Tag Archives: health care reform

Another Health Care Post, In Which I Go Chuck Norris

434px-Chuck_Norris_croppedWhen Chuck Norris popped up in my search results while I was researching the health care reform bill, my first thought was “Who does he think he is?”, followed quickly by, “But then, who do I think I am?”

Norris has decided to uncover the dirty secrets of the health care reform bill on Townhall.com. The first dirty secret is about parenting.  Norris is outraged that the government would fund “home visitation programs for families with young children and families expecting children.”  He thinks this is equivalent to “the government’s coming into homes and usurping parental rights over child care and development.”

Oh, Chuck.  You’re making me read the actual bill again. Hang on.  Where the heck did I put that thing? It’s over 1000 pages long, you’d think I could find it around here.

Here we go. Subpart 3, Support for Quality Home Visitation Programs. Um, I just don’t see it, Chuck. They use the exact words “voluntary home visitation.” It doesn’t say anywhere that parents shall be required to participate. And even if parents do participate, and then they find that the home visitor’s ideas of parenting don’t line up with their own, they’re free to drop out of the program.

I know, because I’ve taken part in this type of program. Shortly after our first child was born, we were told that we could have a visiting nurse come to our home to check on the baby and answer any questions we might have.  As new parents, we thought that was a great idea. The nurse weighed and measured the baby, and gave us some advice on feeding and sleeping and preventing diaper rash. We didn’t agree with all of it. We took what was useful and left the rest.

We also participated in a weekly visitor program when our baby was a little older. Someone came out once a week to see how we were doing, and provide support in any way she could.  Mostly she was someone that we could talk to about our challenges, parental, financial, etc.  – like a mini counseling session. She even brought us free diapers and baby food a few times.  When we didn’t need this any more, we dropped out.

Now, I could see arguing that the government doesn’t need to fund this. Parental support can also be provided by extended family, churches, and non-profit organizations. That’s a reasonable argument. But Norris’s argument is that the government would be taking control of our parenting decisions.  He calls this voluntary home visitation program “Obamacare’s home intrusion and indoctrination family services, in which state agents prioritize houses to enter and enforce their universal values and principles upon the hearts and minds of families across America.”  And that’s just not in this bill.

Oh, you can argue that it could happen.  The government could use this legislation as an excuse to take things further.

But that’s a big maybe. I mean, I could decide to go out and kill someone right now. But I’m not going to.  And if I did, you’d do something about it, right? Just like, if the government did become truly dangerous, I think we’d do something about it.

Instead of a reasonable argument, Norris is using scare tactics, and that’s not cool.

What will you have for us next, Chuck?

Future Health Care

The current U.S. health care system isn’t working. The health care reform bill under consideration now might help, or it might be too little too late.

Many countries use a single-payer system, which sounds good. The government collects taxes. The government pays for health care. The people pay nothing (aside from the taxes) or minimal co-pays for health care.  Everyone is taken care of.

However, there’s strong resistance to single-payer health care in the U.S., and I would now question whether it’s financially feasible on a national level.

I think that at some point in the future, health care decisions won’t be made on a national level.  I think what will work is a community-based system.

There are some existing hints of what this might look like.

The Transition Towns movement includes health care as one of the topics communities need to address in the post-peak oil era. A look at plans developed by Totnes and Kinsale in the UK shows that they’ve thought a great deal about what health care will look like and what kind of health care will be needed, but less about how this will be paid for or otherwise made available to the community.

Christian Healthcare Ministries, which I’ve heard about from Jesus-following radical Shane Claiborne, is a medical cost-sharing nonprofit organization.  Members pay a monthly amount into the program, and after a 45-day waiting period, are eligible to submit medical bills to the organization for assistance with payments. Pre-existing conditions are excluded, however (which is one of the problems with our current health insurance system). Members have a “personal responsiblility” amount they must meet each year, similar to a deductible in a traditional health insurance plan. There’s also a $125,000 lifetime limit for cost-sharing.  Could this work on a local level? You might need a certain number of people involved to make it work.

The Mondragon Cooperative Corporation in Spain, in addition to operating its cooperative businesses and schools, provides health care for its members, independently of the state.  So, people pay to be members of the cooperative, and as part of their membership benefit, they get health care.  Sounds pretty good! Again, you might need a critical mass of people involved in order to make it work.

The Co-Op Village Foundation has created a model (they hope to build an actual village soon) for cooperative villages which would include medical care for all members.  You can download their free book, which details the entire plan, but here are the basics:

-A group catastrophic health policy would be purchased to cover those who do not have entitlement health coverage.
– The Village might contract with a local medical group for primary health care for self-insurance, with X percent of the fees paid for by the Village and the balance paid by the resident. Over a period of time, the full amount might be paid by the Village.
– A pre-existing medical condition clause may be required to protect the Village from being overburdened by current catastrophic conditions. This clause probably would be required by the insurance provider but might apply to the Village self- insurance as well.

The village would also maintain access to preventative care for members, preferably on-site.  But it sounds like their plan is mainly to pay health care costs for members, rather than maintain their own health-care facilities.

That might work for a while.  I think that at some point communities will probably need to be more self-sufficient and less reliant on outside sources for medical care.  I think we’ll probably need something closer to the cooperative system, in which everyone in the community would chip in (at a level appropriate to their income) to hire medical practitioners for that community.  But that might mean that some communities couldn’t offer much more than food and housing to medical practitioners, which could result in great inequities if the doctors prefer to go where they’ll be paid more.

None of these solutions is perfect, and our future is very much in motion. It will be interesting to see what unfolds.

Health Care Reform Myths

Health care is the topic in the U.S. government right now, thanks to President Barack Obama. Congress is doing the dirty work of writing up a health care reform bill, but Obama’s insisting that it be done by the end of August (because without a deadline, nothing in Washington gets done).

Government involvement in health care has been a hot-button issue in the U.S. for years — at least since Hillary Clinton tried to reform the system in the 1990’s, if not before.  Many people, especially online, become furious at the thought of government involvement in health care, or at the idea of not providing health care for all.

Part of the problem is myths and misunderstandings. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and for some people, if it’s on the internet or on the radio it must be true! So they’ll spread the misinformation further and further, until it turns into fear and anger.

Myth: The current health-care reform bill will result in government-run health care and/or socialized medicine.

Not any more than in the current system. People will still be able to keep their private and employer-paid insurance.  A public option is not government-run health care either. People would still be getting health care through private insurance companies, hospitals, clinics and physicians, like members of Congress do.  The government would not actually be running hospitals and clinics (except for the Veterans’ Administration).  They would just be paying the insurance bills.

Myth: Pages 16-19 of the current health care reform bill say that private insurance will be outlawed!

This myth is circulating right now on blogs and in blog comments. I haven’t found anything about this from a reputable media source, and I’ve also read pages 16-19 myself (you have to view it in PDF to get page numbers). Nothing in the bill outlaws private insurance. In fact, this section is all about protecting people’s existing insurance plans.

Myth: The government is going to tax our employer-paid health benefits in order to pay for this program.

I heard about this on Facebook. I’m not sure how widely this myth is circulating, but I do know that President Obama has stated that he will veto any bill that removes the tax exemption for health insurance premiums. So I don’t think there’s much chance of this happening.

There are probably more examples, but the best way to avoid falling for a myth is to do your own research. Don’t just believe what you’re told (even what you’ve read here). Get the facts. Read the actual bill. Be informed, regardless of what your opinion is. I’m not 100% in favor of this health care reform bill; I’m more a fan of single-payer health care. But I do want to know what’s going on, and I want to know the truth.

Read the full text of H.R. 3200, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, at govtrack.us.