How To Solve Health Care

Pro-life liberal Catholic writer Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter argues that because Catholic conservatives find themselves opposed not only to a universal health care bill that funds abortion, but also to the idea of centralized health care in general, they are in fact playing into the hands of the pro-abortion lobby.

It is strange indeed to see conservative Catholics unwittingly aiding and abetting the agenda of the pro-abortion organizations they oppose. And stranger still that conservatives who spent the last election cycle saying that no political issue mattered as much as abortion are suddenly putting their idolatry of the market before adopting a sound strategy for keeping abortion coverage out of the health care reform effort. They have provided ample reason for the administration and Congress to ignore their pleas on abortion. The may see themselves as the “loyal opposition” but they are not being loyal to the pro-life cause they espouse. They are undermining it.

Natlamp73His argument is basically that since health care reform is currently on the table, if conservative pro-lifers do not promise to support it if it doesn’t fund abortion, then they are therefore helping those who want it to fund abortion. I can’t help like feeling that this is a bit like the old National Lampoon cover: “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog.”

In this case: You would disagree with this approach to reforming health care even if the abortion issue wasn’t in play, but since my friends over here will kill babies if you won’t jump on board, you’re now obligated to support it.

Clearly, this is not an approach that I’m impressed with. However, since the follow up is often, “If aren’t totally indifferent to the sufferings of the uninsured, why don’t you have any plan,” the following are three approaches which, from what I’ve read thus far, I would have no problem supporting at all. Perhaps now the question could be: If progressives are indeed to passionate about helping people who currently don’t have access to health care, why don’t they abandon the idea of a progressive style reform and adopt one which conservatives would love to sign onto?*

1) Quick and dirty: Develop clear definitions of what it means to be too poor to afford coverage, or to have pre-existing conditions which preclude coverage, and simply provide a subsidy to all those people to purchase care from existing providers.

2) Mild change: Authorize purchasing health insurance across state lines, and change regulations and taxes to give health care through pools set up by voluntary associations (think Knights of Columbus, churches or dioceses, unions, lions, rotary, masons, elks, what have you) the same benefits as employer based plans. In all likelihood, this would result in many people moving from employer-based care to voluntary association-based care — which would solve the problem of some people not being able to get into big pools (which gets rid of the pre-existing condition problem) and would make the actual costs of insurance more visible to people. It would also be a great way to tie solidarity and subsidiarity. Either provide vouchers for those who can’t afford to pay premiums through such a pool, or else create tax incentives for better off members of such a pool to pay extra to cover those who can’t afford it. The final landscape (twenty years down the line) would probably be very different, but the initial changes would not necessarily be all that great.

3) Major change: Set up a national system in which everyone has a health savings account and a high deductible catastrophic insurance policy. People can choose how much to put in each month, with a required minimum. A small number of approved options on the deductible of your insurance and the type of investments your savings account contributions go into. The unemployed and poor have money put into their accounts by the government on a sliding scale to make sure they continue to meet the minimum monthly contributions. Encourage people to contribute more rather than less by making left over money inheritable without taxes up to $1mil and low taxes above that. Attach a low interest line of credit to the savings account for unexpected early-life medical expenses. For pro-life/pro-family brownie points: deposit a “child credit” in the account of every person under 18 each year in order to cover preventative care and reduce the financial burden of having a family.

*Yes, the question is tongue in cheek. I do not in fact require that progressives cease to be progressive in order to believe that they care very much about health care — I’m just getting a little tired of being told that I don’t care about people’s health because I’m not progressive.

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  1. I believe I originated the argument. Certainly a person can oppose something for whatever reason they choose. When they claim to be advocates for the unborn or claim abortion is the most important issue, one is compelled to think they are lying when they refuse to participate in a moderate reform effort. It isn’t like we are talking NHS or single payer. Instead of risking a pooch’s life, they are risking the lives of the unborn for a national clearing house and a public provider in inefficient markets; limitations on the ability to use rescission; and prohibiting rating on pre-existing conditions. And this wouldn’t be so bad if at the end of the day they said they couldn’t support a given bill. The big problem is that they have declared that they don’t want to be a part of the negotiations, because they have no intention of supporting any bill. That’s just imprudent, unnecessary, and in the end, stupid.

