Petty politicking leaves Americans begging for health care
Americans who cannot afford health care should not have to beg for money to avoid illness or death. It can’t be any clearer than that.
Last Monday night, Jimmy Kimmel began his late-night comedy show with a tearful monologue about his son, born a week earlier, nearly dying due to a heart condition. Kimmel ended his monologue with an emotional plea to Congress and President Trump to make health care for everyone a priority, closing with: “No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life. It just shouldn’t happen.”
The next day, Joe Walsh, a former Congressman and current radio host, responded on Twitter: “Sorry Jimmy Kimmel: your sad story doesn’t obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else’s health care.” At least give Mr. Walsh some credit for not beating around the bush.
Some of you readers may agree with Mr. Walsh. Some may have been tearing up along with Mr. Kimmel. The challenge is that both of these camps — and all Americans — must be under the same set of national health policies.
The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare” or the “ACA”) expanded coverage to more Americans, slowed the rising costs of healthcare premiums, and substantially reduced medical bankruptcies. But already-expensive health care becoming expensive less quickly doesn’t exactly merit the flying of a “Mission Accomplished” banner. Of local concern: the Western Slope’s health premiums are among the highest in the country. That’s a problem no matter which party’s health care bill is in place.
The GOP’s “repeal and replace” solution, the American Health Care Act, is back in the limelight after an unremarkable death in March. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the March version of the AHCA raised premiums (especially for older or already-sick Americans) and put 24 million or so Americans at risk of losing coverage entirely. Last Thursday, the new version of the AHCA was rushed onto the floor of the House of Representatives without a CBO evaluation (i.e., without a pricetag or list of effects). “Fiscally conservative” GOP House members — including our very own Rep. Scott Tipton — shoved the pricetag-less bill through by a 217-213 margin.
There are serious doubts about whether the AHCA will ever make it to President Trump’s desk. Putting those doubts aside, the fact that Tipton voted for a bill that will objectively make healthcare harder to obtain is callous and disturbing.
Most commentators, including the Sentinel’s own editorial page, urge the two parties make an honest effort to find a middle-ground solution. Otherwise, they say, we headed toward either socialized medicine, or defaulting back to when insurance companies could discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions.
The problem with any middle-ground solution is that it sets a price on health care. Setting a price on any service necessarily means that some consumers can’t afford that service, and must therefore forgo it.
And this is the situation faced by millions of Americans. Go to GoFundMe.com’s “Medical Fundraising” page, and scroll down. You see stories of men, women, and children faced with life-threatening health conditions or accidents. Let’s call it what it really is: begging from strangers to avoid death.
This, in a nutshell, is our current health care system: hope you can afford insurance, or beg for money if you can’t. And as long as we set a price on health care, it is the system we’ll always have.
To quote a prominent lefty politician on the subject: “We must have universal health care. ...We should not hear so many stories of families ruined by healthcare expenses.” Oh, my mistake: that was from President Trump’s 2000 book, “The America We Deserve.” (Also, last Thursday, President Trump praised Australia’s universal health care system as “better” than ours.)
Conventional wisdom says to not burn column space by listing peer nations that already have universal health care, but hey, I’m a beginner at this: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the U.K.
Politicians in both parties are maintaining course toward a “fair price” for health care, instead of innovating our system to meet the 21st century. For most of the advanced world, health care is a birthright. For us, it’s a commodity. Americans will continue to resort to bankruptcy and begging strangers in order to get medical help. Great nations take care of their own. It’s time for our representatives to do what’s required.