Non-Binary Thinking on Healthcare Please

There’s a conversational dynamic which I’m already getting tired of, though I’m sure that we’ll see a lot more of it in the coming weeks and months, and it goes basically like this:

A: “I see the following problems with Obama’s health care proposal…”
B: “Don’t you understand the Church teaches health care is a right? Do you want there to be 47 million uninsured? How can you stand in the way of the one chance to do this? Do you think the current system is just fine?”

Clearly, just because the Democrats in Congress are patching together a 1000+ page bill which has specific characteristic and goes under the title of “healthcare reform” do not mean that this is the only way in which one might seek to reform healthcare. And although this may be the primary alternative to the status quo available at this moment in time, even someone who considers the status quo to be far from perfect might well consider the proposal currently coming together to be worse than the status quo.

Now, as advertised, the reform being put together would result in the coverage of more Americans, though not all Americans. So I suppose it is the case that if one restricts oneself to an immediate binary situation of a) we do not pass the current bill and no more Americans are covered or b) we do pass the bill and more Americans are covered; it’s true that by at least one objective measure passing the bill would be “better” than not.

However, there is a lot more to determining what is good for the country than the immediate question of whether a few more people have a certain kind of coverage in 2015 than in 2012, and I think it’s entirely reasonable for those who want to see an eventual US healthcare situation different from the current one, but not at all like the one Obama seems to be driving towards, to attempt to bring this round of reform down, in hopes of getting something they can support the next time around.

I don’t know if this is remotely possible with a country as divided as ours clearly is on issues such as the scope of government, but it would be gratifying if policy makers could agree to a staged debate, beginning with what overall structure is to be targetted (at which point the debate could be had over local vs. national; public vs. private; etc.) and the working down to details in subsequent rounds. This would work within the top-down organization of a corporation, but I’m not at all clear people could agree to play by the rules in a demagogic republic such as ours seems to be at the moment. So instead, we have one massive plan (which no doubt few who vote on it will read in its entirely) which by turns its supports claim is a plan for a future in which everyone is covered, or the smallest of course corrections that will just serve to cover more people. (And, of course, if you don’t support that, you’re despicable, aren’t you.)

It’s become de rigueur to say that we need to have “a national conversation” on various topics, but it would seem that health care is not one that either party is very eager to have anything resembling a real conversation on — the one party because they know that the majority of Americans will not actually support their agenda if revealed, and the other because they do not have a coherant agenda yet at all.

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Now an Ohio Catholic!



    Somebody who understands the “Either/Or” fallacy!

    Of course, it just happened to be DarwinCatholic.

    This guy truly has the makings of a barrister!

    DC should consider a career in law with such a keen eye for fallacies as flagrant as the one currently featured at Washington!

  2. Donald et al.,

    This is off tangent, but while I was checking into WordPress your most recent comment is the American Catholic’s 14,000 comment!


    I present you with the White Elephant Award.

  3. I’ve heard that Obama voted against the 2 Republican health-care reform proposals which were presented during his tenure. One was to allow individuals who aren’t provided health insurance by employers to deduct the cost on their taxes (an evil idea, good thing it was shot down!!!), and the other was a bill to allow small businesses to pool together to buy health insurance for their workers (nasty business, must oppress them).

    Bottom line is there are much better ideas out there that will make it possible for more people to secure coverage at a lower cost and less disruption.

    Note also that we are talking about INSURANCE. Americans are not typically denied health care even if they are not insured. The converse is not always true of countries with government health insurance, I assure you.

  4. e.

    Just to finish hijacking my own thread…

    Whenever I hear the word “barrister” I recall the Dorothy Parker quip when she heard that a prominent divorcee had broken her leg, “How terrible. She must have done it sliding down a barrister.”

    Still, I like to think that we also serve who gather data and tell the more fluffy marketers that their schemes won’t work.

  5. Donald,

    Mighty glad to know though that, at the very least, there remains those Catholics in that now abominable profession (which is why I can’t really fault Erasmus for himself having such a low opinion thereof), such as your own distinguished person, who ever strive still to practice in accordance to the Faith, after the image of the illustrious Sir Thomas More himself!

    (BTW, what the heck is a “white elephant award”???)

  6. DarwinCatholic,

    Apologies for both the seeming hijack and, admittedly, the unnecessary emote.

    Now, back to your regularly scheduled program…

  7. Tito:

    No. My Salvadorean friends tell me that the white elephants were Marxists and hid guns in their trunks, so I don’t think that the process of making them into an award will go anywhere


  8. “(BTW, what the heck is a “white elephant award”???)”

    I’m not quite sure, but right now my albino squirrel assassins are playing with it!