  2. MZ,

    I could see the point if ObamaCare actually contained some sort of positive offer for pro-lifers. For instance, if Obama announced a compromise in which there would be guaranteed issue, subsidies, a mandate, and exchange and a public option — but also threw in a total ban on abortion after 10 weeks, or even a ban on any insurance funding abortion, plus a large tax on abortions — I would feel pretty compelled by the argument that if pro-lifers were serious they had better sign on the line that is dotted. If that offer is put on the table, I’ll almost certainly grit my teeth and support the bill.

    However, in this case, if ObamaCare doesn’t pass, we find ourselves no worse than we are now in regards to abortion. The only “incentive” being offered is that if we play along, maybe, possibly the Democratic majority will agree not to subsidize abortion in a way that it never has been before.

    In that sense, I think the gun to the pooch’s head is pretty accurate. “Help us pass our bill which you don’t like regardless, or else we’ll do something you’ll really hate.” For Winters’ argument to hold any water, there would have to be something positive for pro-life conservatives in the bill.

    As for sitting the whole thing out — I’d be happy to be a very active partisan for a bill that bore some resemblance to one of the suggests I listed above, or something else I haven’t thought of if I didn’t think (as I do of the current effort) that it will achieve almost nothing (or perhaps actual detriment) at great cost.

  3. I guess Democrats ought to just include a provision in every bill providing tax funding for abortion. Then pro-lifers would always be obligated to support the bill in question so long as the funding provision is taken out.

  4. I never claimed pro-lifers were obligated to support any bill. I claimed they were imprudent for abstaining from the debate process.

  5. I realize health care coverage isn’t considered by you to be a positive. Our bishops happen to think differently.

    Actually, I do consider it to be a positive — it’s just that I don’t think the major Democratic bills currently on offer would provide much of it. I’d be very strongly in favor of any one of the approaches I listed above to health care coverage.

    I never claimed pro-lifers were obligated to support any bill. I claimed they were imprudent for abstaining from the debate process.

    See, I don’t get the impression that the majority is interested in much actual debate from their conservative opponents. They’d like to guilt-trip conservatives into signing on to the bill basically as-is, with perhaps a very few changes. But when it comes to actual debate on how its best for our health care system to work, there’s little up for negotiation.

    In this sense, I think that defeating the current set of bills would actually be a pretty good start to getting some real debate going. And since the current plans are designed not to help anyone till after the 2012 election, we appear to have plenty of time to discuss things without causing additional harm.

  6. Exactly, Darwin. The Democrats could have at least tried to make this a truly bipartisan effort at compromise by including some things the other side could hang their hats on. The inclusion of Hyde Amendment language and major, far-reaching medical malpractice tort reform would have gone a long way toward moving the health care agenda forward.

    The Democrats are the majority party, however, and if they feel that they can get the bill passed without an olive branch or two to the other side, that’s their perogative. But I don’t think I’m obligated, then, to sign on in the faint hope that I might be able to maintain the status quo on federal funding for abortion.

  7. I have quit listening to Winters advice on this since he proclaimed as long as their is no abortion in it the bill is fine because it redistrubtes wealth. Which I am not sure is the whole purpose of reforming Health Care

  8. I enjoy reading MZ’s arguments.

    It makes me feel better about myself and my sanity.

    Anytime I poke my eye with a pencil or dislodge my left knee I just have to read his posts and suddenly I have this feeling of calmness and serenity.

    Knowing that my problems pale in comparison to those with poor logic and reasoning.

    This makes me put things in perspective that yes, this to shall pass, but MZ’s analysis will always be there for comfort.

    Life is good.

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