Thursday, September 10, 2009

Obama's speech to Congress

America listened with fatigue and weariness as the President announced his healthcare plan. This speech was aired on every news network as well as website or blog.

The president promised that people with some or the other form of insurance right now will not be forced to change anything. He said, “Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime.”

He said that people without coverage are a burden to other taxpayers because of their emergency room visits. Hence he says that it should be mandatory for everyone to carry some basic health insurance. I do find it odd that healthy young people who are unlikely to fall sick that often will be bullied into spending extra money on healthcare.

He says that a public option is mandatory for those who have no coverage and that it will be competing with private insurers and keeping them in check. He also seems to assure that the public option would not be a burden to the taxpayer. It will be run by its own revenue and not on taxation. It is a kind of unfair competition when the government includes one of its players in a game where the others are privately funded. This government-aided player will have the advantage of never failing. Money can be siphoned off from profiting governmental ventures to this player when things get rough. In other words, if the governmental ventures profit, the money won’t be returned to you as a tax refund, or a tax credit, but will actually be used to fund an institution that is not working in the first place.

Business, like evolution, does work by natural selection. Bad businesses should be allowed to fail. At no point do we need to bail out a venture that ends badly. So what if people have invested in it? That is way the game is played. You cannot be a partner in profit only.

I am confused. There is one point though. He is a good speaker. He can sell you any idea. Even when he says something like, “I am not gonna do any reform” which is what he meant when he said, “People on the left want a universal health care system, while people on the right want to abolish the tax breaks on employer provided health care. Doing either of these will be a great change for people who are happy with their health care.”

He said that people without coverage will get the big benefit of his plan, because he will introduce an insurance exchange marketplace, where insurance companies should also come on board because they would jump at the chance of getting new customers. How? These people are uninsured because they’re considered high-risk or high-maintenance by the companies. So what will change now? I believe the government will offer tax breaks to these insurance companies to make it more profitable to insure these people. So, money from your pocket will be used to insure people who are a health care risk, so much of a risk that current insurers do not want them at any cost.

To be fair to the president, we must take care to make sure that the silly myths about Obamacare are dispelled. This plan will not federally fund abortions. It will not insure illegal immigrants. Trust me, Democrats don’t have any advantages in helping illegal immigrants. Republicans benefit more from keeping illegal immigrants here because they work below minimum wage and benefit the small entrepreneur who is the republican base. The other myth is the stupid ‘Death panel’ concept. That is absolutely false. Attach Obamacare on the real points.

For example, Obama said that he wants the public option to be self-sufficient, and not supported by taxation. He said that it will be run like a regular business, but will sidestep some of the overheads and the profits that a private company has, and hence will be able to provide a better deal to the public. This is him making the case for socialized medicine. He will never use those words, but it is pretty much true. However, the VA, Medicare, Medicaid etc are government owned, and percentage of satisfied customers for all these is higher than the privately insured customer base. So, there is a point to be made for a single payer option even though, as Bill Maher puts it, “I know socialized medicine sounds like Stalin himself is going to come over to your house and perform a forced sterilization. But, really all it is, is universal health care.”

As I asked before in my earlier post about this, why can’t every person just vote his interest? Yes, the richest 1% will be paying more than us. So what! Simply put, each person should vote his interest, and not based on some principle and a fantasy of being rich someday. Even though it irritates me that healthy prudent people might be paying for others who cannot afford health or those who are irresponsible with their health, I keep thinking that this beacon of capitalism has public schools, public libraries, parks, unemployment and welfare options, affirmative action, and many other such taxpayer supported programs.

The one thing that Republicans have proposed that makes complete sense is tort reform. It should not be so easy to sue doctors who made judgment calls in the heat of the moment. Doctors who are afraid of being sued increase healthcare costs by ordering superfluous tests simply to back up their already correct diagnoses, paying a lot for malpractice insurance which cost is transferred to the patient, which helps increase his premium, and by refusing to treat patients who might die on the table.

There are a lot of people who are saying that they are happy with their healthcare. Most of them fear getting sick. Forget stuff like serious surgery, some basic visits to a hospital cost a lot. Many medications demand a high co-pay, which makes it tough for people to afford treatment. Some of these people are just lucky that something bad has not happened to them. I would love to treat healthcare as a regular business, but the truth is that people without other luxuries can find a way to live, but this is a necessity that threatens our very life if not present. At some point, when we are opposing reform, we are saying to the uninsurables, “To hell with you. You can die for all I care.”

I think the public option should be inferior to the private one. I think there should be a set of civil hospitals like we have in India: a completely parallel medical system, which does not interfere with the private medical scenario. Freedom to choose is an important right, but mere survival of the weakest of our species should be the least we can expect from people.