(Note: The following commentary is meant to convey my OPINION on what I perceive to be a matter of significant public importance. If, in this commentary, I have erred by misstating or misrepresenting anyone or anything, please know that that was unintentional. I hasten to add that I have no affiliation with any party, pro or con, involved in this issue. Also, you may, if you wish, submit your comments, if they are within generally acceptable standards of decorum, via a clickable link that is either just below this commentary or perhaps is in the column at the right. Thanks! And so, now, to begin:)
(NY, NY, 10/28/11) — “Obamacare”: So now, say surveys, Americans are increasingly seeing it as a negative.
But on what basis might that reported shift be justified?
Is “Obamacare” really that bad?
Isn’t it supposed to improve the nation’s, and our, “healthcare” system, for the benefit of us all?
Well, on the one hand, doing away, as it does, with the restriction on “pre-existing conditions” seems, in my view, to be a strongly positive, important, humanitarian, and eminently constructive move, one that, by itself, should theoretically — if we put aside other considerations (such as this action possibly increasing our costs or reducing the quality and availability of our care) — be welcomed and valued by everyone who’s desperate to be covered by healthcare insurance in this country.
But please take note of the above word “should“. Because if doing away with the “pre-existing conditions” requirement also happens to generate a decidedly customer-unfriendly increase in the cost of premiums, or a patient-hostile reduction in the degree or scope or availability of coverage — well, there again, it would seem, “the Devil is in the details”.
But certainly an end to the “pre-existing condition” requirement, as “Obamacare” mandates, is, at least in theory, an important and positive step — in my opinion — toward hopefully creating a more equitable, more compassionate, system of healthcare for all.
In addition, as I see it, designing a healthcare system that would provide truly great healthcare, affordably and accessibly, for every American — including, without restriction, for “the elderly” — and which would provide that care without damaging the insured’s pocketbook, privacy, freedom of choice, and other such freedoms and rights — must certainly also be an admirable goal.
But does “Obamacare” do that?
IMO, not quite. And in some ways, perhaps it does quite the opposite.
And that’s on top of the various calculations, from critics and other sources, that the numbers are now increasingly showing that “Obamacare” is already in some ways damaging the current American healthcare system; shredding Obama’s oft-touted promise that under this Plan “you can choose your own doctor”; harming seniors’ (and Medicaid recipients’) ability to get necessary healthcare or even be seen by a doctor; forcing numerous businesses to shut-down their employees’ healthcare-coverage by the tens of thousands of policies; generally raising healthcare premiums all across the country; forcing many Americans who are studying medicine — and forcing many Americans who are already in the medical profession in this country — to rethink their career-choices and abandon it (or the United States) for other pastures; and on and on.
And that’s aside from the Plan’s various mandates that , say critics, tear into the privacy and confidentiality rights of healthcare consumers (which would, by force, under “Obamacare”, be every American); of doctors; of hospitals; of the until-now-sacrosanct doctor-patient relationship; and would even intrude into the full panoply of — in case you hadn’t noticed this part of the “Obamacare” law — every American’s personal finances, via a first-ever-in-history authorization and systematization, by “Obamacare”, of using the IRS as an enforcement-arm of this purportedly wonderful new “healthcare plan” that’s supposed to be so good for “We, the People”.
Not that some of the prominent “healthcare plans” proposed by the Republican Party are quite the solution either, in my opinion; aspects of those plans, too, in my view, leave much to be desired. But that’s a subject for a separate analysis.
In the meantime, say some critics, “Obamacare” — regardless of whether or not the impetus behind its initial conceptualization may have been one of “political one-upsmanship” or of honor and high moral principle — appears to instead be constructed in such a way as to violate both the spirit of the Constitution and the letter of the Constitution; and in so doing, say critics, “Obamacare” thereby unConstitutionally aggrandizes to the Federal Government — and unConstitutionally takes away from “We, the People” — an enormous chunk of power over our lives.
“Obamacare”, critics additionally charge, does this not only “in the moment”, as its elements go into effect, but also in that it establishes, most concerningly, a dangerous precedent — one that they say could easily provide the basis for, even invite, this current or future Administrations (or a “central government” of whatever form it may take at the time) to assert even greater, more extensive, more intrusive, more overbearing, more “control-oriented”, and more threatening, authority, over “We, the People” — and we may not be quite pleased with where that path may lead.
If this current Government can do this, say critics, just imagine what that knowledge can empower this Government, or any of its successors, to do next.
And then: whither us?
Is this what “We, the People”, really want? The promise — but in many ways not quite the reality, and in some ways quite the reverse — of the presumably well-intentioned goal of providing “healthcare for all”?
In pressing for an improved healthcare system, did we really mean to push for a huge and ever-expanding encroachment by a Central Government on our individual freedoms and rights?
