The health care debate

Health care reform vital

Vincent DeFrancesco, COLUMNIST

Recognizing that Congress’ August recess may be when health care reform discussion was most vulnerable, conservative leaders and commentators galvanized the grassroots of the Republican Party into action.

During the break, many members of Congress chose to hold some now infamous “town hall” meetings, which was where average Americans chose to exercise their First Amendment rights by protesting loudly against “Obamacare.”

Demonstrators have more than a few concerns about reform. Democratic Senator Arlen Specter held a town hall meeting where a woman said, “I don’t want this country turning into Russia, turning into a socialized country,” according to CNN. Although Russia is actually a democracy, her fear is shared by many Americans. At a town hall meeting hosted by American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), President Barack Obama described a letter he received from a woman as saying, “I don’t want government-run health care. I don’t want socialized medicine. And don’t touch my Medicare.”

Under a supposed nationalized health care system that conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck describe, the government would own the hospitals, pay doctors and the taxpayers would foot the bill. A popular sentiment among protesters is that the government would “place a bureaucrat between patient and doctor,” possibly denying care to those in need.

Let’s be clear: the public insurance option that Democrats propose doesn’t resemble this proposal. Under the plan put forward by House Democrats in July, patients would be charged premiums by the government as if they had a private insurer.

Operating like an insurance company, the government plan would compete directly with the private market and help to drive down costs by offering competitive rates. Rather than limit care, the plan would expand coverage to more people who may not have been able to afford it before.

In late July, cable news networks were speculating that opponents of reform may see the August recess as a chance to destroy reform and damage Obama’s presidency. July 20, conservative commentator Bill Kristol confirmed their suspicions in his political magazine The Weekly Standard.

“With Obamacare on the ropes, there will be a temptation for opponents to let up on their criticism, and to try to appear constructive, or at least responsible,” he writes. “My advice, for what it’s worth: Resist the temptation. This is no time to pull punches. Go for the kill.”

It’s clear that health care reform opponents are not interested in what is best for the country. They are fighting against the Democrats’ plan without bothering to learn its specifics.

Heeding Kristol’s advice, conservative voices made more wild and frenzied accusations as the month drew on. On Facebook, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin warned of a future “in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel.'”

It is clear that the Republican leadership has no interest in constructive debate or of intelligently representing conservative ideals. In its effort to wipe out reform at any cost, the Right Wing has exposed what is possibly its greatest fear, that liberal policies might actually work, that they might bring about positive change in the country.

CNN aired a story on Aug. 22 about Maryland’s medevac helicopter system, which claims to be the best in the nation. In the 30 years since it’s inception, the program has rescued nearly 300,000 patients. Free to all, the effort is funded by a $11 extra surcharge on car registrations.

Dick Gelfman, whose life was saved by the state funded helicopters, praised the system as amazing.

“Its not a question of who it is that’s injured,” he said. “It’s not a question of whether the person is a child, an adult, a bad guy, a good guy, a cop or a crook. It’s not that kind of a question. It’s a question of – here’s a person in need and we’ve got to get them care. That’s what a society ought to be doing.”

Democrats seem determined to pass a health care reform bill at any cost. It may be watered down considerably, but with any luck the bill will be a step in the direction of building a budget-neutral health system, a system that will expand coverage to more Americans than ever before.

Vincent DeFrancesco is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.


Current plan won’t work

Erik Raymond, COLUMNIST

America’s Founding Fathers modeled the government after a representative republic, not a direct democracy and it is clear to see why in the health care debate. Direct democracy is a form of democracy, wherein sovereignty is positioned in the congregation of all citizens who choose to participate. Conversely, elected officials by those same citizens carry out representative democracy’s sovereignty.

Many people can think of numerous scenarios that would prevent justice in both types of systems. However, taking into account today’s health care debate, people have to be mindful of a minority of citizens ramming down a bill via Congress that will negatively affect the majority.

I know the health care debate is an important one, but everyone has to be very careful about how they as a country decide upon it and ultimately pass some sort of reform.

Each side in this debate sees the other as the evil faction, and this ultimately creates confusion. Furthermore, it gives the upper hand to those that represent us rather than where the power actually belongs – with the people.

James Madison, the fourth president and the man who drafted the U.S. Constitution, warned against the dangers of factionalism – it is very telling how they relate to this debate over health care.

In the Federalist Papers, No. 10 in particular, Madison explains the dangers of factionalism. Madison defines a faction as “a number of citizens … who are united by some common impulse of passion, or interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”

Factions usually only work their way into power in a direct democracy or, say maybe, a town hall meeting. In these two situations there is no way to control a dispute. Thus, the Founding Fathers decided on a representative democracy.

Madison also wrote: “the instability, injustice and confusion introduced into public councils have … been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished.”

It is important and necessary to educate and make representatives fashion a better bill instead of fighting it out in the street.

Besides educating and arming citizens with the facts of the debate, people must prevent the tyranny of the majority in Congress. Yes, it has happened in history and with administrations of both parties. However, there has not been a bigger issue than this one.

The Constitution is deliberately constructed with checks to prevent tyranny. The tyranny I see: a Democratic majority ramming through a program of socialized, government-controlled health care. The reason this is tyranny by the elected officials is because of their lack of effort to inform the public of the health care proposal and their own lack of knowledge of a bill they supposedly agree with completely.

Americans would be better served by elected representatives the way Madison saw it, “citizens whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country.”

I am 100 percent against the current health care proposal.

Here are some numbers:

– 852, which is the number of pages in the bill, I am sure all of Congress and the President have read in its entirety

– 120 million, the number of individuals who could lose their current coverage as a result of the government-run plan, according to the non-partisan actuaries at the Lewin Group

– 4.7 million, the number of jobs that could be lost as a result of taxes on small businesses, according to a model developed by the Council of Economic Advisers Chair Christina Romer

– Trillions, the new federal spending that would exceed the $1.6 trillion reported tag of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus’ legislation

– 32, the number of entitlement programs the bill creates, expands, or extends

– 0, the prohibitions on government programs to impose delays or denials of access to life-saving treatments

The next few weeks will be crucial to the future of American health care and prosperity. I have laid out some facts that I believe to be true, but do not listen to me or anyone. I encourage everyone to find non-partisan sources of information to arm themselves with the truth.

I want everyone to have good quality health care, but I certainly do not want us, our children and our children’s children to foot a bill that is full of government waste and unnecessary entitlements.

Erik Raymond is a graduate student majoring in linguistics.