Medical (Fact) Checkup

We all know the players in the health care debate. The teams are well-defined; Republicans against, Democrats for. The American people, overwhelmingly, want something done. The AMA, insurance industry, big pharma, the AARP, and just about every other group or lobby remotely associated with the issue will openly acknowledge a problem.

The politics of the issue seem to preclude finding a solution, so the rational middle would like to take a moment to pull back from the politics and restate the basic, non-partisan facts.

  1. Insurance premiums for individuals and businesses have doubled the rate of inflation for at least the last decade. As there is some elasticity involved with medical costs, the amount of individuals and businesses who have stopped carrying (or offering) insurance has declined over the same time period.
  2. Real household income has remained flat over the last decade. Don’t like or trust statistics? Take the “Rational Middle Challenge”; ask 50 families you know (your own, siblings, parents, friends, coworkers) if their income has increased by 50% over the last 10 years. That is the percentage increase (roughly) that they would need to keep up with inflation.
  3. Small businesses have taken a beating over the last decade; “The Rational Middle Challenge Part Two” would have you check on business owners near you; are they still in business, are their profits what they were, have they lost employees to larger firms that offer better benefit packages?
  4. Medical outcomes have not improved in the last ten years. It is a little annoying to rank behind a dozen or more industrialized nations in categories like life expectancy, infant mortality, and cancer rates. Don’t like or trust statistics? Believe Limbaugh when he huffs and puffs about the world coming to America for medicine? Type in “medical vacations” into Google. Prepare to be surprised.

The second set of facts today relates to a promise made 16 years ago. At the beginning of Clinton’s first term, Mrs. Clinton led what was the last effort to reform health care in this nation before now. That effort was resoundingly defeated. That defeat was driven by the fear of a loss of choice, and anchored in the promise that the market could self-correct and fix all of the problems it was having with cost and quality of care. The rational middle would like to examine that…

  1. “The Rational Middle Challenge Part Three” How long do you have to wait for service at your doctor’s office, and if you don’t like the care, do you have a choice?
  2. How long do you or your friends or parents have to wait for a specialist or MRI or surgery once you and your doctor find a potential problem? Do they have a choice in care or an avenue for complaint and satisfaction?
  3. The market has not fixed costs as evidenced by the above facts.
  4. The market has not provided the additional doctors, nurses, and associated providers needed to allow for cost, service, and care competition. The government has not provided targeted funds or incentive to correct this market failure.
  5. The market has not provided affordable pharmaceutical interventions and therapies for the public at large (talk to your older parents or look at you household budget for an idea of how much drugs cost).
  6. The market has not addressed the problem of malpractice cases and the cost of insurance to the medical industry. The government has not enacted real torte reform.

The debate over the health care crisis is critical in that different plans are weighed and evaluated on their merits and costs/benefits. When the argument becomes; “There is no health care problem”, or “There should be no solution involving the government” (i.e. we the people), then the argument falls under its own weight.

This democracy has never shrunk from a challenge because of its difficulty. Slavery and the Civil War, the Great Depression, Hitler, the Space Race, Communism, Saddam Hussein, and international terrorism are all challenges that have cost us greatly in blood and treasure. We Americans have figured out how to deal with and rise above all of these previous obstacles by thinking about the issue, making a decision, and acting boldly.

It seems terribly un-American to shrink away from this issue now. The type, level, and cost of the intervention (and how it is paid for) should be what the conversation stays about. It is my humble opinion that it is our duty to do the basic research ourselves, make a decision, and check our elected representatives to make sure they are properly representing our views. We should not rely on information from single media sources (this one or any other) or politicians…all have a bias.

We should think, decide…and act boldly.

The rational middle hopes to hear your thoughts….