By Steven Woodruff
When the newly elected freshman Congressman Andy Harris (R-Maryland) walked onto Capitol Hill and reacted with anger over the delay of his benefits through the insurance plan that the government offers congressmen, he made the use of the word hypocrite seem too small to fit the situation. He has since gone on to vote for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, while making sure that he continues to be covered (with liberal benefits) under a state of the art, government run healthcare policy.
The electorate voted for Obama who campaigned on a platform of healthcare reform and specifically, the introduction of some kind of public option as part of the deal. He won handily. Congress after contentious debate, much of it loaded with fear mongering (medical socialism, death panels) passed legislation authorizing the bill. This is how the election and law making process works. This time around the match went to the ACA, just as it did for other contentious bills in the past such as Medicare, The Voting Rights Act, and The Civil Rights Legislation of 1964. The argument is that the so-called safety net is a cost cutting measure when viewed practically and a reflection of the kind of society we want to be when viewed through the lens of social conscience. Both look good.
Still, conservative forces objected to having what every single first world society on the planet (and a number of third world varieties) has as a matter of course. Not a single one of those countries thinks it’s a bad idea. They routinely spend much less per capita on health care and achieve better outcomes with a government run protocol. Yet Americans seem unable to gag down the notion that other nations might be doing things better than we are. Even Mexico has an affordable national plan as do most countries in Latin America, including Cuba, Argentina, and Venezuela. If some of these terribly broken economies and governments can manage it, then why not us?
It seems people are simply eager to rail against big business in the form of skyrocketing premiums, denial of coverage and other tactics which make hash out of any basic policy. If government is not going to be allowed to regulate the punitive business tactics of insurers (creeping socialism ) and big business is only going to offer an inferior, over priced product when left to its own devices ( a problem posing as a solution) we are at an impasse. To some extent, it seems Americans enjoy being the hostage in ongoing arguments. Education, taxes and immigration will probably remain unresolved issues for some time. We like debating the big constitutional issues ad nauseam while people die and plunge deeper into personal health catastrophes rather than actually accomplishing the simple business of governing and making common sense solutions to pressing problems.
That the legislation probably should be better is beyond question. It should have been the public option exclusively rather than the patchwork blend of private providers and exchanges regulated at both the State and Federal levels.. The conservatives had years with everything going their way to pass their non plus ultra healthcare legislation and did nothing. They want to write the book about what it is not rather than what it is. Conservatives did manage to stoke the national debt with more than a trillion dollars worth of tax cuts. That was supposed to free the great, genius of our entrepreneurial machine to create growth and jobs. It did neither. In the end it did hand us a colossal banking disaster ( Reagan‘s term in office also created a banking disaster but of smaller proportions), crushing unemployment and new, massive debt.
As part of it, Congress managed to give away nearly 500 million dollars in an unfunded prescription drug program which served our need to rely on medication to achieve health outcomes. We remain good at beating down symptoms such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol yet make little or no progress toward actual health and better treatment outcomes. In the end it proved to be the best deal for the drug companies themselves. It seems more than ironic that we can subsidize drug companies by putting money in the hands of drug users but when it comes to applying that notion to the full range of health care coverage we become quickly resistant. The healthcare naysayers appreciate government intervention and discounting when the deal looks sweet for them.
Which gets us back to Representative gotta-have-it-now Harris. One wonders what it will take for him and others like him to wise up. Americans will continue to vote against their own best interests in order to plug away at the largely phantom constitutional debate concerning government driven healthcare. The preamble to the Constitution has some words of wisdom for us in this regard. It actually uses the word welfare in its explanation of the government’s role. The relevant phrase is: “…promote the general welfare” , and it is used as part of the purpose for establishing the Constitution. It doesn’t say exactly how we’re supposed to do it, but it is hard to argue with the language. Most of us think that the healthcare issues fall under this heading. For Congressman Harris, “it’s me, not you”.