The Myth of Healthcare Reform
It has been an interesting activity—to watch the healthcare reform debate wage on amidst the misfires of a struggling economy and the political rhetoric that accompanies any media reporting of current events.
It’s really all about spin, as very little substance is coming out of the “shout downs,” otherwise called town hall meetings. Misinformation seems to be the major ploy used by any side in the matter. People will throw out an unsubstantiated accusation, or boldly proclaim an outright lie and wait for the other side to defend themselves against the fog. Meanwhile, an ill-informed and unsuspecting public carries the torch for one side or the other, with a fervor reserved only for the streets of a riotous third world country. Emotions are sailing while intelligent exchange sinks.
In his August 10, article in Time Magazine, Joe Klien wrote, “As long ago as 1982, the economist Mancur Olson made the argument, in The Rise and Decline of Nations, that as a democracy matures, special interests grow more entrenched. Their intense dedication tot heir own specific needs, Olson wrote, often trumps the broader, but less focused, interests of society.”
I appreciate Klien’s train of thought, as any change that is going to ever take place in health care is going to benefit the pockets of a few, and sadly, I do not see anything in particular that is going to influence that pattern of self-interest. It is a fact of life that in any situation, somebody is going to have a payday, good or bad, right, wrong or otherwise. Chalk it up to human nature, I suppose, but there is no limit to self-interest, as evidenced by thousands of years of recorded human history.
Healthcare is such a difficult area, because as we’ve seen in the news coverage, it is a life and death issue, and the misinformation about killing grandmothers by denying care or euthanizing ill patients is not helping. The news media, looking out for its own self-interest, loves a good story. Look, these people over hear are yelling at a congressman. Look, these people over here are calling the senator a Nazi. We are not allowed in this country to simply disagree. We must, at all cost, destroy the enemy. If our lives do not go exactly as planned, there must be somebody to blame.
Healthcare is going to be a nasty, contentious fight. It’s messy and strong perseverance will be needed to see this debate through. Remember Hillary Clinton’s effort in the early 90’s? Self interest is the villain here. It’s not necessary this guy or that guy. Every player with a stake in the game has an agenda. Healthcare providers, lobbyists, consumers, insurance companies, politicians and the media are all caught up in a kind of zero sum game.
My own little slice of this got smaller recently. I was the chaplain to a drug and alcohol treatment center. Patients couldn’t get health insurance coverage for the treatment. It closed. There are still countless hundreds, if not thousands in my area who need treatment, but who will now fend for themselves or find an alternative.
Those who need coverage and treatment will just have to get in line and shout with the rest of them. Perhaps they will have a lobbyist to champion their cause, a Hollywood celebrity-type who can gain some attention based on their fame alone. The media will likely be a player in that effort. The issue will get attention because the spokesperson won an Oscar. Americans worship celebrities, so it might work. In the absence of real change, that’s what we’re left with.
In order for healthcare reform, whatever form it takes, to succeed, people are going to have to give up something. It’s called compromise. You take the ideas from everyone around the table and do the best you can to come up with something reasonable that will work for the common good.
But Olson did warn that the interests of society might take a back seat. But maybe we can curb the tide of self interest for a brief moment, long enough to listen, long enough to hear the wants and needs of the society without the slant from the right or left, or the “spin” from talking heads on cable news channels.
Why hurry? Political expedience isn’t what we need to have here, it’s a good debate. Congress and our president should take their time, not force any issue and allow people to share ideas without ridicule, without threat and without condemnation. If the process is allowed to flourish, the best ideas will come forward. It was General Dwight D. Eisenhower who said that he would not make a decision until he had heard from his harshest critic. Take your time lawmakers. There are a lot of harsh critics out there.
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