Home > Political > The Bill: To kill or not to kill?

The Bill: To kill or not to kill?

December 29th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

With any luck, this will be my shortest political entry ever. I’m not going to waste any time analyzing the ins and outs of the senate health care bill that was passed a few days ago, but merely make the case that I’ve been making in comments to other online pieces I’ve read about the issue.

My first reaction when the public option and subsequent Medicare buy-in compromise were dropped from the legislation was to join those justifiably enraged progressive activists in their calls to kill the bill. I’ve been saying all year that health care reform with no public option is not reform at all. So if they’re going to drop that from the bill, I say kill it and start over through a process of reconciliation whereby you’d only need 51 votes to move things through the senate, thus depriving Joe “I-take-joy-in-the-suffering-of-others” Lieberman of the obscene amount of power that the present circumstances have given him.

But after hearing enough arguments to the contrary, as emotionally satisfying as the call to kill the bill may be, I just can’t escape the logic that anything, even this pile-of-shit legislation, is better than the status quo. At least…it would be if it weren’t for one little thing: the individual mandate.

Now, I’m not opposed to the concept of a mandate to buy health insurance. It’s a sensible policy—when the uninsured get sick and have to use emergency room services, everyone ends up footing the bill. Requiring everyone to buy insurance makes sense in terms of basic economic fairness—at least in principle.

However, without a public option to compete with private insurers, there is another principle involved: that of basic right and wrong. I always hesitate to use the word “evil” because of its religious connotations, but I don’t think twice about attaching that label to private health insurance companies. As I’ve written before, they make their profits by literally letting people die. Their essential purpose is to provide people with the peace of mind that a disastrous injury or illness won’t bankrupt them—but they don’t even really do that. When a person gets sick, they try to find any excuse not to pay. That’s just the nature of the profit-motive when it comes to health care. The less health care they actually pay for, the more money they keep for themselves.

A not-for-profit, government-run insurance program, on the other hand, exists solely for the benefit of those it insures, not for the shareholders on Wall Street. If there was such a public option that was available to everyone, I’d have no qualms about imposing a mandate on individuals to buy insurance. Those of us who consider private health insurance companies to be morally reprehensible would be able to buy insurance from a non-profit provider.

But actually forcing people to buy a product from a company they consider evil is just too offensive to my conscience to allow me to support this bill. I would personally rather go uninsured and risk sickness and death than fork over any amount of my income to the health insurance mafia. The idea that the government is going to fine me for following my conscience is disgusting. It’s like throwing conscientious objectors in prison because they refuse to go to war and kill people for a cause they don’t believe in. It should not be the business of government to punish people for following their own moral convictions.

Of course, most people aren’t thinking about this in terms of morality. In fact, the entire health care debate has been fought almost exclusively in the language of cost controls and affordability (which is one of the main reasons we’ve ended up with such a pitiful final product). The problem that most people have with individual mandates is that it will impose a crushing financial burden on already over-burdened members of the middle-class. And this is a strong argument against them too. Forcing families to choose between paying for insurance they can’t afford (even with government subsidies, many wouldn’t be able to) or paying a fine to the government is obscene.

The private health insurance industry loves this bill. It’s millions of new customers gift-wrapped and hand-delivered to them for financial abuse. Individual mandates with no choice of a public option further entrenches this broken and morally bankrupt health care system we have in the United States, making it less likely that things will change in the future. If the final bill looks like the current senate bill, we will have rewarded the insurance companies for their bad behavior, allowing them to continue it in perpetuity. Just as the bailouts rewarded the bad behavior of bankers who caused the financial crisis by ensuring that no matter what they did, taxpayers would be there to save them.

I’m sick and tired of rewarding the bad behavior of giant corporations. If I were a senator, I’d draw a line in the sand and say that I would stand with the republicans and filibuster any final bill that included an individual mandate with no public option. Either insert a public option or remove the individual mandate, but I won’t accept the one without the other.

Yes, millions would be helped in the short-term by the reforms that remain in the bill. But over the long-term, keeping the private health insurance mafia firmly in place will only lead to more suffering, more people condemned to death at the alter of Profit.

If they insist on an individual mandate with no public option, I say kill the bill. That doesn’t mean we just accept the status quo—we can make it illegal to exclude people for pre-existing conditions and impose other such desperately needed reforms in separate legislation—but it means that we won’t accept a compromise that forces us to compromise our basic moral values. My moral sense says that the profit-motive has no place when it comes to matters of life and death. The senate bill would ensure that profit remains at the core of our health care system, and that’s why I believe we can’t accept it.

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.