Monday, September 21, 2009

When the shouting stops on health care

September 21, 2009

When the shouting stops … 

     Some Americans have always shouted down others, a rudeness that becomes a distraction clouding over the possibility of thoughtful debate. We must do better.

     The shouting, as well as its opposite – reasoned point and counterpoint – can be traced to our independent, pioneering spirit, the deliberate severing of any head-bowing connection to Old Europe and the wars, the economic and social suffering and the religious persecution that sent so many of our forebears to America. In the new land, we were going to speak our mind, even if we were sometimes rude. Centuries later, too many of us are still shouting, especially at government, avoiding clear thinking just to make sure we are heard. The health care debate is the latest – one of the worst – examples of that.

     Those of us in the media have not helped, emphasizing the mayhem at some town hall meetings over the facts of any health care plan.

     Our shouting, our irrationality over things official, is enabled by our fear of big government, something this nation and its immigrants have tried to avoid because there must be no allusion to any king or dictator. Besides, the track record of official handling of anything – the recent “cash for clunkers” red tape nightmare is a case in point – confirms our worry about government incompetence. 

    The shouting is assisted, too, by prejudice against those who we perceive as not meeting the pioneer requirement of carrying the load. We showed that discrimination in opposition to immigrants in the 1800s, the ancestors of families now well established economically and socially. Then, in the last century, we gave racism a push. And now we are against undocumented aliens. Just as we have the ability to reason rather than shout, our prejudice is set against our oft-stated sense of compassion and charity.

      Knowing our history, then, we must stage the necessary debate over health care by restating our thirst for independence, by recognizing our continued call for individual responsibility, by overcoming prejudice to help those in need.

End the shouting and polarization at town hall meetings and in the media. Look at where we are faltering and where we must climb if the ever-soaring cost of health care is not to quickly assume so much of the gross national product that our economy soon falters. And then we will all suffer.

     Debate must happen rationally. I’ll offer my own two cents, no better perhaps, no worse I hope, than anyone else’s, but at least it is offered in the quiet, thank you:   

     • Accept that health care costs have risen way beyond the inflation rate, boosted by key factors, including over-testing to protect against lawsuits, use of emergency rooms as doctors’ offices, obscene profit-taking by too many medical care and supply providers, lack of a preventive care and malpractice.

     • Recognize that the number of uninsured and under-insured is a black mark on a nation that has yet to realize that affordable health care for all is essential to its well-being, as necessary as military defense. A sick nation cannot be productive, and it cannot seek new frontiers.     
     • Acknowledge that health care might be better run by private companies, not a potentially fumbling government bureaucracy.

     • Understand that individuals should be allowed to remain with present insurance companies and plans, the cost of which must be modified by government-encouraged competition. Perhaps, instead of any government-run plan, a quasi-official setup can be used, in the style of the Postal Service.

     • Accept that any health care plan must be regulated as to prices and profit margin, just as the utilities once were, quite successfully.

  • Know that prevention must be the focus, as this will increase longevity and productivity, save on medical bills and improve quality of life.

  • Accept that no-limit catastrophic care must be provided, no questions asked and all compassion given.

  • Agree that free walk-in fitness centers, rehab instructors, nutrition counselors and longevity experts must be provided to assist in preventing disease and the devastation that throws people into nursing homes at great cost.

  • Acknowledge that low-cost and no-cost care to indigents, to anyone in need, should be given in centers run by a consortium of health-care providers. A national health corps could be established to help fund medical schooling, with the graduates serving as lower-paid physicians and nurse practitioners.

  • Understand that computerization and paperless administration would be required so no one is overwhelmed by forms. All payment would be handled instantly in the health care provider’s office.

    Obviously, these suggestions are just one person’s participation in the necessary debate. They can be improved upon by many minds in the national persuasion – they are but a starting point for necessary debate that will begin only when the shouting stops. Our future depends on sound reasoning. We must at long last listen to each other, or we will shout ourselves into the fall of America.

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