Thursday, September 24, 2009

Healthcare Reform; McBone Wants to Know

When Alex and I were living in that socialized Heart of Darkness (and cheese and wine) known as France, I couldn't help but notice a few differences between French and American health care.  The thing that really stuck out was how, well, free it is in France.  After Alex was hospitalized for 6 days, diagnosed with asthma and prescribed a whole pharmacy worth of medicine, the bill added up to something like five Euro ($7.37 USD).  All the rest of it was on the state's tab.  There we were, two foreigners working in the public school system, and we were entitled to health care that many consider the best in the galaxy, all for the price of a couple croissants.

Now here's where the conservative will raise a finger in objection: It's not free!  Do you know how much people in Europe pay in taxes?

Yes, and I answer: so what?  We paid taxes when we lived there.  We were happy to.  And now I want to know: what the hell is this big objection to paying taxes anyway?  Because it seems like every argument made by a conservative about any issue nowadays is all about not wanting to pay taxes.  Well, almost any issue, because then again, I don't remember hearing too much bitching about the tax money it would cost to obliterate two Middle Eastern countries and tens of thousands of Middle Eastern lives.  So, what gives?  Billions to take lives is OK, but billions to save lives isn't?  That is something I'll never understand.

Really, I don't have anything very eloquent or sophisticated to say about all this, but I will throw out a few gut reactions.  People want to know whether the health care reform is going to come out of their paychecks.  Uh, yeah.  But then doesn't the money we fork over to insurance companies to usually not pay for our medical expenses come out of our paychecks?  Just like Alex's $60 monthly asthma medication that our insurance doesn't cover comes out of our paycheck?  What the fuck is the difference?  Oh yeah.  The government can't be trusted with our money.

But seriously, let's talk taxes for a second longer.  I want to know what's wrong with chipping in to make the country a better place to live?  To improve schools?  To maintain infrastructure.  To assure that everyone has basic medical coverage?  We've seen what privatization and deregulation did for us.  It's bad policy, because too many corporate executives are greedy, ravening fuckheads.

Anyhow, here's three things I noticed during two years abroad:

1) The public schools in France are good, and get this: school lunches are nutritious.  Not a tater tot to be found.

2) The roads in France are impeccable.  During one two-week period when we had a car I couldn't help marveling at how smooth and well maintained the highway system was.  In contrast, the relatively short stretch of I-77 that connects Cleveland to Akron has been like a demilitarized zone since the days when Cleveland last won a major championship.

3) The healthcare system put ours to absolute and utter shame.

Well, I have no confidence that this healthcare bill is going to amount to anything, even if it does pass, but I would like to know where the McBoners stand.  So please take a moment to answer the poll question to your right.

nwb

9 comments:

C.J. said...

Nate,
While your point of view on health care is well taken, I would like to see a complete overhaul of the system in a different way-- make it competitive to all and let capitalism drive the costs down to a minimum.

I contend that the reason health care costs so much here is because of two items-- lawsuits and secrecy of costs (pandering to insurance cos.)

I am not in the know, but I am guessing that France has .01% of the lawsuits we have here. We live in the frivolous U.S. of A, where lawsuits can bring you instant retirement. Yeah... that needs to end and when it does, or is made to change, things will cost a lot less.

I would like to see a consumer driven health care plan, whereby the govt issues credits to citizens to use toward health care.

Example:

Annual Deductible= $5000
Gov't health care credit= $2000

If credit isn't exceeded, it rolls over to next year and is added on to the next year's amount.

The participant is responsible for the difference between the deductible and the credit.

After the deductible is met, health care is free.

That way, the onus is placed on the person to find the best use of their credits, using the powerful force of capitalism to drive down costs.

Our health care is then still competitive, giving everyone involved, including insurance companies, the incentive to improve themselves (technology, costs, etc). And there is tangible budget amount for the system.

Taxpayer cost for all Americans < $1 trillion and Medicare can expire, saving probably more than $1 trillion annually. (Of course, it is a little more complex than this-- transition, etc, but it's simple enough to administer and is something that everyone can grasp quickly.)

I currently do not have health care; it sucks. I could afford it, I am sure, as it costs a couple hundred dollars per month, but I choose not to. I've saved a lot of money because of it-- so far.

But in having taken part in a similar health insurance system, and having to discuss costs with doctors (both now and then), I was shocked to discover, maybe naively, that few, if any, doctors know how much they charge or what to charge when asked how much the procedure costs if I were to pay cash. It is truly appalling.

