Reform in Critical Condition
I would like to take this opportunity to respond to a number of criticisms leveled against my column of two weeks ago, "Health care reform in dire condition," in letters to The Daily Targum by some of our readers. Noah Glyn of the University's College Republicans, in his column "Leftists demonize insurance companies, make dubious claims" says he has "found faults and fallacies in nearly all" of my arguments. First, Glyn selectively quotes my column so as to make it seem as if I had claimed that all conservatives are against any type of health care reform whatsoever. Obviously, this is not the case, and I would never suggest such a thing, as numerous Republicans (including California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; and Tommy Thompson, former Health and Human Services Secretary under President George W. Bush's administration) have publicly proclaimed a need for reform. What I wrote is that "many on the right have insisted that any reform is unnecessary or unwanted." I was not referring to all conservatives, not even most conservatives, just many of them. Perhaps Glyn should re-take "Expository Writing" and work on his reading interpretation skills.
Of course there are some on the right who admit our current system's failings and our need to reform it, but there are others who adamantly refuse to do so. If Glyn wishes to deny this assertion, he may as well deny that the sun is a star. Consider the following, courtesy of MediaMatters.org: "Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity — who each reportedly make more than $20 million per year — have downplayed the struggles of those lacking adequate health care, asserted that ‘there isn't a health care crisis,' or characterized the United States as having ‘the best health care system in the world.'" While it is true that Limbaugh, Beck and Hannity are not involved with the Republicans in any official capacity, they command more trust and respect from the conservative base than practically any of the party's actual leaders — this is especially true of Michael Steele, the GOP's embarrassingly ineffectual chairman.
Next, Glyn takes issue with my assertion that the health care industry should not simply be left to the workings of the market, opining, "the column turns the insurance companies into the boogey-men … who will deny care to grandma if it means making an extra buck." Frankly, the insurance companies do not need my help to be viewed in such a way — their actions speak louder than my words ever could. As for-profit entities, private insurers seek to deny as many claims as they can and to avoid giving coverage to those individuals who are most likely to need it. That is, private insurers do everything in their power to get away with providing for as little actual health care as possible. Finally, Glyn vehemently denies the fact that a sizeable majority of Americans are, indeed, in favor of the creation of a public option, which he calls "tyrannical" and equates with a "government takeover of the health insurance market." A Sept. 25 New York Times/CBS News poll asked Americans, "Would you favor or oppose the government offering everyone a government-administered health insurance plan like Medicare that would compete with private health insurance plans?" and found that 65 percent would favor such a plan while only 26 percent would oppose it. In other words, more than twice as many Americans support the creation of a public option as oppose it. Glyn concludes by advising his readers and yours truly to "calm down … go to your doctor and take a chill pill. I think your insurance plan will cover it." His words betray an appalling insensitivity to the plight of tens of millions of uninsured Americans.
A second letter, "Health care reform not in critical condition," makes many of the same critiques as the first, asserting that I have "distorted and manipulated the facts to mislead [readers]." The author insouciantly dismisses the fact that 45,000 Americans die each year due to a lack of access to health insurance by stating that a comparable number of children die every three days from starvation. "If the author is really concerned about needless deaths," he writes, "I would recommend joining World Vision instead of the rank-and-file of the Democratic Party." While all of us would certainly agree that these deaths are regrettable, I simply fail to see the relevance of this particular statistic to a debate about domestic health care policy. A circumstance does not simply become less horrific or untenable simply because we can think of others which are arguably worse. The author concludes hit letter by stating, "The debate is not which party has more humane members, it's about which plan is best: increasing competition or ending it," a characterization of the health care debate with which I must staunchly disagree. The creation of a public option will not "end competition" or lead to "a government takeover of health care" – it will, in fact, increase competition and force private companies to operate with some concern for the well being of their clients, not merely their profit margins. For the sake of analogy, just because there is a U.S. postal service does not mean you cannot send your grandmother a birthday present via FedEx or DHL. These entities (one of them government-run) compete with one another to offer consumers the best possible products at the lowest possible prices. As we have seen, fundamental change in the health care industry is a necessity. The creation of a public option is the best way to make sure that no American is left without insurance and that those who are covered do not suffer dehumanization at the hands of their providers.
Josh Baker is a Rutgers College senior majoring in sociology. He welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column, "Zeitgeist," runs on alternate Wednesdays. He is also a contributing writer for the Johnsonville Press.