Monday, September 27, 2010

To Your Health

Provisions of the new health care law passed by Congress are starting to come into play, though the bulk of the law will not be fully enacted until 2014. It is the start of a change in how health care in the United States is run, a change that was long overdue and still remains hotly contested. The Republican Party and its disreputable offshoot The Tea Party, are busy trying to win votes by claiming they will repeal the law when they take over Congress, failing to take into account all the obstacles that stand in their way. Even if they manage to secure majorities in both houses, any repeal would cross the President's desk and surely be vetoed, leading to the much harder task of garnering a two-thirds majority to override the veto. To say it would be easier to summit Mt. Everest is an understatement.

What both opposition parties fail to realize is that failing to keep the health care law from being passed in the first place, there is little chance they can ever do anything about it. It would be two years at the earliest before there would potentially be a Republican President, and even then, there would be no guarantee of that happening, nor of the Republicans maintaining control of Congress. A lot can happen in two years. Plus, there will be the inconvenient fact that, as more provisions of the bill take effect, people would suddenly like what they have gained, and be loathe to see it taken away. It is becoming quite clear, that for all the ruckus thrown up during the debate over the bill, the opposition could not keep it from becoming law, and now has very little recourse but to work within its provisions to make any changes they would like.

It comes down to a simple truth: health care, like so many things that did not start out that way, has now become an inalienable right, a part of the general welfare that many Americans are dependent on. Gone are the days of going to the family doctor and paying the bill like any other; the current medical landscape is one of forms, co-pays, networks, regulations and red tape, drugs being peddled like cigarettes used to be, and an acute lack of health care professionals to meet the growing demands of an aging population. Add to that the epidemic of obesity, due to the inability of families to find or afford decent food, or the time to prepare and serve it, along with the explosion in varying sorts of chronic diseases, and some sort of reform to rein in health care costs was necessary. The health care law may not have been perfect, but it was certainly a step long overdue to try and control skyrocketing costs, soaring insurance premiums, and the growth of an ever-expanding pool of the uninsured.

For all the talk of how others do not want to pay for everyone else's health care, the fact remains that not only do we all pay for it, we pay more for it. People who are without insurance or some way to pay for their services are not turned away. The Hippocratic Oath forbids medical professionals from turning anyone aside; society would be horrified if hospitals simply let people die in their parking lots for lack of ability to pay for medical care. So, hospitals and doctors end up treating those without insurance and sending taxpayers the bill, in the form of increased costs and higher taxes. Allowing people to go without any kind of assistance in paying for their medical care is a road to financial ruin for the nation.

It always easy to assume that everything government does is somehow outrageous, out of control, bad for us, or unnecessary, but given the task of running a large nation, a central government with the mandate of providing for the general welfare of all its citizens must do everything it can to protect those citizens. It is only through the health of the citizenry that a nation lives. It is not enough to protect a nation's borders, if the people are allowed to suffer. Many a totalitarian regime has put the existence of the nation as idea ahead of the existence of the people that form the nation. Treating people as disposable is barbarism.

We are faced with such choices because, as Thomas Paine wrote, "[but] government, even its best state, is but a necessary evil." We need government to make a level playing field for all Americans, because we, left to our own devices, will not. We will not treat our neighbors as we would be treated. We will not extend the same courtesy to others as we expect to be extended to us. For all our protestations of being a "Christian" nation, it is amazing the level to which many Americans will complain bitterly about others receiving the benefits they receive. The Founding Fathers did their level best to make it clear that their intent was to build a nation where all Americans were treated as equal, and we have spent a good portion of our nation's history treading on that legacy, too busy trying to carve the United States into discrete chunks.

Health care reform, along with Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, form a bulwark as necessary to the strength of our nation as the armed forces. If our nation is made as strong in body, as it is in spirit, then there is no reason that we cannot regain our stature as a leader among nations. For this to be true, we must put aside the animosity stirred up by partisan politics, and look at this for what it is, a chance to prove to the world that we are capable of growth as a society. Only then we will become not just a military superpower, but a social superpower as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment