Washington's Health Care Debate Get's Unhealthy
Our story is not unique.
I’ve recently had many conversations with my parents about the House vote to repeal the health care bill. My mother wanted to know what it meant for people like her. She has been sick for my entire life, and undergoes at least one, if not several surgeries a year. She beat breast cancer when I was in high school but now lives with lupus, a disease that at one point demanded around 20 different medications, and suffers from related complications and severe arthritis. We’ve already been through the nerve-racking experience of switching health insurance at least four times. I’ve seen my father battle with insurance representatives numerous times for denying my mother coverage for her medication and procedures when she needed them most.
The reason why the opinions of the health care bill are heated on either side of the issue is because illness is a common denominator for many families. Unfortunately, in Washington the argument rarely centers on anything related to health.
The vote’s power to infuriate stems from the fact that it’s actually symbolic. Harry Reid, the Democratic majority Senate leader, will not bring it to the floor and, even if he did, Obama would be able to veto a decision. The vote to repeal looks more like a preview of what’s to come if a member of the “Party of No” is elected president in 2012. The Republicans are flexing their muscles. From what I can parse out, the chief objection to the bill is that it’s a “job killer,” a title backed by a disputed claim that it will cause a job loss for 650,000 people and that it is increasing the deficit. Conversely, Democrats say that it will create jobs and that repealing it will add $200 billion to the deficit.
These topics are not what we should be concerned about. When the health care bill passed, I was ecstatic to see the particulars spelled out in layman’s terms in various publications. The bill did not have that promise of a trickle-down feeling where changes are made up above and out of sight. It’s very clear that, by 2014, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Rescission, or denying coverage when a person gets sick, is no longer allowed. Lifetime caps on coverage have been stopped and annual caps will be changed. These changes, among others, like my extended coverage under my parents insurance until I’m 26, directly benefit my family.
The Associated Press reported Republican Steve King of Iowa as saying, “I do not believe that you can leave any of Obamacare in the law. To pick and choose would start endless squabbles. If there are components of Obamacare that have merit, they can be reintroduced as part of a replacement process.”
On January 20, the day after the vote, the New York Times reported that the Republicans “directed four committees to draft legislation that would replace the health care law.” If the repeal is in the interest of the nation, a claim that reeks of that “silent majority” shtick, wouldn’t it be even more beneficial to have an alternative plan already fleshed out — perhaps one that matches the specificity of its predecessor?
Apparently not. The Times further reported that although Republicans listed items like coverage for pre-existing conditions and lowering premiums as “objectives,” they “did not say how they would achieve those goals, but made clear that they did not want to impose detailed federal requirements on individuals, families, employers or states.”
Details. This is what has allowed a dialogue over health care to grow. Republicans have been able to disagree because there are specific terms to disagree with — a convenience they are not offering. They are both reluctant towards “detailed” requirements for the private sector and unwilling, or unable, to present detailed improvements. Vague ideas for health care improvement leave people like my family and myself at risk not only health wise, but mentally as well. There’s only so much red tape a person can handle. Perhaps this could change in time, but for now it looks like any idea for a new health care system is significantly less important than getting the current one axed.
Such a move will establish a petri dish for crooked insurance companies. They will have much more time to screw people over and devise new ways to do so. Repeal and replace can only work if we have both parts. If the Republicans plan for us to perform a trapeze act without a safety net, how can they expect to be made the ringleaders?