Health Care reform, which is as much about insurance reform as health care reform, is facing the hard choice now, specifically, how to pay for it. This is also where scare tactics from those with vested interests in the status quo begin to work like acid, eating away at the moral imperative for reform. But, we should at least demand basic logic from all the participants.
Conservatives, mostly Republicans but some Blue Dog Democrats as well are opposed to or at least squeamish about having a federal option in the reform. The primary argument for the federal plan is not financial but specifically moral. Why should not citizens be entitled to the exact same coverage their elected representatives in Congress have? The person making the choice here is the consumer, not the government, so this is hardly an infringement of personal freedom.
Ah, but we are warned that the federal option, being free from the need to turn a profit, will undersell private insurance companies and drive them out of business. Well, would these conservatives rather have expensive private insurance or cheaper federal insurance? You can’t have it both ways. And, if they grant that the federal option is cheaper, they seem a bit hypocritical in complaining about the costs of reform.
The Senate is working on having cooperatives administer the federal option, with more local control. This is inherently appealing whether or not it saves money because it helps put the issue of health care spending in a proper moral context. It is difficult to get worked up about billions and trillions of dollars in D.C. but it is easier to grasp the local hospital’s needs, to see those needs not only as a financial burden but as a moral one, more akin to feeding your children than to paying more in taxes. In my hometown in Connecticut, the legislative and executive authority of the town is still vested in the town meeting. I do not remember a debate about the costs of a new ambulance or a new fire truck. Why? Because we all knew someone who had recently been helped by our magnificent ambulance corps or fire company. There was nothing abstract about it. If administering the federal option through local cooperatives, especially in rural areas where costs can run highest, can help people feel connected with their health care system, all the better. If it saves money, better still.
Later this morning, a group of religious leaders is having a prayer rally on the steps of the Capitol to push for reform. The rally will be followed up with prayer vigils in the home districts of key, swing congressmen during the August recess. This is a time to call your representatives and senators and urge them to vote for universal health insurance. And, if your congressman is a Blue Dog, tell them while we support compromises on any and all aspects of the funding mechanisms, we cannot compromise on vitiating the Hyde Amendment that restricts the use of federal funds for abortion. This is a time for citizens to be engaged, not just the lobbyists for the insurance companies. Make a call. Attend a prayer vigil. Get involved.