Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Clowns to the Left of Me Jokers to the Right
A couple years ago, I asked my father this question: When we were growing up, it seemed that my brother and I were always at the doctor. There were bones broken from bicycle wrecks and falls out of trees; road rashed knees and out of joint noses from school yard sports; on-going battles with childhood maladies like chickenpox and strep, colds and flu, ear aches and stomach upsets. How on earth did he and mom afford it all, given his salary as a butcher and hers as a housewife, neither of them insured?
He thought a minute. Then he shrugged. "I don't know, " he answered. "We just paid for it. It was in the monthly budget."
Huh. Imagine that. Medicine as a cost of living, just like groceries, rent, and utilities.
Why doesn't anyone on either side of the issue and the aisle see that? That health care reform shouldn't be about guaranteeing – by whatever means necessary, even if it's criminal – that every American has health care insurance. That if we continue to perpetuate the idea that insurance companies – backed by the government – are responsible for ensuring our health, we only perpetuate a system already bloated to the bursting point with greed and corruption. A system that has about as much to do with health and with care as I do with Crocs.
What neither side understands is that the only acceptable reform is returning medicine to the free market, so that individuals can contract with doctors, hospitals, and other providers directly, without meddling middle men. The only role of insurance in all this is as providers of catastrophic coverage. In other words, you get cancer, hit by a bus, or give birth to a disabled child, you got coverage. But those are separate policies for extreme circumstances that you choose to purchase, similar to life insurance. They're not shoved down your throat.
Seems to me that once we eliminate middle men for every day medical care and as doctors once again enter a competitive marketplace, the money we spend on taking care of ourselves becomes a simple cost of living, just like groceries, utilities, and clothing. Which, by the way, you truly can't live without. In fact, try living for a week without food, hot water, and underpants. Should the government provide those as well?
If it sounds too simple, well, what's wrong with simple? Thanks to Nixon, we already have a nationally managed health care system. The government is already involved. So, why more involvement when the system clearly doesn't work? Why another 1,000 indecipherable pages and dozens of sweaty PR flaks scrambling to turn a sows ear into a silk purse? Oh, yeah. I forgot. Washington isn't about simple. It isn't about care. It certainly isn't about real change. After all, why change a system that's all about keeping everyone's fingers in the Big Money Pie? Well, except your fingers and mine. Ours just dole out the dollars.