Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Care Reform

I've been waiting with bated breath to see if the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act would be passed by Congress. It has, and now I won't hold my breath to see how well it is implemented. Actually, it seems to have played into the insurance industry's hands, requiring everybody to buy insurance even though there are no caps on premiums and no national market for insurance that I know of. It does support consumers from some of the abuses foisted upon them by insurance companies in the past. Now I'm really afraid that the disloyal opposition, as the right-wing has become, will begin a last-ditch, state-by-state fight against the Act, or even win next years elections and try to repeal it. One step forward, three steps back.

In the meantime, even though the tea party put up a smokescreen of mass opposition, as time goes on (if things don't change) less and less people will find themselves in a good position with medical coverage, because of the arbitrary association of health care with jobs. Moreover, health insurance companies don't compete with each other nationally like car insurance companies do (I've seldom heard complaints about mandating that!), so there isn't a real market. Moreover, the supply side of health care providers and pharmaceutical companies do not compete on an even playing field, so costs for insurance providers and individual "consumers" are not controlled by any market forces (besides what large-scale employers and insurance groups are able to negotiate through weight of numbers).

I'm not the expert on this issue by any means, but I've personally been hit hard by health care bills despite having supposedly "comprehensive insurance" as a student. So I feel very strongly that something must be done: either create a system of real market competition where patients can select the best value for their money from both insurance plans and health care providers, or socialize everything.

I might add that abortion has been used as a foil to get Christians to oppose reform. But if the reforms fail, abortion will still exist. If on the other hand reform succeeds, it will enable poor people to better get the care they need. You can organize all the Church-led charity and service programs that you want (and you should!) but without large-scale reforms led by the State, inequity in health care will continue to be just another hedge keeping white-collar middle class society insulated from the impoverished masses.

Moreover, I fear that without real reforms, with a shrinking middle class we will eventually have a REAL social and political revolution: the worst fears of tea-baggers will come true.