of why he’s so driven to accomplish this.
The inner workings of the President’s mind:
“It’s a worthy goal.  I’m a logical person.  I can and should do this and should do my best to sway people to my side whether I’m completely honest about the realities of it or not.”
I don’t think it’s a bad thing for a President to strongly believe in things and have the desire to carry them out, but it seems that he’s so caught up in making this vision a reality and so ingrained in his own way of thinking that he seems unwilling to recognize the opposition to his plan as reasonable and unwilling to acknowledge that this 2-minute drill approach to pushing his agenda will not result in a health care system that is as good as it can be in terms of both coverage and cost.
This brings me to another article that I read about Netherland’s health care system where coverage is virtually universal, affordable, and of good quality, all without the existence of a public option.  The article is titled “Going Dutch” which, obviously, dismantles the idea that there must be a public option in order for universal health care to be a reality.  It outlines some of the practices that enable the Netherlands to do this and satisfy its citizens i.e. making sure everyone gets coverage regardless of preexisting conditions,  preventing insurers from charging more for preexisting conditions, engaging in a form of, what is termed, “risk equalization” that forces companies that serve relatively healthier clients to pay a fee while subsidizing companies that take on relatively sicker clients, and a variety of other practices.  It also outlines some fundamental issues that prevent the U.S. health care system from effectively serving its entire population – issues that will probably not be addressed by the current plans floating around D.C. i.e. insurance companies will still be able to be selective about who they cover and how much coverage costs depending on preexisting conditions and how hazardous their occupations are.  I also appreciate that this article acknowledges that even if we follow some of the cues from the Netherlands, we may never resemble them entirely – something that I’m okay with because, frankly, it irritates me when someone suggest we adopt another country’s system without understanding that because of who we fundamentally are as a nation not everything can and necessarily should fully translate.
On the same vein of thought but on a different tangent is an article about the soda tax, one of the ways proposed to help pay for health care “reform”, and its potential effect on poor, fat Americans.  I don’t mean that as a “put-down” to Americans, my patriotism wouldn’t allow that [sic] (is that how you use that).  The article specifically refers to its affect on Americans who are literally poor and obese.  Wonderful title: “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Big Fat Asses”.
The prevailing logic of people who support this soda tax as a way to pay for the soda tax is that soda’s bad for you anyway and the revenue from the soda tax will be used to serve the poorest, unhealthiest Americans, but the road to ruin is often paved with good intentions…or something like that.  The first thing that you might recognize is that its a pretty paternalistic way to run a country – “This is bad for you so we’re making it harder for you to get”.  This article goes much further than that and discusses how the tax ignores that poor people tend to be more unhealthier in the first place, and it’s not drinking, smoking, and overeating that gets them there.  Some of you who place more value on personal responsibility than others might shudder at how easily an argument can be made for how environment and other factors play a role  in how healthy or unhealthy a person might end up being, but the empirical evidence offered is pretty clear.  At the same time, I’m sure those of you who place value on personal responsibility will be happy that this evidence can be used to demonstrate whythe idea soda tax probably isn’t the best idea.  It also introduces the idea that it will not only place more pressur on the wallets of the poorer, unhealthier Americans who enjoy those soft drinks, but also further limit them in their ability to purchase an object from which they may cheaply derive pleasure from which proportionally is more limiting to poorer Americans for whom soda might be a key indulgence while for rich Americans be little more than an afterthought.  Ultimately, in a pretty cool, slightly roundabout way, the author makes an argument that if you want a healthier population, it helps to have a wealthier population, and the best way to produce a wealthier population is through education not only because wealthy people can stay healthier but they can also afford better treatment when they get sick.
Which brings me back to Obama…he seems more concerned with transforming the nation than fixing the obvious problems that existed before he was elected like with our public education system.  I mean I thought Obama as President would be, to quote Martha, a good thing, and I never once thought he’d be so hot to transform the U.S. universal health care system.
Personally, I thought that was one of the reasons that Hilary Clinton DIDN’T get the support and the nomination because Obama seemed like the cool-headed type of guy that would try to address the issues that weigh most heavily on the minds of the American people as a whole rather than try to change something that such a significant portion of the American people did not care to have reformed in this manner.
Which brings me to an article on education that’s actually a book review titled “Schools Should Stop Telling Kids to be ‘Nice'”.  I love articles that agree with me.  Seriously, I wasn’t thinking of children when I agreed with a similar sentiment expressed by my friend Chad a while ago, but a good portion of the article is utilized explaining the difference between being “nice” versus being “good”.
It’s one of the reasons that I disagree with the “random acts of kindness” campaign that seemed popular for a while in the Christian community because “love” and “random acts of kindness” were two different things in my mind and the latter movement seemed geared towards the instant gratification demographic while the former, original movement acknowledged the that it takes time and effort to show the type of love that Jesus did in the Bible.  Some might point at Jesus miracles and say, “LOOK, random acts of kindness”, but I strongly disagree that the extension of an all knowing deity walking on earth did anything random and also believe that there are times when he chose not to act or perform a miracle because he felt the negatives outweighed the positives – at times, Jesus clearly revealed through his words his wariness of people making superficial connections to him based on something that he might do for them.  To clarify again, although I’m sure I’ll have to clarify further, I’m not saying don’t be nice to people, but that people need to realize that to really do something worthwhile for a person takes a true investment of time not a random action based on a whim.
Now off that tangent, and back to the article for the finale.  It’s a good article.  I’m a bit spent at this point so I’ll just say that I agree with a lot of the conclusions that the author of the reviewed book and the writer of the article come to.  It’s apparent to me that the things like education are what people in leadership positions should be focused on because if you’re really concerned about the fate of the nation then one of your major concerns should be helping to produce people who will have the intelligence and skills to deal with any future problems that you might forsee ESPECIALLY if you can’t gain the support necessary to adequately address them now – WHICH YOU SHOULD’VE KNOWN GOING IN.
P.S.  I don’t have a link to the article, but it started out talking about Bill Clinton’s personal health care “nightmare”.  It talks about how when he was having serious heart problems he ended up going to one of the worst hospitals in the area and being operated on by one of the surgeons at the hospital with the worst mortality rates, and ended up having to get more work done because of complications that later arose.  Wish I had the article, I’ll be on the lookout, but at the time I didn’t think it was worth writing down the title of the whole article because I didn’t read the whole article.  This anecdote is another demonstration of how Universal Health Care isn’t the antidote for our ailing health care system and the people that it hopes to serve.  I believe the article was about the imperfect information issue that arises in the health care market.  Even people who have coverage don’t get the best treatment possible for their money because the information is not made available to them or they don’t make a great enough effort to seek it out, but you would think Bill Clinton’s people would’ve made an effort to make sure that he was getting the best treatment possible.  Again, I think it just goes to show that just making sure everybody gets some health care won’t mean everybody would be satisfied with it and wouldn’t it be something after all this hooplah to get universal coverage that we come to the realization that it wasn’t really worth it.  Just something to munch on.
“You gonna eat that dead fat guy? ” – Living Fat Guy on Family Guy
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Categories: Politics
  1. Pasky
    October 1, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    great post dog, i recommend this article for you:
    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/29988909/sick_and_wrong

