OK, People ... It’s TIME TO PAY ATTENTION. Time to act like thoughtful adults. Time to stop flinging half-truths and undocumented facts, emotional garbage and hate-filled rhetoric at people who hold differing opinions than yours. Time to stop abdicating our responsibility as American citizens by allowing talking heads and partisan pundits to make up our minds for us. Time to realize that no side has a monopoly on the truth – and that “truth” is always colored by personal experience and self-interest.
This is the first post of what I hope will be a thoughtful and thought-provoking blog on how national and state issues trickle down to the local level and effect real people in Montgomery and Bucks Counties. I plan to focus on the facts that inform my ideas, but I will never present something as fact when it is just my opinion. I want to say upfront that I am a proud liberal as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary: “Not limited to or by established, traditional, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas...Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress...broad-minded.”
So now I'll dive right in with the hot topic of the week: health care reform. I’m for it. And I was pleased and surprised when the Supreme Court of the United States, a.k.a. SCOTUS (aside: just when did the media decide we needed an acronym for everything?) refused to overturn the Affordable Care Act. But do I think this is the best of all possible bills? Hardly. It’s a complex, convoluted, compromised whale of a bill that tried to satisfy everyone–insurance companies, drug companies, doctors, employers, patients with insurance, patients without insurance, and, of course, competing political interests. It's a recipe for disagreement and confrontation, if there ever was one. It’s also laughable to label the program "Obamacare" since its signature and most divisive feature –the individual mandate–was originally proposed all the way back in 1989 by the very conservative Heritage Foundation. In 1993, Republicans twice introduced health care bills that contained an individual health insurance mandate. Advocates for those bills included prominent Republicans like Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Bob Bennett (R-UT) who later decided to oppose the concept once it was embraced by a Democratic President. Candidate Barack Obama actually spoke out against the individual mandate, but later sought it as a compromise that might make health care reform more palatable to Republican members of the House. Ah, the folly of youth.
But in all the media bluster and caterwauling over the Court’s pronouncement, some fundamental points–dare I say “truths”–are being swept aside: by the time the legislation is fully implemented in 2014, 30 million more Americans will have affordable access to basic health care; all insured Americans will have access to a wider range of preventive services; vulnerable, low-income seniors won’t have to choose between buying groceries and filling their prescriptions; people with pre-existing conditions will not be denied coverage and hospitals and physicians will be incented to follow best practices and keep people well, rather than only getting paid for treating them once they are already sick.
Is the bill expensive? Yep. It sure is. But so is our current system that relives on cost shifting (i.e. a hidden tax) in the form of higher insurance premiums for everyone (including businesses that provide coverage) to cover the cost of the uninsured. In Montgomery County alone, more than 32,000 uninsured people (7.4% of county residents) are now using ERs as primary health clinics, or only seeking treatment when they are critically–and expensively–ill.
Is this bill socialized medicine? Only if you believe that allowing private insurance companies to sell policies to the majority of Americans under age 65 (with no alternative, i.e. government, option) and retain up to 20% of the premium money collected, is socialism. Seriously, if that’s socialism ...than the NY Stock Exchange is being run by Bolsheviks.
Today’s sobering fact: 50% of all restaurants in Montgomery County are fast food restaurants, compared to 25% statewide.*