Despite my best attempts, I still feel rather ignorant about the health care debate, although I have found the White House’s site helpful for information. The issue is just so huge and complicated that it’s hard to have a strong opinion one way or the other for me in terms of reform. What I do know is that the system is broken, that 40 million Americans are uninsured, that private health insurance is expensive for individuals and businesses, and that we need some sort of reform to make health care accessible and affordable to Americans. How do we go about doing that? Well, that’s what I do not feel informed nor educated enough to have a strong opinion about. While I knew this was a tricky issue, I have been surprised by people’s reactions, not necessarily at how divisive of an issue it has become, but rather at how much anger it has provoked from some people. I agree with NPR’s Brian Unger that the Health Care Debate Is Making Me Sick. It’s HEALTH CARE people, we are talking about a social issue that is intended to HELP people. How evil can it really be?
While we might disagree about the details of reform, I am stunned some people seem to think we don’t need reform. And I’m stunned so many people are getting angry at Obama – disapproval and disagreement are one thing, but anger! It’s hard to argue against the need for reform – and if you are arguing against the need for reform then you need to take a moment to realize what a privileged position from which you are speaking. If you have a good and affordable health insurance plan great, but please recognize that you are in a position of privilege and that 40 million Americans are denied this same coverage. It is our responsibility to do something about that. Obama is putting his reputation on the line by trying to fix the system; the easy way out would be to sit around and do nothing, just let it stay broken. He’s taking a risk not to win popularity or favor but because he feels it’s the right thing to do.
I grew up in a part of the country where I thought the words Christian and Republican were synonymous. When I went to college I suddenly had this realization that I was not a Republican at all. While I tend to be a bit more fiscally conservative than some Democrats, from a social perspective I am on the left. And as a Christian I am often perplexed by the conservatives’ response to government socialized issues. It is a Christian attitude to take care of the poor, to give, to be generous, etc. etc. etc. Thus it is my belief that as citizens it is our responsibility to ensure that the government creates standards which allow for underprivileged citizens to take care of themselves. Our current system is screwed up and inhibits access to health care for those who do not fit within the middle class, and increasingly so even middle class families are struggling to afford health care. While I’m not necessarily in favor of socialized health care all together, I do think it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that all tax-paying, working citizens have access to affordable health care. If that means public options, taxes, tort reform, subsidies, etc. then so be it. And it is refreshing to see that some Progressive Religious Groups Are Lining Up Behind Obama on Heath Care.
Woman compares Obama to Hitler at Town Hall meeting with Barney Frank (more info here). This video will make you smile, Barney Frank is amusing.
For conservatives (and Christians) to refer to Obama’s plan as a Nazi plan, spread rumors about death panels, etc. serves no other purpose than to ignite fear and misunderstanding among citizens. Such accusations are anything but Christ-like and completely distract people from the root of the issue: Americans can’t afford health care! The current rhetoric has been so twisted around one would think health care were an evil thing Obama is attempting to force upon citizens against their will rather than a policy intended to HELP PEOPLE! Yes, health care is a GOOD THING, it is not evil nor are Obama’s proposals. It is tricky, complicated, complex, and will require much negotiation and compromise of course, but the goal for both Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals ought to be the same: find a way to make health care affordable and accessible for all citizens. I particularly loved this piece – The GOP’s Misplaced Rage – from conservative economist Bruce Bartlett reminding Republicans that their rage is misplaced – Obama isn’t the one they should be so angry with, it’s Bush. The article offers a lot of historical contextualization about the economy, taxes, recession, and health care.
” Until conservatives once again hold Republicans to the same standard they hold Democrats, they will have no credibility and deserve no respect. They can start building some by admitting to themselves that Bush caused many of the problems they are protesting.” – Bruce Bartlett
Andrew Sullivan also offers some interesting thoughts and perspectives from conservatives on the health care debate in his article Conservativism and Health Care. In particular, he explains why it was different to oppose stronger government involvement in health care in 1993 than it is to do so now. Quoting David Frum, he writes that the status quo means:
“(1) flat-lining wages, (2) exploding Medicaid and Medicare costs and thus immense pressure for future tax increases, (3) small businesses and self-employed individuals priced out of the insurance market, and (4) a lot of uninsured or underinsured people imposing costs on hospitals and local governments. We’ll have entrenched and perpetuated some of the most irrational features of a hugely costly and under-performing system, at the expense of entrepreneurs and risk-takers, exactly the people the Republican party exists to champion.”
By no means are Republicans and conservatives the only ones opposing health care reform (I’m sure we’re all aware of the Blue Dogs), but recently liberal CEO and founder of Whole Foods has stirred up a lot of controversy (and even calls to boycott Whole Foods) with his recent Wall Street Journal article The Whole Foods Alternative to Obama Care. While it is an interesting perspective and offers some good suggestions I don’t think it is enough. I feel it is still more beneficial to those already insured and doesn’t do much for those who can’t afford insurance. Overall it’s an oversimplification to a very complex problem. He’s also too optimistic about “we should all be able to live healthy ’til our 90s”. While many diseases are (to a degree) preventable with proper diet and lifestyle, many healthy, active people still get cancer (my mother), have strokes, give birth to unhealthy babies (I was born with heart complications). It’s an oversimplication and overly idealistic perspective to say cancer can be prevented by healthy lifestyles. While a healthier population would reduce the cost of healthcare, this view is dismissive of the absolute need for more cancer, heart, diabetes, etc research. It’s more complicated than lifestyle and we have not found cures!
I’ll end on a lighter note by sharing this article from The Onion, which would be so funny if it weren’t so true: Congress Deadlocked Over How Not to Provide Healthcare.
Image Credits: Reality Check