A Way Forward for Health Care Reform

health careLike most of you, I’m not even close to being an expert on health care issues. Rather, I’m an observant voter and tax payer who cares about the direction of my country. I’m also a follower of Jesus, and that characteristic above all else shapes my views on the issues. But I have to admit, when it comes to health care, I’ve been perplexed about how to view current efforts to reform its quality and accessibility. On the one hand, I agree with the vast majority of Americans that there must be some kind of health care reform in order to create quaility, affordable options for all Americans, especially those who currently have no health care coverage. I also believe, along with most Americans, that both federal and state government have a role to play in making this happen.

Yet on the other hand, I haven’t been able to discern a clear direction forming on either of these fronts of the great health care debate. How do we create affordable, quality health care for every American? And what is the role of government in making this happen? No one solution seems to be emerging from all the fiery House and Senate negotiations. And of course, I haven’t even mentioned the real thorny issue: in the throws of economic recession, who’s going to foot the bill??

So, after giving all of this some thought, I’d like to offer several suggestions from my little island in the blogosphere. If you like them, spread them around. If you don’t like my suggestions, tell me and others what you would propose.  At the very least, we’d all walk away a little more informed and engaged in the issue of health care. That’s not such a bad thing, is it?
So here goes…

Chris Owens’ Health Care Reform Suggestion List for President Obama and Members of Congress

1) Government must be more of a facilitator, not merely an arbiter in creating health care reform. I appreciate all the efforts of the Obama administration and Congress in tackling this issue head on. Agree or not with their presumptions or conclusions, they are actively engaging an issue that affects every American. What concerns me, however, is a dangerous attitude which many Americans including myself perceive that somehow government knows best and will fix the problem. I believe that attitude is a big contributor to Obama and Congress taking political hits in the polls lately. People are scared! Why? Everyone knows that government is stretched too thinly into way too many things as it is. We roll our eyes all the time at governmental inefficiencies. (Don’t you just love your trips to MVA or DMV??) Are we to now believe that our government will suddenly, miraculously get it right with our health care?  Without degrading its quality and accessibility, will it all be as rosy as they say? We’ve got our share of serious reservations.

2) We can more realistically create solutions through public, regular, open dialogue between health care providers, health insurers, and government leaders. Of course, these conversations have been going on, but not as publicly (and probably not as regularly) as they need to be. As a citizen, I’ll feel a lot better about the decisions being made when I see that all the parties who hold sway over my health care are working together to create a solution. I know I’m not alone in believing that. Say what you will, but frankly I’m alarmed by what appears to be a handful of Washington elites– who may or may not be experts in health care!– making decisions that will affect the care of my family, especially for my son Jacob who has Down syndrome, a person who will need excellent, affordable care for the rest of his life. I would feel significantly better if I could see and understand a forward-moving dialogue process that creates shared solutions.

3) Slow down the decision making!! Another reason why our national leaders may be losing ground in the polls is that the American public sees a lot of haste in handling an extraordinarily complex, expensive issue. President Obama, I know that you want results without unhelpful stalling tactics. As a fellow leader, I understand. But concerning our nation’s health care, we’ve got to get this right or it will cost lives. So create and communicate some longer term benchmark goals for progress and hold Congress to it.

4) Knock off the anti-“big medicine” rhetoric. This ties in with my second suggestion. U. S. Representative and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi recently called insurance companies “immoral” and went on to say, “They are the villains. They have been part of the problem in a major way.” C’mon Nancy… You may have substantive grievances with insurance companies for turning people’s health care into private profit, but what do you expect to gain for America by turning yourself against the very agents with whom you’ll have to cooperate? Perhaps she hopes to punish her “big medicine” nemesis by taxing and regulating them into oblivion. But that will only create some acute pain for millions of people like me who hold insurance through companies like these. Those companies will invariably pass their tax costs along to us customers whose care will only be encumbered by additional government regulations. Unless Ms. Pelosi is prepared to offer a health plan comparable or better than the one I have and prove that it will be completely sustainable, she’s not helping matters.

5) Do not settle for any less than a broadly bipartisan solution to health care reform. In the past, major government initiatives like Social Security and Medicare came about through a long but fruitful bipartisan effort. Now we come to health care. Excellent, payable health care is something every American wants and needs. Why can’t Democrats and Republicans do what they always say they’re going to do: stop the finger pointing, sever their allegiances to special interests, and come together to create consensus? Do we have no statesmen and stateswomen left who can lead us though partisan bickering? If not, then I predict several things will happen. First, whatever is passed will only enjoy partisan support, lack the wisdom and insight of bipartisan thinking, and will therefore result in mediocre success.

Then, when we citizens see what a mess this mediocre solution creates for our health care, a lot of politicians from both sides of the aisle will be ousted in upcoming elections. Maybe then we’ll have the kind of leadership our country deserves.

That’s my 2-cents worth. I don’t know enough to offer specific policy points. I have no comment on any of the policies currently being proposed. I just want to see a better process in place for creating those policies. After all, our health depends on it!


Filed under Cultural Quakes, Politics

2 Responses to A Way Forward for Health Care Reform

  1. Dr. Tom Cocklereece

    Chris, you offer some very good thoughts about the healthcare issue. While I have been a pastor for 18 years, my previous career was in the medical fields. I was in clinical medicine as a paramedic, nurse, medical technologist, and finally healthcare administrator during a 23 year period. As a pastor, I have felt “right at home” counseling with families at the hospital. I am very familiar with the healthcare issues.
    Some refors are needed as you mentioned. The two greatest suggestions I have are: 1) GET THE POLITICS OUT OF THE HEALTHCARE FIX! This must not be a big goverment solution while government certainly must look over the shoulder of the healthcare industry. 2) It scares me when ONE party controls the decision of what happens to us–no matter which one. Some called the last few years when neither party had control of all three branches of government gridlock, but I called it BALANCE. 3) A big part of the reform should include torte reform. That is a major contributor of the rise of healthcare costs for the last 40 years.

  2. Jenny

    As a caseworker, I’m most often dealing with people on the short end of the stick in health care issues. As companies cut back, health insurance is an attractive place to make cuts. For many of my clients health care while employed is an impossible dream….a key problem I feel. Moreso, I should point out some more personal issues that have become salient for me:
    * I am still paying off over $10 k in copays on a health crisis from 2005 that was INSURED.
    * My ex’s insurance has incrementally contracted to the point that from my perspective, it is solely catastrophic insurance. Each of my girls has a $1000 deductable, which luckily is not generally met. My ex works for a smaller company, and each year despite increases in deducatables and premiums seems to foster more and more paperwork and less (wait – NO) actual payment. Soooooo, each visit is self pay, no medications are covered and a higher premium is payed. How does this work?
    * Clients who could work are forced to decide based on benefit eligability. Working and losing insurance can be a lose lose proposition if you or your family members have serious or ongoing health issues.
    These are but a few scenarios that point up the broken nature of this system to me. The fact that other countries manage it – yes with issues, but manage – undercuts the “big government” issue since I have the choice: a bureaurocrat involved or a CEO of an insurance company making $24.3 million or $12.2 million (Aetna’s Ron Williams and Cigna’s H. Edward Hanway respectively). In the end, who has the most to lose?

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