  9. The squirrels are “playing?” How dare they, the little slackers, when the enemies of the Church abound! Why, right next door to me live two vile heretic cats and there’s a bulldog down the block I suspect has been exposed to Jack Chick tracts. He used to like me but today he growled when he saw me. Hence my desperate need for albino squirrel assasins. Traducers of the faith are everywhere up here – and down in Illinois, the squirrels play! Grrrr,…,

  10. Er, since they are Illinois squirrels, maybe offering a little something extra on the side, like a couple of bags of cashews, may induce them to come north and take care of business. Nobody has to know, I’ll just leave the cashews in a P.O. box in Chicago. Call it a gift, boys.:-)

  11. Having played a major role in hijacking this thread, I now declare the hijack over! All future comments should be directed towards Darwin’s post please.

  12. Re the healthcare being a “right” talk, I wonder if some of these folks have ever given this any thought beyond the most superficial and simplistic kneejerk reactions. As one blogger put it:

    The constant improvement in health care gives another good example of why the “right” to health care makes little sense. Did you have a right to chemotherapy in 1600 AD? You could have protested to Parliament all you wanted, but chemo just didn’t exist. Then, did you have a right to it the moment some genius invented it? You did not pay for the research. You did not make the breakthrough. Where do you get the right? How did it come into existence for you the moment somebody else created these things? I’m pretty sure you cannot have rights to material goods that don’t exist, and I am pretty certain that the moment some genius (or business, or even government) brings them into the world your “rights” do not improve. But strangely, many disagree.

    Conundrums are easy to create. If a cure for all disease is discovered but it costs the GDP of Europe for each treatment, do we all have a right to it? Of course not. We can say we do, but it does not matter. We cannot have it.

  13. Jabez,

    that’s an interesting point. To my mind, rights are not “entitlements” so much as that they are things that ought not be unjustly denied. You don’t have a right to do nothing and then have food put in your mouth. You should be able to work and secure food for yourself, and your family, your rights are denied if someone prevents you from doing that. The same would go to health care. Of course one has to consider that while access to food may be a right, access to steak is not, the same must be the case for health care.

    If we consider rights to be “entitlements”, then the question is who is violating your rights by not providing for you, and then should the government punish these transgressors and coerce them into providing for those needs? Or should just be able to sue in civil courts? Will damages be involved? Wow, another great opportunity for the lawyers to make a 30% commission.

  14. I apologize for my levity: I find it hard to resist the squirrel jokes.

    On to the topic of this thread, the bottom line is that in order to provide coverage for all, many will have to be denied testing and treatments they would get under private plans. (Not our Congresscritters, I know, but after all they are superior beings exempt from the rules that guide mere mortals.)

    Now, I work in a hospital and I know full well that often people do demand unnecessary tests. They come into the ER with a scratch and write angry letters to the admin rep later on wanting to know why Dr. Z did not send them to get a MRI. And sometimes Dr. Z does, just to cover his butt because he fears a malpractice suit. (And, while everyone loves to hate the insurance companies, I don’t see much coverage of what part huge malpractice settlements have played in raising medical costs. 10 years ago, the OB’s at my hospital – a Catholic institution with an excellent Labor and Delivery unit – took pride in the fact that our C-section rate was below the national average. Not any more, it isn’t, thanks to John Edwards and other ambulance chasers. Now OB’s are so afraid that something will go awry that they perform C-sections as soon as the mother starts having any difficulties.)

    The problem with offering a nationalized system is that it will seize the bull by the horns and turn it very sharply in the opposite direction. Care will be rationed.There will be waiting lists. There will be no way to provide the level of care Americans are accustomed to now. And, as the boomers age, the crunch will only get worse.

    The thing I fear most is that when you combine nationalized (and rationed) health care with a culture that is already on shaky grounds re: life issues, you are going to end up with the same situation you have in the Netherlands. Old people actually fear going into the hospitals there because they get pressured (subtly and not so subtly) to opt for a “final exit.” After all, you’re elderly, you’ve lived your life, you’re using up precious resources that younger, healthier people should be getting – time for you to go gramps, and if you say “no” you’re being “selfish.” (Just as people who choose to have more than 2.1 children are deemed “selfish” by the pro-death enthusaists among us.)

    I have no good answers to this. I talk to people who are smarter and better informed than I am about this issue all the time and they have no good answers either. But I feel pretty sure that turning the whole shebang over to the government is not the way to go.

  15. Tito:

    Are you a guy, a girl or simply ambiguous?

    Also, thanks for the info; however, it’s not so much to satisfy my supposed thirst for meaningless knowledge, but that it seems you yourself seem rather to not only glory in it but, indeed, even enjoy flaunting it, my friend.

    Better to reserve your needless wont to reward your fellow man with your meaningless white elephant trophies and dedicate such ardor to more weighty issues, such as the one DarwinCatholic addresses in his above post.

  16. This coming from the man who feels harangued at even the slightest suggestion of calumny made by certain interlocutors (from both amicable & hostile sections in the audience) in previous threads?

    You need a vacation.

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