Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Clowns to the left of me and jokers to the right..."

I think most people, when asked straight up, would agree that everyone should have health care. Perhaps the one issue many who have health care with which they are satisfied could be more educated about is the common good, but no politician is going to do that because they're still running for student body president and promising a lunch period that's twice as long and to shorten the school year by two weeks.

It's time to move from ends to means. This means that we have to recognize that there is more than one way to achieve the desired end. Hence, it ceases to be about moral obligations and becomes about prudential judgment. Successful health care reform has to be bi-partisan, which means there has to be compromise. I'm tired of the ignorant lashing out by the right and the sanctimoniousness of the left. Therefore, I hope in his speech to the joint session of Congress the president doesn't preach a sermon, but talks about how we're going to get there and opens the way for meaningful debate on this important issue facing our country.

Writing in the opinion section of today's Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove, a man, who long-time readers know, I do not greatly admire, cited some statistics that I found very interesting. He did not indicate the sources of these numbers. However, if they are even remotely accurate, it makes what the Administration is proposing seem like overkill: "Nearly nine out of 10 Americans say they have coverage—and large majorities of them are happy with it. Of the 46 million uninsured, 9.7 million are not U.S. citizens; 17.6 million have annual incomes of more than $50,000; and 14 million already qualify for Medicaid or other programs. That leaves less than five million people truly uncovered out of a population of 307 million. Americans don't believe this problem—serious but correctable—justifies the radical shift Mr. Obama offers."

I agree with the position of the U.S. Bishops that immigrants should also have access to health care. Fifteen million people without access to health care is a problem. Of course, this brings comprehensive immigration reform back to the fore. It's time to move from generalities and slogans to public policy.

Any meaningful reform has to deal with rising cost of health care in a significant way and slow growth in cost. Throwing another trillion dollars at the problem won't resolve it. We already spend more per capita on health care than any other country. We should be able to achieve universal coverage at what are currently spending. Back in the '90s when House Republicans wanted to limit growth in Medicaid and Medicare to around 6% a year, which was about double inflation at the time, they were accused of cutting health spending!

In addition to other concerns and all discussions about death panels aside, there is plenty to be concerned about in the proposed legislation with regard to abortion. As with some methods of extracting embryonic stem cells, ends do not justify means. I appreciate very much what Cardinal O'Malley wrote in his much-admired post, about the opportunity he had to speak with President Obama at Sen. Kennedy's funeral, sharing with him "that the bishops of the Catholic Church are anxious to support a plan for universal health care, but we will not support a plan that will include a provision for abortion or could open the way to abortions in the future." His Eminence reports that President Obama "was gracious in the short time we spoke, he listened intently to what I was saying."


  1. Scott, I largely agree with you here. Nice, pragmatic, analysis of the issues you confront. As for immigrants' access to health care, indeed! But certainly you are not suggesting immigrants should be allowed *uncompensated* access, are you?! This is the sticking point I have with most leftist interlocutors ... the reason that health care should be "free" (that is, that it should be paid for by tax payers) and that any one on American soil ought to be serviced by that system (that is, that tax payers should fund the health care of any one who crosses the border and shows up at a hospital or clinic). That's absurd, both morally and financially.

  2. No, even the bishops in their proposal acknowledge the need for everyone to pay in. This means immigration reform. Again, if Rove's numbers are accurate, roughly a quarter of the uninsured are immigrants.