    The writer is a passionate advocate for the single-payer system – universal health care adopted by most developed countries – and leans left, but it’s well written and critical of the government in general and their handling of so-called health care reform. What the article essentially does is track how Washington systematically compromised universal health care potential legislation to the point where the only reform coming out of the new bill as of now would be that individuals would be penalized for not having health care.

    He argues for the single-payer system for its efficiency over our current system: it cuts down on the time, energy, and paperwork (over 1300 private insurers in the country) that the private sector produces, which ties medical facilities in paperwork and jacks up prices. Single-payer would have doctors and hospitals pay and get reimbursed by a single government entity, that isn’t profit-driven, which would ease paperwork and cut prices.

    Now if this was the plan actually advocated by Obama, or even a derivative of this plan, then I’d think he’d be justified in having the ego for it. But it isn’t. Rather than drawing on the Democrats’ political monopoly to bargain from, he abandons the position saying that he doesn’t want to disrupt the health care industry. Now the bill proposed doesn’t disrupt the industry and pretty much doesn’t improve it either. It’s pretty lame.

    There’s a lot more going on here in terms of politicians receiving financial support from major insurers that pop up in the article, and i suggest u read the whole thing. It’s seven pages, but a quick read, and curse words. I’m interested to see how Holland and Switzerland work and am about to peep the Dutch one right now. great post, dog.

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