Steve Olsen argues the U.S. can find a health care reform solution
There's been so much said the last few months on the health care debate, what else could one person add? However, here are a few thoughts I haven't heard from anyone else.
First, a simple question for Congressman Rob Bishop: If Republican ideas for health insurance reform are so great, how come they weren't enacted when you guys were driving the bus? Republicans controlled Congress from 1994 to 2006, and controlled both the White House and Congress during most of the last decade. Where were these great ideas back when you were in power? Let me remind you how things work: The American people gave Democrats the White House and Congress in the last election. That means Republicans get to follow, not lead, on health insurance reform. Kudos to Sen. Robert Bennett, who at great political risk is working with Oregon's Sen. Ron Wyden and others to make a difference. Raspberries to Congressman Bishop and most other Republicans, who by insisting they won't participate unless they get to be in charge have rendered themselves irrelevant. And Congressman Bishop -- we need you to not be irrelevant.
My second comment is about the arguments I've heard from conservatives on their health insurance reform ideas. There has been one little thing lacking: Where is the evidence? There are around 40 free-market, industrialized democracies in the world that have some sort of modern health care system. If the "get government out of health care," "everyone for himself" model is so superior, surely at least a few of these nations would have implemented it and can demonstrate how wonderfully it works?
It should tell us something that the two major countries to undergo health care reform the last decade, Switzerland and Taiwan, adopted the German and Canadian models respectively.
If the conservatives have no evidence, what arguments do they offer? Quite simply, political ideology. Their entire argument boils down to this: Our ideology tells us our way is the right way. We are asked to have religious-like faith that their ideology is the only correct and "American" way to administer health care. Anything else is "socialism".
Sorry. I'm an engineer, and I limit my religious-like faith to religion. Political ideology, no matter how devoutly held, falls into the "philosophies of men" category.
To those who hold the belief that studying other nations for ideas s unAmerican, I would remind that America's skill at plagiarizing ideas from other countries is one of the things that make us great. Whether it is Mexican food, reality TV, or the interstate highway system, we routinely borrow ideas from others and make them better.
Not only that, there are good reform models right here in America. As I listen to the arguments about the evils of "Obamacare," I wonder: Who are these guys listening to? I'm not hearing any of this stuff from the president. (I admit I'm probably at a disadvantage because I'm actually listening to the president rather than Glenn Beck's interpretation of what he says.) You want my interpretation? Obama is saying, "I want to reform the market to allow America to have health care like Utah." Anyone who listened to his speech last Wednesday heard him cite our state as an example of health care done right. He constantly talks about how Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic and Intermountain Healthcare (all not-for-profit private entities) have come up with fixes for the perverse incentives created by the traditional pay-for-service model and created significant improvements in quality and cost.
Researchers with the Dartmouth Atlas project have estimated that if all 50 states treated Medicare patients for the same cost Intermountain Healthcare does, Medicare's future funding problem would largely be solved.
It's well documented our nation is headed for bankruptcy if we don't bend the cost curve on health care. But we also need to answer a moral question. Nikki White was diagnosed with lupus about the time she graduated from college. Because of this "pre-existing condition," Nikki was unable to get health insurance. As a result, she died at the age of 32 of a disease that with treatment would have allowed her to live a normal life.
Here's the question: Does America believe we should let Nikki and thousands like her die every year from the capricious way we ration health care in this country, because our political ideology forbids us from helping them? Today, America's collective answer to that question is, unfortunately: Yes. Let Nikki die.
I hope one of the outcomes of the health care debate is that we change our minds on that question.
Olsen, who lives in Plain City, is the chairman of the Weber County Democrats.