Monday, September 21, 2009

Health Care - Entitlement or Privilege?

It seems you can't go more than 5 minutes lately without hearing or reading something about the health care reform battle. Seemingly out-of-the-blue, Obama came out swinging and campaigning aggressively for "reform now."

The Clinton administration campaigned aggressively for health reform and failed in the 90s. George W. Bush, the instinctively reviled poster child for arrogant Republicans by those on the left, helped to pass Medicare Part D, which was successful in bringing down the percentage of seniors who lacked prescription drug coverage from more than 20 percent to around seven, according to a blog written by Peter J. Pitts, president of Center for Medicine in the Public Interest. I bring this point up not as an iron-clad endorsement of his methodology or agenda, but simply as an example of incremental reform steps coming from unexpected places and people.

So why does it seem there's been an immediate and vociferous outcry from many across the country expressing opposition to the reform advocated by the president and congressional Democrats? I believe the backlash was largely the result of the aggressive initial push to pass a bill before the August recess. I know I thought to myself, "What's the rush?" As I'm sure many other Americans did as well. Not that I don't think there should be healthcare reform. I certainly do. However, I think it should be done methodically, and a variety of proposals and approaches should be thoroughly reviewed. Ironically enough, that's where we stand now. Hindsight being 20/20, Obama and Congress probably wish they would have pursued the "national dialogue" approach now, rather than trying to ram-rod a hasty, draconian solution through the legislative process.

But for those who decry "Big Government" intrusion, the fact is, that foundation was laid long ago, largely starting with the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. We're way too far down that road to fully undo six decades of bureaucracy-building, but perhaps we should think twice before proliferating it even further.

Lastly, when did universal health insurance become a "right"? Progressives have long espoused this notion to the point where many consider it as fundamental as the Bill of Rights. But like many other social programs proposed by the left, any notion of personal responsibility is effectively lost in the debate. Many claim that universal coverage will cut down on the number of superfluous and trivial doctor visits. However, in my conversation with a friend who works as a physician's assistant, many of the visits to the free clinic in which she works are for relatively minor ailments. While I empathize with those with limited means that need health care, by and large, if you don't have some "skin in the game," what's the incentive not to take as much advantage of a free resource as possible?

Whichever way the debate turns in this issue, I sincerely hope that some element of personal responsibility, whether monetary or lifestyle management, will be required for the majority of the population. Otherwise, I fear the cost savings promised by the proponents of reform will never materialize.

I'd love to hear your experiences and opinions below.


  1. Interesting post. I, too, wonder what's the so-called "rush". Probably a political thingie.

    However, you're missing a big point for healthcare reform: costs. Not just in $$$, but in time, risk, and bureaucracy. Ask you PA friend the amount of time involved in her doctor's office in all that paperwork for the various government forms and insurance stuff. Have her listen as patients threaten to sue doctors for so-called not accepting their insurance. Ask her about the idiots who refuse to do what the doctors order for their minor ailments until it explodes into a major illness. Have her take a look at the doctor's malpractice insurance premiums alone.

    The issue has to be solve. It's just going to get worse.


  2. Joela, valid points. However, our government, especially at the federal level, has a less-than-stellar track record when it comes to efficiency and operating under budget. It seems with some of the proposals, the burden of paperwork, compliance, and costs would simply be shifted from the insurance companies or the individual caregivers to some central processing office. If Cash-for-Clunkers is anything to go by, the government's got a long way to go until it's able to handle essentially 1/6 of our GDP. Thanks for your comment.

  3. One of our missionary friends, who has 40 years of experience in medical missions in third-world countries, firmly believes that health care should NEVER be free. Even in regions of extreme poverty, the same principle applies: if something's free, people will take advantage of it. But if someone truly needs the health care, they will gladly pay for it.

  4. Jason, I wholeheartedly agree. I'm not saying we should have extortionary premiums that essentially limit coverage to the privileged, but that unless there's some sort of accountability, a "free" system is vulnerable to abuse and over-utilization. Thanks for your insightful comment.