Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Health Care Reform: Surgery or Bandaid?

Well, they did it! The Democrats crammed it through Congress and are now crowing on Capital Hill. History has been made! Yes, history has been made as it always is made--by repeating the past. There have been other draconian victories, some have proven prophetic, setting patterns for the future and others have been more reflective--as in "comin' back to bite you in the butt!" Partisan Democrats are feeling decidedly triumphant, confident of having blazed trails into the fuure that will be trod by many generations, partisan Republicans are feeling strong-armed, sure that this will seal their victory in November, and moderates aren't real sure what's just happened.

Either way, I'm not convinced that the real issue has been addressed. The real issue, that which has caused the mess we're in is what Edmund Friedman termed, the failure of nerve. There is an ad on TV about a Honda place in Waco, TX who will sell you a "safe car with no recalls." Everything is about safety, and nothing is about personal responsibility. There comes a time when the option for safety at all costs runs afoul of that great American value, the foundation of our country, freedom. Freedom implies responsibility, which is the ability to make sound decisions for myself and those with whom I have influence. Safety may or may not be the "sound" course of action, especially in the short run. Perhaps great risk is needed.

This bill is billed as making all Americans "safe," by forcing us all into some sort or other of a health insurance policy. Like automobile insurance without the liability factor, we've opted for safety rather than responsibility. Responsibility would require that we reinfuse the vocation of physician with respect and honor that reserves malpractice suits to that which is truly malintentioned, and then require the physician to make house visits and do his or her best by us, and make themselves trustworthy once again. It would require that medical professionals return to the spirit of the Hippocratic oath, and charge enough to reflect their status, but not their vacations. It would require pharmaceutical companies to manufacture medicines and sell them for what they are worth, and not what insurance companies will pay for them. It would require that lawyers have the guts to look a fool in the eye and say, "I won't take that to court."

It would require the nerve of all Americans to take a hit to the chin now and again and stand up again with pride without trying to knock someone else down just because we hurt a bit, to hold out a helping hand to someone else who couldn't get up right away, and stop the madness of always trying to find someone else to blame for our stupidity.

I don't think that's in this bill, or in any of the alternatives that have bantered around Washington for the last 13 months. I don't think Congress has the nerve to do such a thing.