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Health Insurance Tea Party March 2, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in football, health care, politics.
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I managed to watch about 30 minutes of the health care summit yesterday. Along with 30 minutes of Hardball. I don’t know about you, but I love Chris Matthews and was disappointed when he decided not to run for congress two years ago. Actually, it’s just as well. He’s much more effective and influential in his current position. Keith Olberman should run for congress instead. If Keith were elected, I would actually C-SPAN.

One way or the other, two things kept coming to me as I was watching. First, I thought that this is what tea party would be like if there were no guns and Barack Obama were emceeing. Second, I thought that this–like “health care” reform, the “health care” bill, and any number of other “health care” things–should have been called the “health insurance” summit. I find it amazing that we have essentially completely entangled health care with health insurance to the point where it’s actually impossible to talk about health care itself or at least to talk about it for more than 45 seconds before turning to health insurance. The only actual health care initiative we have from any branch of government is Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” childhood obesity task force. That’s it. Everything else we hear is about insurance industry regulation. Public option. Insurance pooling for small businesses. Mandated coverage in exchange for pre-existing condition exemptions. Competition across state lines. This is happening because the health insurance industry has become the center of the health care industry. And it’s a uniquely broken situation. The auto insurance industry is not at the center of the auto industry. Last year, when GM was getting bailed out, and last week when Akio Toyoda was genuflecting in the Senate, GEICO representatives (the caveman, the gecko, and the stack of money with eyes, by the way, how many different ad campaigns and different pitchmen can a single auto insurance company have?) were nowhere to be seen. And yet when the subject is healthcare, the insurance associations loom much larger than the AMA. This is the problem that needs to be fixed. Yes, health insurance as it stands is not equitable with millions of people uninsured and millions more underinsured with the result being additional suffering for some and additional cost for all. And yes, equity needs to be restored. But regulating the insurance industry is not the way to do that. The right way to do it is to remove health insurance from as much of the equation as possible and to finance most health care via other means. A very convincing explanation of this is in “How American Health Care Killed My Father” by David Goldhill. Here is a short version printed in the Atlantic Monthly. Listening first to Obama go back and forth with McCain and Lamar Alexander and then to Chris Matthews and his guests I kept wondering whether any of them had actually read this piece. I know that a shift like the one Goldhill describes is going to be extremely disruptive, but I don’t even hear from anyone that something like his proposed solution–with mutual insurance for catastrophic or chronic expensive conditions and vouchers and out-of-pocket payments for routine care and medications–is a model that we should strive to move towards. Gradually if need be. It’s as if the agenda for the summit was set by the insurance lobby because, if you look at it, buried in the question “how do we fix health insurance” is the assumption that health insurance as a concept should be fixed rather than killed off or drastically reduced in scope. Very disturbing.

But not nearly as disturbing as the “tea party” aspect of the summit and the health care debate in general. I don’t have a completely rosy view of Obama’s health insurance proposal. By retaining the status quo comprehensive health insurance model, it fails to directly address the problem of health care costs, focusing instead on the less important problem of health insurance cost and equity. But it will improve the current situation. Universal health coverage is the right thing to do anyways, but it’s especially critical now with so many people losing their coverage along with their job. The strange thing about the Obama plan is that it is quite similar to the plan McCain detailed during the 2008 campaign. There are many Republican elements in this plan! And yet, emboldened by the Massachusetts debacle that broke the Democrats’ 60 vote Senate majority and recent announcements by Evan Bayh and several other Democrats that they will not seek re-election, the GOP has decided that its best political course of action is to torpedo the entire national agenda until the 2010 mid-term elections, wait for anti-Democrat/anti-bailout backlash to hand control of congress back to them, and then reintroduce the same agenda plus pork at a time when they can take political credit for it. That’s actually worse than “Tea Bag” non-politics–I’m against everything the current establishment is for. It’s “Scum Bag” politics–I’m for most of the things you are for but I want to be the one to take credit for them. Republicans, your chance to take credit for health insurance reform was 2000-2008. You didn’t move on it then, why do you want to take credit for it now?

P.S. I sat on this draft for a few days, that’s why it is dated March 2.

P.P.S. As a football fan, I can get into pretty much anything football. But one thing I find patently ridiculous is the week-long pre-draft combine currently being held in Indianapolis. The combine is when NFL prospects are measured, interviewed, and evaluated on a battery of physical drills like shuttle-run, three-cone, bench-press, 40-yard dash, broad jump, vertical-leap and one infamous mental drill, the Wonderlic (the test that Vince Young got a 6 out of 50 on and my cat got an 8). I understand the need for personal interviews (you don’t want to draft and invest in a total inveterate), for medical checkups, and maybe for the Wonderlic, but what is the point of the rest of it? Isn’t there enough game tape by which to evaluate potential draftees? And isn’t actual performance on a football field a better indicator of success than broad jump and cone drill?

P.P.P.S. I love P.P.S. I will be shattered if I find out that I am not using it correctly.

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