Did “We, the People” also ask for, cry for, stand up with one voice to call for, a healthcare system that would raise our healthcare-costs (as is reportedly already happening due to “Obamacare”), reduce the amount of time and guidance and services that our doctors and hospitals could provide for us at our times of need (much as reportedly is currently already happening, or will increasingly be happening, due to “Obamacare”)?
Did we somehow fail to take into account warnings, by critics and even by the CBO, that the shifting, by this Administration, of enormous sums of money away from Medicare in order to help fund “Obamacare” would be tremendously harmful to an already-stressed Medicare system — warnings which, according to news reports, are now coming true?
Did we really, with full understanding of the consequences, opt for a system that would especially reduce and with even greater constraints ration the amount of time and guidance and services that our doctors and hospitals will provide to our elderly – an entire class of our fellow human beings which would include not only our elderly friends and loved ones but also, sooner or later, us?
Or, for anyone who, under this Plan, becomes (un)fortunate enough to reach the Medicare-age of 65, and then at some point needs serious medical care, will a denial of needed medical treatment, or a prescribing of what in essence might be an open-ended period of physical or psychological suffering (even if on the Obama-suggested “painkiller”), or a hastening of that individual’s death, be presented to that individual (or to his or her doctor) as, essentially, the only viable options?
Did “We, the People” – who, according to polls at the time the “Obamacare” bill was being shunted through Congress, expressed in overwhelming numbers opposition to various key provisions of the then-proposed bill, such as —
* the “individual insurance-purchase mandate”, or
* the IRS tie-in as an enforcement-arm of the mandate, or
* the mandatory periodic “end of life” planning-reviews, or
* the digitization and centralization (and consequent data-sharing risks and the loss of doctor-patient privacy) of all our medical records, or
* the provisions that threaten doctors for noncompliance with mandates that require that they cast aside their own best medical judgment in order to instead defer to Federally-generated, middle-management-driven, bureaucratically-determined, medical “guidelines” …
— did we really agree to all that?
Did “We, The People”, in wanting “healthcare for all”, really want our “representatives in Washington” to instead devise a law which, while answering some of our healthcare-needs, might also, as critics claim, reduce the overall quality of our healthcare, take away key aspects of our personal freedoms, take away (and possibly put at great risk) a vital component of our privacy, take away even a single one of our Constitutional rights (as via the “personal purchase-mandate”), damage our doctor-patient relationship, and also create the potential to bring the full force of a powerful Governmental agency down on us for our own “noncompliance”?
Did we really want our Government to establish a law that would automatically declare every citizen of our nation as, in effect, a potential criminal, subservient to the long arm of the law via the IRS, if we fail to comply with the “Obamacare” mandate that requires, under penalty of law, that we purchase — at our own expense no less — a product from a private company?
Is that what we wanted?
Is that to be “the new face” of our “Uncle Sam”?
But wait a moment; how about the positive side to this “Obamacare” coin — the side that many millions of Americans resoundingly praise as being one of this nation’s most profound, most compassionate, most revolutionary, most urgently needed, advances?
Certainly it appears that there are positive aspects, in principle and also in fact, within parts of the system known as “Obamacare”. And, as I would also agree, a healthcare-coverage system that would improve on what, in the view of many, is currently a deeply flawed healthcare-coverage system in this country, is intensely and urgently needed; in my view, it is unacceptable that this nation — traditionally (until recently) one of the most widely admired countries on this planet — has such an apparently difficult, costly, problematic, system of providing decent healthcare to its own citizenry.
I also concur in any heartfelt desire to extend a compassionate, healing, uplifting, saving-grace, to all who are in need; how, I wonder, can anyone be so heartless as to “turn a blind eye” to someone who, regardless of age or standing, and through no fault of his or her own, desperately needs appropriate medical care but doesn’t otherwise possess the ability to obtain it?
How could “We, the People”, as a nation, be so callous as to turn our backs on so many millions of our fellow Americans who are currently trapped in, or are even now falling into, that abyss?
What fate has befallen that phrase of conscience that exclaims “There but for the grace of God go I”?
And where is there any shred of “humaneness”, of any thought of extending some compassion to our fellow human being, in coldly declaring that if those who are less fortunate than us weren’t able to earn the ability to pay for needed care, then who are we to care a whit about their agonized pleas for a helping hand?
Perhaps, these thoughts, even if viewed through a political lens, are what may have been going through Obama’s mind as he conceptualized and pressed for his vision of a healthcare system that would potentially be accessible to, and empowering for, us all.
Too, in my view, the goal of extending healthcare – or what, in my preference, should be the goal of extending great healthcare – to all of our nation’s people, including to the poor, the ill, the currently uninsured, the elderly, and all of us – is a goal that is eminently worth striving for and achieving — if we can do it without concurrently causing ourselves harm.
But what if our perception of reality, and the underlying reality itself, are two distinctly different things, each potentially leading to profoundly divergent life-altering outcomes?
