Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A few truths about healthcare (Part 1)

Let’s be clear: whatever we do about healthcare in the next six months will be a shambles.

This is because the time necessary to consider what the need is, what the benefits are and what the costs are have not been properly studied or debated.

The media has not been up to the task of informing the public about the above issues, nor has it reported the debate in any helpful way. It has focused on what is easy, not what is necessary. The media has spent hours discussing the demonstrations (pro and con) and, depending on the political persuasion of their sponsors, branded the different sides with unflattering epithets.

President Obama has singularly failed to explain the program to the American people, derailing his own attempt to do so by indulging in unwarranted and unhelpful comments on the Henry Louis Gates affair.

Congressmen and women have been spectacularly unwilling to engage in real discussion of the bill. Congressman Niki Tsongas, 5th Congressional District Massachusetts, for example, a the town meeting she held, made it clear that she was not prepared to change her mind, regardless of what her constituents told her.

Not about healthcare

What has become particularly corrosive about healthcare bill discussions is that they have not been about the provision of healthcare. They have been about muddied perceptions of rights and obligations; they have been about hypothetical government intervention; they have been about alleged huge costs and myriad other issues that are ill-informed on both sides, and not really about delivering basic care to people that might need it.

One of the reasons for this is the proposed bill itself that focuses more on the administration of yet another governmental bureaucracy than on health. The bill includes swingeing powers to inspect the books of private companies and all sorts of other powers that rightly demand distinct scrutiny and debate.

Congressmen have an obligation to read the bills they vote on. They should not rely on unelected assistants of unknown capabilities and experience. Too much is riding on this for it to have become such a political football.

President Obama is right about one thing: we have failed to address the healthcare issue before. The trouble is, we’re not really addressing it now.

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