Thursday, July 30, 2009

Medicare, Health Care, & Minnick

On this day in 1965, President Johnson signed into law one of the most progressive and needed pieces of legislation of the modern era. The bill offered an essential government insurance program to the nation's elderly. In the Truman Library, flanked by President Truman himself, Johnson signed into law the act that created Medicare. To this day, it remains one of the more successful government health programs enacted by the United States government.

There are other government-run health programs in existence today that provide a needed service to millions of Americans. Medicaid, SCHIP, state health insurance funds, and health care offered to our nation's veterans via the VA (and CHAMPUS or TRICARE) are just a few in addition to Medicare. Despite the success of these programs, there remains a great deal of skepticism surrounding health care reform and what reform might cost this country.

An op-ed in today's Idaho State Journal poses a question that is on the minds of millions of Americans--Is health care reform really going to happen? Leonard Hitchcock writes:
As complicated as the health care debate is, people seem to agree on the following facts: the per capita cost of health care in the U.S. is over two times what it is in other advanced countries and yet Americans do not enjoy better quality care.

Millions of Americans cannot afford the insurance premiums necessary to provide health care for themselves; businesses, both small and large (e.g. General Motors), have been crippled by the cost of employee health plans; drugs are more expensive in the U.S. than elsewhere; and private health insurance firms charge high premiums and deny coverage to their clients whenever possible.
It is true, many employers cannot afford insurance for their employees and those who are not offered benefits from their employer often cannot afford insurance on their own. Generally, if we can't afford something we go without. This is the case with millions of Americans who are uninsured. The problem with health care in this country isn't limited to the large number of people without health insurance because of the cost; the problem envelopes groups of people who have been turned away regardless of their ability to pay due to pre-existing conditions, groups of people who are underinsured, and groups of people who simply cannot be responsible for their own health care as well as the associated costs (i.e. children, the disabled).

In the current issue of Newsweek, Senator Ted Kennedy lays out his history with health care and his belief that we are closer now to reform than we have been in his entire senatorial career. This may be his last political battle as a member of Congress and this is not one he feels this country can afford to lose. After discussing his own personal health battles, battles that include a broken back sustained in a plane crash and his current battle with brain cancer, Senator Kennedy reflects on the fairness (or lack thereof) of him receiving the treatment he needs and the reality of many Americans going without the same needed care:
But quality care shouldn't depend on your financial resources, or the type of job you have, or the medical condition you face. Every American should be able to get the same treatment that U.S. senators are entitled to.
Unfortunately, many members of Congress cannot see the problem with providing superb health care to the elite, political population in D.C. and denying adequate health care to the average citizen in rural America. Are members of Congress more deserving of coverage than you or I? Some would say yes, but the truth is the men and women who have been elected to Congress are more likely to be in a position where they could afford health insurance for themselves and their family if they weren't covered by the congressional plan.

Despite the idea being around for nearly a century, health care reform was first proposed by President Theodore Roosevelt, it seems at times that we are really close to reform and then at other times we seem millions of miles away. It certainly does not appear that any legislation offering health care reform will be immediately passed when Congress returns from their August "work" break. What exactly members of Congress will be doing over the August recess that will actually help average Americans remains unknown. Had they agreed to stay in the nation's capital for the month, surely they could have worked through the road blocks that have this legislation stalled.

Congressmen choosing to return to their home districts to meet with constituents to talk issues to death aren't going to solve anything. The Idaho delegation might as well skip the constituent talk all together--they seemed to be so considerate in their decision to vote against Judge Sotomayor, what could they possibly learn from constituents that they aren't currently learning from Fox News? Oh, wait, that would exclude the one "Democrat" wouldn't it? Hopefully Congressman Minnick has a better plan than simply holding these so-called economic summits. Even if these summits are about creating jobs, will those jobs come with health insurance? Hopefully Congressman Minnick won't be running from his constituents the way he recently ran from Mike Stark. Minnick doesn't need his constituents' opinions either, after all he did consult with Congressman Simpson and decided to vote against health care reform before any final language made it out of committee.

President Johnson was never the most vocal supporter of Medicare, but he saw a need and he set out to offer an effective solution. If he were alive today, on this the anniversary of him signing into law Medicare, he would be disgusted by an entire Congress throwing out talking points about Barack Obama's place of birth and the legality of abortion when there are millions of Americans who needed help months ago, not months from now.


Anonymous said...

I know you're probably getting tired of hearing this, but you are amazing and your writing is brilliant.


Tara A. Rowe said...

Thanks, Nemesis.