Should the goal of attaining “universal healthcare” — the general perception of which seems to paint a highly positive picture — be sought at the cost of a reality that may well include our loss, to even a partial but significant degree, of portions of our freedoms, of our civil liberties, of our Constitutionally established rights, of our ability to access and afford or receive the quality of medical care that our condition actually demands?
And what if, despite all the comforting speeches and promises, the reality of the plan is such that its very design threatens the fate of our elderly loved ones (and at some point possibly ourselves) by consigning them to be eligible to receive only increasingly restricted, increasingly narrowed, “rationed”, care — a diminished level of care that, in practice, may possibly have the effect of intensifying their suffering and/or hastening their demise?
And why should this be?
Might it, even in a purely medical context, be the wisest and most compassionate choice possible and truly in that patient’s best interest?
Or might that rationing essentially be enacted not because of the patient’s true needs but instead because a bureaucratic and politically-directed system has decided, for coldly calculated non-medical reasons, that this, perhaps, is the “most expedient way” for “the system” to cut costs, to juggle expenses, to help other parts of the system work (or appear to work), or even to fulfill a momentary — or personal — political need?
Note: As to that latter possibility, you might recall the fact that this Administration, in starting to enable elements of “Obamacare”, chose to remove approximately $500,000,000 from Medicare and Medicaid, in order the shift that money into supporting “Obamacare”. Is this how they plan to “support” healthcare “for all” — and especially healthcare for the elderly?
In my mind, that one action alone certainly is a major clue — and it is frightening.
Or does no one recall that uniquely-concerning 2009 statement by Obama — the one in which he suggested, in an ABC NEWS “Questions for the President” piece, that for some elderly persons, it might be appropriate for the Government to advise that person’s doctor that it makes more sense to have the elderly patient to “forego the surgery” and instead opt for “the painkiller”?
Or am I the only one — and the answer is no, I am most assuredly not — who sees that admonition, especially when it’s coupled with certain related components of “Obamacare”, as yet another possible warning as to how our elderly might actually be treated under “Obamacare”?
But judge for yourself — view and listen to the Youtube video-clip in which Obama makes that statement. It’s at this URL:
So I ask:
Is this what we are now being conditioned to meekly accept as the predestined, carved-in-stone, fate of our elderly — and of the powerlessness of ourselves to generate the courage to come up with — and to push for — a better path for all?
When, in American history, or in our current times, did “We, the People” decide that it was a good idea to take some of our most cherished humanitarian principles – principles that we have traditionally held most dear – and simply dump them for the sake of “expediency”?
For those who are still fortunate enough to have decent healthcare coverage in this country, especially the kind (if such exists) which the insurer will not pull out from under us when we need that coverage the most, I propose that we can be thankful for those aspects of our healthcare system that work for us and which — to a point, at least — are usually there for us when we need it.
I also do grant, from personal experience, that although my healthcare coverage over the years has not, in my view, been perfect, and has cost me significant funds, it absolutely helped me at times of great need; without it, I expect that I would have had impactful problems, financially and, possibly, healthwise as well. So I do give the system, and my insurers in those instances, a great deal of credit.
But at the same time, I also see — as do many other fellow Americans — a great many deeply concerning faults with this nation’s contemporary, pre-“Obamacare”, so-called “healthcare insurance” system: faults that, in some instances, as have been shown in various news reports, are enough to make a person scream in outrage, crumble in sorrow, suffer in agony, or, for some, even die.
Yet, nothing is perfect. And most (or all?) healthcare insurers, in this country, are, essentially, businesses, and as such, presumably they must operate on a profit-making basis in order to remain viable. But at whose cost?
That our nation’s current, traditional, healthcare system would also be structured in such a way as to, in effect, facilitate or even promote such negative outcomes as those mentioned above, especially when more humane, more healing, paths might otherwise have been made available by those same insurers; and when, at the same time that a person’s coverage is being unfairly dropped or the cost of his or her premium is, through no fault of his or her own, skyrocketing, while the insurance company is pulling in huge profits and its CEO is taking home a multi-million dollar salary and a wealth of perquisites — this situation, in my view, is unacceptable and a clarion call for reform.
Against such a backdrop, it’s no wonder that Obama — even if purely or primarily for political reasons — is pushing for an overhaul of the American healthcare system — and, in my view, it’s no wonder that such movements as “Occupy Wall Street”, within their apparent multiplicity of goals, are pressing for a what they believe can be more equitable system of financial and social structures for the nation — and for ourselves.
Whether they’ll get it right, of course, remains to be seen.
So let’s probe just a bit further, for a moment , some of the downsides of the current system. And then let’s take a closer look at “Obamacare” to see if it, too, offers — or mandates — any corollaries to those negatives. Because, in my view — and apparently unlike Nancy Pelosi — who, as you may recall, urged the House to first pass this “Obamacare” bill and then, after passage, get to know what’s in it — it is important that we get a handle on this situation before it gets its hands on us.
How horrendous it is that, for example, if, in this nation, an insured person – one who has somehow been fortunate enough to even be able to afford coverage by a health-insurer – can in some instances be unceremoniously, and, in my view, inhumanely, forced out of that coverage, or be simply dropped from that coverage, through no fault of his or her own, particularly when he or she needs that coverage most.
How terrible it is, in my view, that a person who, through no personal fault, contracts an illness or undergoes some physically (or psychologically) damaging trauma or injury, and then, because that problem becomes classified by the insurer as a “pre-existing condition”, is unable to obtain health-insurance coverage at his or her time of great need — or is “kicked out of coverage”, on the insurer’s excuse that there was some alleged discrepancy in the person’s application.
Plus, how positive is it – and in my view the answer is that it is the opposite of positive – that our nation’s system of “healthcare insurance” relies primarily on “allopathic” (i.e., “western”, pharmaceuticals-based) medicine and provides essentially no — or very limited — coverage for non-allopathic, non-pharmaceutical, alternative approaches to healthcare, even though, in the opinion of many proponents of such alternate approaches, those alternate approaches can often be superior to, safer than — and cheaper than — the allopathic paradigm.
But what about “Obamacare”? As per my understanding, it seems that it, too, overall, fails to give any real support to those alternate approaches – meaning that once again, “We, the People”, under “Obamacare”, and whether we like it or not, will primarily be stuck with just a “new version” of the same old western medical paradigm. But the “packaging” will be different.
Then the question becomes, to what extent do you trust — or fear — the packager? And how confident do you feel about the efficacy and safety — and accessibility — of what may be in the package?
However, on the positive side, “Obamacare” does appear to have some good within it. And, IMO, the idea of creating a system that would provide “quality healthcare for all” is hard to fault.
And under “Obamacare”: No coverage-denial based on “pre-existing conditions”. No dropping an insured’s coverage without cause (or at all?). Presciptions drugs, well, maybe mostly covered, but the formula is unclear (at least to me at this moment). Coverage: available to every American, including — by whatever the title of the moment — “illegal aliens”.
But funded? Supported? Well-planned? Ready to go? All of it supportive of and respective of our freedoms and liberties and Constitutional rights? And all of it in our best interests? Who’s kidding who?
Suddenly offer the promise of heathcare coverage to an additional — depending on whose numbers you believe are accurate — between approximately 15-million and 48-million currently uninsured people, and where is the Plan supposed to get the money to do this? Where, for that additional estimated 15-to-48-million people, is the nation supposed to find the doctors, the nurses, the rest of the needed medical staffs, the hospitals, the medical supplies and equipment, the facilities, the medicines?
Take more money from Medicare and Medicaid?
And that’s not to also mention that insurers — who, because of the Plan’s personal- purchase-mandate, stand to rake in a veritable fortune once the Plan goes fully into effect — have already been raising their premiums to counter, they say, the costs that they are now being forced to absorb because of the Plan’s mandate that the insurers do away with their “pre-existing conditions” rule.
What a mess. Um, in my opinion.
But, aside from the allegation, according to critics, that “Obamacare” will be massively underfunded and, by sheer numbers, will vastly overwhelm the nation’s already-overburdened and severely-stressed medical personnel and resources, there is the following assertion that some critics have also advanced: that despite whatever lofty goals may have propelled this Plan into law, “Obamacare” is dangerously suffused with freedoms-destructive, privacy-shredding, healthcare-quality-reducing, end-of-life-promulgating, authoritarian-power-centralizing, flaws – flaws that, for what is supposed to be a “free society”, can well instead create a chilling counterpoint to the Plan’s purported benefits.
So, which way to go?
Should we be psychologically “locked into” thinking that there are only two paths to consider – the contemporary, still primarily operative, private insurance-companies system, versus the “Obamacare” system?
Or might there be a better, third path, even a fourth or a fifth path, that we should open our minds to conceiving and to consider pursuing?
Must whatever “healthcare” plan we, or “They”, come up with, be infused with – along with “the good stuff” – a really dangerous load of bad stuff?
Must every field of beautifully blossoming, heavenly-scented flowers have vicious venom-fanged snakes slithering in the grass?
Can’t we create a reality that’s better than that – or which at least diminishes the flaws to insignificance?
Whatever the answer, one particular image comes to mind that perhaps illustrates, at least for me, the heart of my concern in this whole matter:
Picture, if you can, that indelible moment in the classic 1950s film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, as actor Kevin McCarthy, in his role as the lone alien-pursued survivor who has discovered the truth, seeks in vain to warn people of the invasion that’s taking place right before their eyes, as he turns to the camera and declares:
— Just a thought.