Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Health Care Mess

There are a couple of thoughtful pieces out there today. I've found myself quite exhausted just thinking about this health-care nightmare, which a friend is facing in spades just now.

David Goldhill has a detailed analysis of our current health system - the whole thing - in The Atlantic. I think he's largely right that we have built a health system that is distorted and dysfunctional, but I am concerned that his comments on current legislation will be distorted to say that we shouldn't do anything now. He believes that the whole system needs to be changed, root and branch, and that the current legislation will barely touch it, in fact may entrench some of the problems.

He's more pessimistic in those comments early on than he is later in the article. My own view is that the current legislation will be highly imperfect, but it will be enough of a change to uncover some of the other problems Goldhill writes about. He focuses on who the customer is, and that focus is quite enlightening.

There's a bit of good news, too. The current health care bill is an improvement on what Howard Dean offered, which seemed quite advanced at the time.

Steve Benen, with Bruce Bartlett, considers the credibility of the Republican Party, those folks who are encouraging the spectacle of people hollering about "death panels" and "socialism" in response to an initiative that most likely will improve their lives. One of the commenters on that thread suggests that what should be acknowledged is that "right-wing ideology is just wrong for America."

Looking back at history, that sounds about right. It was Betsy McCaughey who provided some of the lies against the Clinton health plan in 1994, and she's with us again in 2009. Here's her Wikipedia article, in case, like me, you haven't heard much about her.

Further back, apparently the rhetoric was similar every time the right-wingers decided that they didn't like a country in which citizens were treated equally or would have Social Security to fall back on, or all that stuff that they think the Founding Fathers never intended.

What puzzles me is why so many in the United States can so easily feel that well-being is a zero-sum game. Yes, I know the standard reasons - irresponsible media coverage, hot-button-pressing by Republicans, poorly educated populace. What I don't understand is why it is so easy for so many to give in to their meanest instincts and to be so proud to display them.

I suppose this is the next thing we will hear the Republicans saying that the health care bill will do.

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