Health care must be the only industry in America in which the person selling their service is unable provide a concrete price.

Before we make the government 100% in charge of our lives-- by the way, given the current cast of Presidental advisors, I don't know how anyone could ever feel safe the government dictate health care; check out Eugenics & John Holdren (Science & Tech Czar)-- I think we should give capitalism a fair shake.

Universal health care is already bankrupting our nation; it's called Medicare, Medicaid and a little-known program called Children's Health Insurance Program. 29% of all citizens in the U.S. already have health care provided by the government... and look at the deficits from it! Every American is in debt by $1 million, thanks to the govt's unfunded liabilities.

Universal health care has created huge deficits in every nation and state in which it has operated. Canada said a few months ago that it might have to end their program due to the huge amount of stress it is creating on their gov't. France is running huge deficits too. Massachusetts' program was set up by a Republican governor, Mitt Romney, and it's bankrupting the state.

C.J. said...

As for infrastructure, Chicago has one of the most taxed road systems (and state gasoline taxes) in the entire U.S. There is a huge project of I-90 every five years that takes five years to complete and the roads still suck. Why? They use cement. Why? Because of the unions and the gov't wanting to pander to them & the concrete industry here. All of Europe uses asphalt-- it's easier to maintain and is more flexible. Our state is going bankrupt because of such mismanagement of funds. Why do they need to tax? The federal government is spending taxpayer money elsewhere-- incidentally, highway infrastructure is supposed to be a primary role of the federal government (paid for by the federal gasoline tax); the national highway system was setup for defense purposes.

Name me a program that improved once the government came into the picture. I doubt you will find one.

Education? How is the Dept of Ed doing these days? We keep giving them more money, but the results keep getting worse. That's what happens when politicians, are involved.

Being a member of Congress used to be a part-time job with its members actually being business owners and the like. Nowadays it's run by career politicians, who know nothing about how to run a business or anything of the sort (or worse yet, are lawyers), but they are the people creating the laws. Am I the only person, who sees a problem with that?

C.J. said...

The U.S. was made great by individuals innovating great ideas, not by the government imposing their will.

If the gov't got out of the way and stuck to its original power-- to protect its citizens-- we wouldn't be going broke and we'd have better services.

I agree that greed can cause harm. However, greed is a necessity for greatness. The more incentive you give someone to succeed, the more they will.

The government is much more liable for the current financial crisis. Through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (insert Barnie Frank, Chris Dodd) they imposed a flood of sub-prime mortgages on the system, which created a slew of new mortgages in the market (Chris Dodd, in particular was involved there & got sweet heart deals from Countrywide); they deregulated the derivatives market on Wall St. in 2000 (under Clinton), which had been regulated for decades prior to it; the Fed lowered interest rates, giving everyone the incentive to borrow, combining artificial demand with inflation; then the government rescued every company (but one) when they failed, in large part because of government involvement.

The WSJ reported a few weeks ago that the FCC was made aware of Bernie Madoff and a possible Ponzi scheme as early as 1994 but did nothing about it. Yet we need more regulation?

I believe in the power of the people and can make a case that too much regulation breeds stupidity through a reliance on others. It's also why I think a big government can be very dangerous. Use the most simple example and think of the consequences.

How few people know anything about finance and money in this country? How can that be in this day in age? Perhaps a mass service industry that tells everyone how to invest, etc.? Is a financial advisor an advisor or a salesperson?

Few knew the difference prior to 2007 but I bet a lot more know the difference now and are smarter because of it. The same example is applicable in anything in daily life. People are made smarter by experiences. If you take that away, the opposite happens. No one has to think, so they don't. The book 1984 by George Orwell cites examples of this and what our nation is dangerously coming close to becoming.

As for the Middle East, I'd suggest you not throw conservatives under the bus. It seems to me that the whole of Congress, meaning everyone, voted to give Bush absolute power after 9/11. Name calling never creates for an honest debate, it only divides. And that's playing into the government's hand.

We are all Americans, we all pay taxes (maybe not our elected/appointed officials-- another reason not to trust them with our money!), and we all want to improve our country.

We are going bankrupt. That's a fact. The time has come to start cutting costs, open up to true debate on very serious issues and the start really reforming what our country has become.

The Founding Founders warned against a central bank (The Fed) and big government-- it's why they gave the government very limited control. We used to be able to survive without government-- now look at us. The government controls our lives more and more; it tries (successfully) to divide us; consequently, we don't want to talk politics or policies with each other.

Let's talk issues instead and find a solution to the problems we have before us-- finger pointing gets us no where!

"We've given you a Republic... if you can keep it." - Benjamin Franklin

Kid Shay said...

I'm also of the opinion that we need immediate, seismic reform on the scale of the creation of the Post Office or Social Security (two government programs, I may add, that have worked just fine for decades). They only run into problems when the funding goes dry, which happens when billions of dollars get diverted to things like unnecessary wars.

The whole debate makes me mad. You're right: when we go to war, opposing opinions are ignored, but with healthcare or public education everybody's an expert.

Nate and Jeff Bowler, Co-Captains said...

Siege,

I've always hated how unopinionated you are.

As far as throwing conservatives under the bus, I'll throw anyone under the bus who voted for that war. I embrace the ideals of the left, but Republicans and Democrats? Clearly, they're all to blame.

But here I'm mostly talking to these reactionary town hall protests in which we hear words like socialism and communism lobbed about when the bottom line is that sick people need medical coverage. When people start drawing Hitler moustaches on Obama, it's time to dismiss them from the discussion. I completely agree that we need mature, sober debate, but this kind of vitriol has made all the headlines. People need to drop this Yankees vs. Red Sox mentality when it comes to issues.

And I know that conservatives have more to talk about than just taxes, but it sure didn't seem like the ones running for office last year were giving the people credit for thinking with anything but their wallets, even when Obama insisted that there would be no tax increases for the vast majority.

I don't have nearly the confidence in capitalism that you do. And I definitely don't buy your defense of greed. I think the thirst for money and power leads to ruin far more than it leads to greatness. And the vast majority of people aren't striving for greatness anyway.

nwb

Nate and Jeff Bowler, Co-Captains said...

Josh,

It's crazy to think that this war has gone on for more than 6 years--all for some lousy oil.

That money could have paid for a hell of a lot of health care.

nwb

C.J. said...

Nate-

Glad you've always hated my being unopinionated. It's what I've hated most about you, too.

I agree with you on all of your points (esp. the Sox vs. Yanks analogy) but your view on capitalism. To me, capitalism is the lesser of two evils... with the other being socialism.

I've lived in Germany and seen how their system works-- if I wanted to live under it, I would have moved a looong time ago. While you might like their view on health care, there is so much more to it than that.

Munich vs. Chicago: Easy choice, if you ask me.

(Even though it's much too far away from you. I'm sure I could coax you into flying across the pond for a brew or two.)

6p00d83452c1f269e2 said...

How about reading Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America. Sure he was a Frenchman and it was written in the 1830's, but he had some sobering warnings for us. He praised a number of our fundatmental freedoms and commented on how we were able to create a successful democratic society, but he also worried about the combination of democracy and eqalitarianism. See if any of his fears ring true today: "causing more and more people to feel insecure in their status; to manifest symptoms of alienation from self and society; to become obsessed by the marks of status; to covet wealth beyond anything known before in history - inasmuch as in a socially egalitaruan society the possession of wealth is the only means of displaying what one may regard as his natural talenst; to replace honor by ambition alone; to turn to ever-more-labyrithine bureaucractic structures in central government; to fear change; to abhor revolution in any form; t become ever more addicted to war; and ever more frequently to see absolute political power as the only form of sealing, protective community."

Andrew said...

The thing that bothers me (a British citizen with an EU passport who's lived in the US for over five years and Australia for eighteen months and is now back in the UK) is the misuse of the words socialism and communism within the US, particularly by pig-ignorant and lying media sources.

These terms, backed up whatever statistic or anecdote is at hand, are applied in catch-all blanket terms as if any way in which a central government steps into public or private life is tantamount to asking Mao or Stalin to take charge (excepting of course those instances when governments are declaring wars in the names of bumpersticker myths such as freedom and democracy).

If money is needed for healthcare, maybe spare some for education too. History classes might spare a bit more time explaining how social democracy works in Europe.

Yes Nate, throw all those whining, word-misusing conservatives under the bus. And yes, let's pay a few taxes why don't we. There's enough to go round, and there's more to life than money.

Though what do you expect in a nation founded on the principle of tax evasion?!