Thursday, May 28, 2009

Once More Unto The Breach

Yesterday, I spent several hours at a local hospital while my father had a procedure to attempt to correct the atrial fibrillation that he's been experiencing for the last three months or so. As I observed the modern facility, kind-hearted nurses, dedicated doctors, state of the art equipment, and overall excellent level of care being delivered, I wondered why the country seems so intent on heading down the path to radical and quite likely irreversible changes to our health care system. I also wondered about what kind of care will be available for me when, God willing, I reach my father's age.

Now proponents of the government directed version of health care reform tell us not to worry. They'll still maintain the high level of care that we receive today, only it will cost less and be available for everyone. And every hospital will have free unicorn rides for the kids too.

Actually those who favor President Obama's health care reform plans are right about one thing. Most Americans likely won't see major changes in their own health care immediately if the plans come to fruition. Which is one of the reasons that resisting it will prove to be a significant challenge.

It's not easy to explain that however beneficial and limited today's health care reform proposals may sound, in the long run they will lead incrementally to a system that few American would recognize, and, I would imagine, few would truly want. The real end game of the supporters of government controlled health care has been cloaked in stealth this time around and the increasing scope of government control is subtle enough that I fear that many Americans don't yet recognize its expansionary nature.

To counter this conservatives (and anyone who believes that government managed health care will be disastrous for the country) must do three things:

1. Focus. There are far more battles to fight than resources to fight them these days: bailouts, spending, taxes, card check, Supreme Court nominees, Gitmo, cap and trade, immigration, etc. But to some extent, almost all of them are reversible. Once we take the next big step down the path toward government health care, it will difficult if not impossible to reverse course. Beating back the Democrats health care plan is right battle in the right place at the right time. It is the most crucial issue of the day and the one that we cannot afford to lose.

2. Understand what the true consequences of more government control of health care will be and be able to explain those consequences in a simple and straight forward manner. This isn't a battle that will be won on the floor of Congress or by raising money for advocacy advertising. This fight must be taken up by all of us in our daily lives. Traditionally, many conservatives have shied away from this kind of politics of the personal (I know I have). We like to keep a level of separation between our politics and our personal lives, often out of very valid concerns.

But this time the stakes are too high. We need to talk about health care with our friends, our relatives, our neighbors, and even our coworkers when appropriate. We don't need to be pushy. We don't need to be partisan. We do need to be persuasive and the more informed we are on the subject the more likely people are to be open to hearing our argument.

3. Understand the Republican alternative and be able to explain it:

Republican lawmakers stepped up their opposition to Democrats' plans for overhauling the nation's health-care system, introducing legislation on Wednesday that would give Americans tax credits to pay for health insurance.

The plan, backed by some Republicans in the House and Senate, offers a glimpse into how the GOP is mobilizing against Democrats' effort to create a public insurance plan and to require companies to provide or otherwise pay for health-insurance coverage for workers. Republican lawmakers say such measures would bureaucratize the nation's health system and stifle job creation.

Given the Democrats' control of Congress, the Republican plan has little chance of passage. But it reflects some Republican lawmakers' growing dissatisfaction with a bipartisan effort to fix the health-care system. Congressional leaders hope to pass a health-care overhaul this summer.

The government would run a health plan "with the compassion of the IRS, the efficiency of the post office, and the incompetence of Katrina," according to a summary of the Republicans' plan unveiled on Wednesday. Called the Patients' Choice Act, it would eliminate the tax break that employers receive for providing health-insurance benefits to their workers. Instead, it would give an annual tax credit of $2,300 to each individual and $5,700 to each family that they could use to offset the cost of their health insurance. Low-income families would get extra money to buy into private insurance plans.

That line about the IRS, post office, and Katrina is a good one to store away for future use. But saying no is not enough. There are some serious flaws in our current health care system and if we don't have a plan to address them, the Democrats will win the day by default. Unfortunately, the GOP alternative is complicated and not given to easy understanding. We need to do our homework, be ready to explain why the Democratic plan will cause much harm, and offer a solid rationale for the Republican proposal.

It's not going to be easy. It's not going to be comfortable. It's not going to be cheap (sorry Nihilist). But, to paraphrase Herb Brooks, if we lose this battle we very well may end up taking it to our f***ing graves. Literally.