Obama Drama: Health Care Reform

September 13, 2009

Health Care Reform? What the? Not living in the States but caring about family, friends and others who do live there makes things tricky sometimes. I try and keep up to date on relevant current events as much as possible, especially ones of the political nature, but because I am not in America, I tend to not always know everything that is going on over there. There is an upside to that however, because I see how people who are living “in it” (“it” being whatever the topic, controversy, scandal, etc. of the day may be), get so caught up in all the emotion, opinion, and hearsay that an objective view on the matter is more difficult to have.

I have recently seen this in my online interactions around the topic of President Obama’s crack at Health Care Reform. I have seen many emotional Facebook statuses, groups, blogs, Youtube videos, and comments under all of these things about the topic; government takeover, socialism, “why do we have to pay for them”, Obama is a socialist puppet, Obama is the health insurance companies’ puppet, we need to get back to capitalism, Obama is just like Hitler, Obama is a liar, emotion, opinion, emotion.

In a country where people are allowed freedom of belief, opinion and expression, it is literally impossible to please everyone! I get that. But sometimes when I see a frenzy like the Health Care Reform noise, I wonder if people even bother getting the full information about the topic they are ranting and raving about, before they begin their rants. Forget “full information”, sometimes I wonder if some people get any information about the topic. I saw a comment on a Youtube video where a guy called President Obama a “socialist puppet to the health insurance companies”. This guy obviously does not realize that a “socialist puppet” would be in direct opposition to meeting the demands of big business.

I went online and read into the topic a bit. I also watched the video of President Obama’s speech on Health Care Reform, twice. And after watching the video I really do not understand what people are still so worked up about. Maybe I am not understanding what he is proposing in fullness and I am open to correction, but in what I understood from his speech, he is indeed trying to reform the American health care system so every American benefits from it, but what he is suggesting is not totally radical change. What I did see is he is asking people to stop spreading fear, specifically and especially those opposing him, and be willing to sit down at the table together and really work on this. He said,

“But what we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government. Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned. Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care.”

He then spoke on the actual plan, which he admitted “still needs ironing out”. President Obama said that he sees the Left wanting complete socialized health care like Canada, and the Right wanting every-man-for-himself with individuals paying for private insurance. He said that he can see positive arguments for both but he feels that neither approach alone will successfully work for America. Obama sees the need to find middle ground. He said, “Since health care represents 1/6th of our economy, I believe it makes more since to build on what works and fix what doesn’t, rather than try and build an entirely new system from scratch.”

Because honestly, the American health care system is a bit of a mess; “a bit” being an understatement. Sure, there are people who cannot even afford health insurance, but they are actually in the minority. A big problem is people who are insured are getting robbed by the insurance companies because they are not being covered in the way they should due to the greedy, profit driven, red tape ridden agenda of the insurance companies. From what I understood from Obama’s speech he does not intend for a complete government takeover with health care, and tax payers will not be paying other people’s medical expenses. Here is what I understood from his speech:

  • People who are on a health insurance plan that they are happy with are free to stay.
    • Within that there will be more regulations on insurance companies to make sure they: are not denying people of service due to previous illnesses, dropping people in the time of need, and even covering preventative check ups like colonoscopies and mammograms; all of these things in protection of the consumer of health insurance and not the companies.
    • He also wants to put measures in place to make sure that big insurance companies do not take advantage of small businesses and individuals.
  • For the people who are not covered by their employment or cannot afford private health insurance, Obama proposes to offer tax coupons to health insurance companies who offer a more affordable option. This will benefit both the companies and the consumers.
  • And for the people who still cannot afford a health care option, Obama proposes a public option. This is the option that people are freaking out about because they think their tax money will be paying for other people’s health care. But President Obama explained that this is not the case. The public option is also an alternative that the insurance companies are frantically fighting. But Obama explained how it would work:
    • This system will take four years to set up.
    • It will be funded not by money from tax payers, but the public health insurance option will eventually be self sustainable. How? From the actual premiums people pay. Much of the money consumers pay for private insurance goes to profits and the public option is a “not for profit” alternative, meaning consumers get what they pay for and no profit is made.
    • To oppose the fear of the insurance companies Obama explained that Americans who are in need of such a service only fall within 5% of the population, and he compared the system to public tertiary education institutions. Public colleges and universities are there for people who cannot afford private ones, but are in no way a threat to the bigger private colleges and universities. Obama believes it will also create an even more competitive market.
  • He also suggested a polishing and protection of Medicare for the seniors.

When I look at this I do not see a socialist government takeover and I also do not see a total surrender to big business and powerful insurance companies. Also keeping in mind that President Obama did not create these problems he is trying to fix, it seems the easy thing for him to do would be to just leave it for the next guy. In his speech he said that “now is the time” and he refused to back down form the challenge. His plan is not perfect, but to me it looks like an attempt to try and work at a flawed system, protect the consumer, make the market more competitive but better regulated, and insure that each and every American can receive the health care they need, when they need it most. Maybe I am missing something here. Watch the speech for yourself. I would love to hear your comments.