Health Care Fatigue

March 21st, 2010

By Tom Carter

I’m tired of the health care debate.  It’s been going on for a year, and it’s become so complex and so partisan that even many of the politicians who will vote for health care reform today don’t understand it well.

We’ll know in a few hours whether we have a new law that has major implications for a huge segment of our economy and all of our individual lives.

Some politicians say the people want it, even though the majority clearly don’t, at least not in the form currently proposed.  Some say it will reduce the deficit, some say it won’t.  And on and on, ad infinitum.

One of the more interesting topics of discussion, at least during the past few days, is whether the health care legislation is constitutional.  People who are against it say that it defies, even shreds, the Constitution.  People who are for it wave that argument away with no concern at all.

Since most of the serious discussions about constitutionality come from lawyers, they have to be taken with a grain of salt.  Most lawyers can instinctively argue one side of an issue or another, depending on their personal agendas or, more often, who’s paying them.  But reading a number of their opinions leaves about as clear a conclusion as can be formed:  maybe, but probably not.

The major concern was the so-called “deem and pass” rule that the House wanted to proceed with — a vote for the reconciliation bill that changes the Senate bill would be counted as a vote for the Senate bill.  Then the Senate bill would be split away and sent to the President for signature, and the reconciliation bill would go to the Senate for a simple majority vote.  Some said this violated the Constitution, citing various subparagraphs of the document.  But they admitted that it was an iffy proposition, given the Supreme Court’s historical reluctance to interfere in congressional procedure.  But that argument is out the window, given that the House has decided not to use “deem and pass.”  Now members will have to vote for the Senate bill separately, unable to hide their action from their constituents.

But there’s a provision in the bill that probably is unconstitutional — the mandate on every citizen to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.  It’s hardly possible to twist the Commerce Clause to permit it, and arguments about requiring people to buy auto insurance are specious at best.  This isn’t going to keep the legislation from being passed, though.  It will just create the opportunity for a court test, and if it’s ruled unconstitutional, that will cause a major problem for implementation of other parts of the law.

Then there’s another big discussion going on about what it means for the future of the Democratic and Republican parties.  Is either the success or the failure of the legislation good or bad for the Democrats in November?  The Republicans?  I don’t think it matters.  I suspect many people are so disgusted by this extended peek inside the congressional sausage factory that they’re ready to throw all the rascals out and start over again.

I’ve reached the point where I don’t much care which way it goes.  If Congress passes health care reform, we’ll live with it.  If they don’t, we can take another cut at improving access to health care and reducing costs.  Either way, the Republic will survive, and life will go on.

In any case, the whole thing has become really tiresome.  Some might say, “Well, then, ignore it because your opinion doesn’t mean anything anyway!”  That’s good advice, but who can can stop watching a train wreck in progress?

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5 Responses to “Health Care Fatigue”

  1. larry |

    I pretty much agree with everything you said. I loath the thought of even more government control. Our nation and our people are at a pivotal point in history. I don’t think Obama is through. What will be his next move?
    Days of tribulation?

  2. Clarissa |

    “But there’s a provision in the bill that probably is unconstitutional — the mandate on every citizen to buy health insurance or pay a penalty. It’s hardly possible to twist the Commerce Clause to permit it, and arguments about requiring people to buy auto insurance are specious at best.”

    -This is one of the most annoying parts of this legislation.

    I have tried to make myself care about this bill. But in its present form, it’s very hard to give a damn one way or the other.

    I hope that this entire process will at least serve to show everybody just how ineffectual this Congress is. With all the silly bickering and nastiness, none of those politicians seem to care about the people they were supposedly elected to represent.

  3. Lisa |

    I do care whether the bill is passed. The negative ramifications of this bill cannot be definitively outlined at this point. The CBO report of cost savings over 10 years is laughable as that is what the Obama administration spends in an 18 day period. We do not know what the fallout will be for the medical profession. Many doctors have said they will retire before the bill kicks in. Will we have enough doctors and other medical personnel to cover all the requirements? Who will want to be a doctor? Will we have to go all the way with medicine and make it a federal agency of some sort like the VA because no one wants to be doctor? Perhaps a draft system of doctors? Am I sounding a little extreme?

    When Obama chose not to do tort reform and correct corruption within medical malpractice that did nothing to lower costs and instead made it more difficult for doctors who have to pay this insurance. Of course, these costs are then transferred to us and the insurance companies. These malpractice lawyers gave tremendous amounts of money to his campaign and that is why the issue is not part of reform. Also, allowing insurance to be purchased across state lines was not included. Gosh, this would have created competition and added to free market enterprise. I guess that idea is a little too American for this president. Fighting corruption and free market enterprise….No, these are not socialistic enough for this president.

  4. Stefan |

    As a (non-leftist) British subject viewing the American health care debate from afar I admit that I find the focus on the ‘socialist’ or even ‘communist’ accusations levelled against universal health care as bizarre. Statistics vary according to the politics of the source but I’ve seen figures showing that the GDP spent on private care in the US is greater than than spent on the National Health Service in the UK (and even that bureacracy in the private health firms was greater than in the NHS). At the same time, I would argue that the NHS helps private business by removing the burden of employers to offer health benefits to attract quality professionals. While the introduction of the NHS in the years after World War II did spur a bitter debate – largely along class lines – the fact is that now, despite its imperfections, it is a universally popular (perhaps the only truly popular!) arm of the State. I have only really begun to appreciate how precious the NHS in the years since my marriage: it is immensely reassuring to know that there is a health service ready and willing to take care of me, my wife and my children regardless of our income or pre-existing conditions.

  5. Tom |

    Stefan, you’re right about the charges of “socialist” or “communist” being pretty bizarre. Sometimes I have to wonder if the people who use those terms really know what they mean. In general, there’s already a “socialist” aspect of the organization of modern society everywhere, including in the U.S., and it’s been there for a very long time. Health care, in particular, is already about 50 percent government-run in the U.S., anyway. Medicare, for example, despite it’s financial problems, is a very successful and highly popular program.

    I don’t particularly like the health care legislation that’s just been passed because it’s too complicated, too expensive, has too many special deals attached to it, and includes a pretty onerous mandate on everyone to buy insurance or suffer penalties. We have to do something to improve access and reduce the costs of medical care in the U.S., but this bill is likely to cause as many problems as it solves.

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