Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Health Care Reform Helps Everybody

Many Americans assume the new health care reform act will benefit mostly the poor and uninsured and hurt everyone else, according to polls. As Matt Yglesias wrote, “Basically, people see this as a bill that will take resources from people who have health insurance and give it to people who don’t have health insurance.” Those who still oppose the reform say that people ought to pay for their own health care.

We all believe in the virtues of hard work and self-reliance, but these days it’s a fantasy to think that anyone but the mega-wealthy will not, sooner or later, depend on help from others to pay medical bills. And that’s true no matter how hard you work, how much you love America, or how diligently you take care of yourself. The cost of medical care has so skyrocketed that breaking an arm or leg could cost as much as a new car. And if you get cancer or heart disease — which can happen even to people who live healthy lifestyles — forget about it. The disease will not only clean you out; it will leave a whopping debt for your survivors to pay.

And the truth is, we all pay for other peoples’ health care whether we know it or not. When people can’t pay their medical bills, the cost of their health care gets added to everyone else’s bills and insurance premiums. When poor people use emergency rooms as a doctor of last resort, their care is not “free.” You pay for it.

Another common fantasy about medical care is that the “free market” provides incentives for medical companies to develop innovative new drugs and treatments for disease without government subsidy. It’s true that private enterprise is very good at developing profitable health care products. But not all medical care can be made profitable.

For years, the U.S. government has been funding medical research that the big private companies don’t want to do because there is too much cost for the potential profit. This is especially true for diseases that are rare and expensive to treat. An example of a recent advance made possible by government grants include new guidelines for malignant pleural mesothelioma treatment developed by MD Anderson Cancer Center researchers. Another is a blood screening test for mesothelioma developed by thoracic surgeon Dr. David Sugarbaker. The health reform act provides for more dollars for such research, from which even many of the tea party protesters will benefit.

The biggest fantasy of all was that people who had insurance didn’t have to worry about health care costs. But the fact is that in recent years millions of Americans have been bankrupted by medical costs, and three-quarters of the medically bankrupt had health insurance. And yes, insurance companies even dumped hard-working, law-abiding patriots. But the health care reform act will put an end to that, and now America’s hard-working, law-abiding patriots are more financially secure, whether they like it or not.

Guest Post by Barbara O'Brien


  1. The irony of the whole health care "debate" was that it was NOT about caring for the poor, under insured, or the indigent - many of whom don't even have the sense to realize that they ARE poor, under insured and/or indigent, although true to form, the argument eventually got steered around to demonize the illegal immigrant "hordes" yet again - no, it was about the "almighty government" stepping in "Soviet Union" style to "control our natural right to unlimited health care," as if any of us HAVE a natural right to unlimited health care.

    I had more arguments with some of my idiot friends (and these are educated people who should know better) than I care to recount about all of this, but most insist to this day that this is all an Obama conspiracy to cut off access to health care, when in fact it is (if it ever in fact gets fully implemented) one of the biggest corporate bonanzas ever handed out, and coming right on the heels of the TARP and all the rest of the banker wellfare programs at that.

    For that reason alone I'm still opposed to it, no matter who it does or doesn't "help" - I suggest it will be no one, as the insurance industry will eventually find loopholes (sooner rather than later) in any legislation, so we'll eventually be right back at square one again - although I think the whole point's moot anyway, as Uncle Sugar's gonna be in wholesale default and reorganization before the decade's up, and then people will be back to their own devices regardless.

  2. It would be nice to have citations to the statutes to support arguments for and against.

    Otherwise it is an exercise in cacophony.

    I have a copy of the legislation that passed if anyone wants a copy (PDF).

  3. I don't really care about the bill per se anyway. I'm retired military, so I have access to their group plan as a fallback, should my current job and very extensive health care plan not pan out. I also don't believe in modern medical care for anything but life saving measures, but that's another story altogether.

    No, I am just fascinated at how the whole thing played out politically, with "Obama Care" being roundly vilified as some sort of socialist takeover of medicine, when in fact, nothing could have been further from the truth. Fair to say that the majority of Americans cannot accurately define the terms capitalist, socialist, fascist, and nazi, although they damn sure have an unnatural fear of socialism for a people whose entire old age retirement benefit program (and unemployment benefit program as well) is built on a socialist model.

    As I said, I think the whole argument's moot anyway, as the government is already insolvent save for extensive financial tom-foolery, and within ten years, even that ain't gonna help. The better question to ask IMO is: was hastening our bankruptcy to force a reorganization and thereby gain the political will to eliminate social wellfare programs the real point all along? That is EXACTLY the point of all the "drown the beast in a bathtub" rhetoric Grover Norquist and the neo-fascists have been spouting for the past thirty years or so.