Sunday, August 30, 2009

The declining health of the health care debate

Congressman Mike Rogers' opening statement on Health Care reform has made the rounds on the Internets lately (over 1 million views, in fact).  It takes a good conservative with solid beliefs like Rogers to effectively enunciate philosophical principles in a rational tone that doesn't slide into personal attacks or obvious hyperbole.  I'm not sure if everyone can, but I can feel  the common-sense-ness of his argument when I listen to him.  Watch for yourself:

Yet, hyperbole is throughout Rogers' speech, but good luck finding someone to call him out on it.  The reason?  I'd argue that philosophical hyperbole is harder to notice, and is also more difficult to combat.   But that's why we have Between the Columns, right?  Right.

With that, let's dissect Rogers' speech:

He starts by saying that the Democratic plan is "abandoning the very principles of America" by "punishing" the 85% of Americans that have health care insurance to expand coverage to the remaining 15% who don't.

Let's start with his so-called "principles of America" hyperbole.  I just went through the Bill of Rights and the Constitution and didn't see anything supporting his statement in our nation's principles.  In fact, I did see in the preamble of the Constitution a little ditty where it says that we, the people are to "promote the general welfare," among other duties.  Arguably, expanding health care coverage is well within our stated principles.  But even if you disagree with this interpretation of the preamble, it's hyperbole to state outright as Rogers does that it's against our nation's principles.

Then there's the hyperbolic notion that supporting the less fortunate among us is "punishing" the majority of us who are insured.   I'm no religious scholar, but I believe most mainstream religions actually promote helping those who cannot help themselves.  But I digress; let's cirlce back to the economic perspective:  The cost of the emergency room visits for the uninsured cost us plenty economically, and the very notion that uninsured people wait too long to get help is unhealthy for all of us.  They spread diseases more readily, and they cost us more when they get treatment. 

By the way, Mr. Rogers, every corporation invests in underdeveloped areas of business by applying the profits of successful sectors disproportionally to these emerging areas.  It's considered smart business in the world of capitalism; not punishment.

I will give Mr. Rogers the point that he is not given any choice but the Democrats' choice or nothing.   That's not hyperbole; that's what you get when you're the minority party.  And Rogers has a fair point about needing a debate around how we solve this problem. 

Regarding cancer treatment in the UK and Canada, it is true that America has the best oncology practice in the world.  But that has absolutely nothing to do with who's paying the bill.  The Democrats are proposing insurance reform, not health care reform.  It's a huge difference, and one that is not nearly talked about enough!  Government insurance will not change oncology health care in this country no more or less than any other private insurance company's rules apply to coverage. 

This is so important, it's worth repeating:  The plans on the table surround insurance not health care.   As a result, we can not compare these plans to socialized health care systems in Canada or Europe.  It's apples and oranges, people.  If you understand this concept, please forward this post around to your friends and family so that they can understand the difference.

Rogers then makes a point around Democrats "not letting the private sector fix this problem."   This is where Republicans are on shaky ground.  The private sector is the sector that has been sending the health care system into the emergency room!  The (impending) failure of the private sector is why President Obama and the Democrats are pushing for a proactive solution to this huge problem.   I think there should be a healthy debate around who is best suited to solve this health care problem, but I do not think is helpful when conservatives turn a blind eye to the very free market systems they cherish.  No system is perfect -- not government, and not the free market.  And if a particular sector is failing a system, then it's time to re-evaluate and try something new.  In my view, that's innovation, not socialization.   And it should go both ways.  And, for better or for worse, this nation elected Obama based in part on his health care reform position.  Elections matter, and there should be a little democratic deference to this reality.

Rogers' last point about other government regulations as a tyranny of government control reminds me of the libertarian who told me that if the government would just leave him alone, he could go ahead and earn a decent living.  I asked him what he did, and he said that he was in home construction.  I wonder how good his business would be if the federal government would stop getting in home owner's shorts with that tax refund?