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A Republican for health care reform

Robert Downes - October 4th, 2010
A Republican for health care reform
A Republican friend of mine -- let’s call him Joe, since that is in
fact, his actual name -- agrees with his party on most issues, with
one exception:
“Sometimes I wonder if the Republicans aren’t going the wrong way with
the idea of doing away with health care reform,” he says.
Joe reads two newspapers each day, especially the editorial pages. He
gets most of his TV news from FOX. He prides himself on having a
“point of view,” and it tends to be a strong one. When we get
together, we have lively conversations about politics from divergent
viewpoints, and yet somehow manage to agree on a number of things
where both the Republicans and Democrats get it right.
One thing we both agree on is that health care reform shouldn’t be
eliminated; in fact, the real problem with “reform” is that it doesn’t
go far enough. It’s not a baby that should be thrown out with the
bathwater, as the Republican Party maintains. It’s a way forward for
the American people, including taxpayers and business.
Consider “Obamacare” from Joe’s point of view. A viewpoint where he
steps away from the GOP party line.
Joe’s wife Linda is 62 and three years away from qualifying for
Medicare. When Joe retired from his hospital job a few years ago, he
took his insurance benefits with him under COBRA. But Linda was denied
insurance coverage. Why? Because she takes a cholesterol-lowering
pill each day and because she had been tested for a suspected cancer,
which turned out to be nothing.
Joe was eventually able to insure his wife by paying an exorbitant
premium rate -- more than $1,200 per month. But he’s furious that
Linda was denied health insurance for taking a simple pill and
undergoing a diagnostic test, since these procedures are shared by
millions of Americans. He‘s happy to learn that under health care
reform, the insurance companies won’t be able to deny coverage for
such pre-existing conditions.
Another thing: Joe has a lot of grandchildren -- more than 25. He
thinks it’s a good thing that his grandchildren can now be covered up
to the age of 26 on their parent’s insurance. He wonders why his
party would oppose such a benefit at a time when no young person can
begin to afford health insurance.
He’s also angry that when America’s insurance companies learned that
they’d have to write policies for kids with chronic medical problems
under the new health care reform -- like cancer, asthma or diabetes --
the companies simply quit offering health insurance policies for
children in general.
Joe recalls the days when virtually every health insurance company
was a non-profit business; Yet today, they are for-profits headed by
CEOs making tens of millions each year on peoples’ misery. “Why
should there be any profit involved in providing health care?” he
He also wonders why the CEO of his local hospital makes $500,000 per
year -- more than the president of the United States to run a
mid-sized medical center.
Joe and I agree that health care reform would save American taxpayers
and business billions of dollars in the long run. Why? Because when
you stroll through any emergency room in America, you’ll find them
packed with people who have either no ability or intention of paying
for their care. The “working poor” of America get the health care
they need, but at the $1,000-per-hour rate of visiting an emergency
room, instead of consulting a doctor at a fee of $50-$100 or so that
they can’t afford.
Taxpayers pick up that tab, as do those of us who are insured -- we
pay higher premiums to offset the care of the poor.
“We’re paying for their care anyway, so why not create a system where
they receive preventative health care?” Joe wonders. He supports the
new provision which will expand Medicaid to cover millions of
low-income Americans.
Both Joe and I worked at hospitals during our careers: he for more
than 30 years and I for 15. We both agree that there’s a lot of
bureaucratic waste in American health care that will be streamlined
under reforms such as the creation of electronic medical records. The
need for reform is also apparent in scaling back dubious medical tests
that doctors order to cover themselves from the threat of lawsuits.
Here again, reform didn’t go far enough. Democrats shied away from
capping damages for medical malpractice lawsuits -- perhaps they are
in the pockets of the country’s trial lawyers, as the Republicans
claim. How can there be reform if doctors are forced to pay as much
as $100,000 in malpractice insurance each year?
Finally, Joe and I both wonder why a form of Medicare wasn’t created
to cover all Americans, which would provide genuine national health
care. When a few Democrats timidly proposed this idea last year, it
met with furious resistance from the Republican Party along with their
allies at the big hospital chains, the insurance and pharmaceutical
companies. Obviously, it would upset the gravy train of cash bathing
these fatcats. Thanks to a Republican disinformation campaign (ie.
“death panels”) and the lunacy of last year‘s town hall meetings, the
Democrats quickly caved on providing a form of Medicare for all.
As a result, we now have less than half the reform we need and the
Republican Party has made it a campaign issue to do away with even
that. Our 4th District Congressman Dave Camp has made it the
centerpiece of his re-election campaign, promising the people he
represents from Midland all the way to Traverse City that he will do
his best to do away with even the piddling small reforms already
What would the Republicans replace health care reform with? Take a
tip from their new “Pledge to America”: platitudes, sophistry, and a
hand-off to the CEOs of companies that already have us over a barrel.
Here’s an item from the recent news: “An Associated Press poll finds
that Americans who think the (healthcare reform) law should have done
more outnumber those who think the government should stay out of
healthcare — by 2 to 1.“ The poll notes that 4 out of 10 Americans
feel that health care reform didn‘t go far enough.
That AP article notes that more than 30 million Americans will gain
coverage by the time reform is fully implemented in 2019, while 20
million others will remain uninsured.
Where are the other Joes in the Republican party who wonder if their
team is going down the wrong path on health care? Where are the
Democrats and independents who should be loudly demanding support for
health care reform?

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