Yes and no

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Posted by CB on January 11, 2009 at 01:06:49

In Reply to: Re: Question posted by reader on January 10, 2009 at 12:10:10:

"As for Daschle and his team: The stats will usually reflect ones political beliefs."

Yes, that is true. Politicians conflate numbers to serve their ideology. Something a little different is going on with Daschle and his team, though. We've come a long way since Hillary Clinton testified before the Senate in 1992. SHE definitely used political numbers, in large part, to support a radical overhaul into a single-payer system.

In the 17 years since then, all kinds of people have worked on analyzing the system of care and the financing structures that make it work--or mostly, prevent it from working in the best interests of the public. This is the case where people who have a stake in improving health care have come up with a lot of good ideas, so that when we make the necessary changes in the midst of our current state crisis, we have a clue as to the likely outcomes. A lot of people smarter than I am have done their homework, and Daschle listened to them.

A fundamental difference between the Democratic plan and the Republican is that the D-plan has taken resource allocation and service delivery into account. The R-plan did not. The R-plan is based on supply-side economics, which means it assumes health care is a commodity like any other. I have a problem with that assumption, and my problem is based on a moral objection to the notion that wellness and healing should be capitalized solely as a for-profit enterprise.

"Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give." (Matt. 10:8)

Now, I am a hard-headed pragmatist, and I don't think we can run a modern health care system out of the church pantry, nor do I think we need the heavy hand of a secular government controlling everything from the top down. The Daschle plan, as I understand it, tries to balance private and public interests. So no, I don't think his simple statistics are solely a reflection of political beliefs. I think the Daschle numbers are probably more objective than that.

I analyze state-level health care access and coverage data as part of my job. The numbers were grim when I worked for the R's. I reported my numbers to the powers that be, and they pretty much ignored them for the last 8 years. That's how our system works. The R's have their own agenda, and developing a coherent, rational set of strategies for health care financing and service delivery reform are not at the top of their list.

With regard to the particular R's in my state who ignored health care access issues, they were more interested in lining their pockets than serving the people. Several of them went to prison. The R's don't have a corner on the corruption market, but this last group who were in power are among the worst I can remember in a very, very long time. A comparable D who's in the news right now is Rod Blagojevich. God, I hope the Illinois legislature can remove that bastard from office.

Partisan politics aside, the biggest problem with our current system is that for the middle class, coverage is employer based. Because of problems with the structure of service delivery system, health care costs are on a steady inflationary spiral. Employers are forced to either cut back on what the insurance plan will pay for or they provide no coverage. In an economic downturn, large numbers of people are unemployed and must pay huge amounts out of pocket for private coverage--because there is no employer contribution to the total cost.

In the current economic crisis, employers can no longer bear the burden of subsidizing a health care benefit AND create jobs that provide a living wage for middle-class families. It's just that simple.

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