Monday, August 17, 2009

The Health Care Debate

There is a lot of rhetoric these days — from both sides — in the health care reform debate.

For my own reasons, I have been a supporter of health care reform in the past. I supported it when Bill Clinton was president. It was, perhaps, the main reason I supported John Edwards when he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination last year.

I still think health care reform is important, and I give Barack Obama credit for taking it on. But I believe it needs to be done right.

And doing it right — especially when the president clearly has been pursuing a bipartisan consensus on issues — means taking the time that is necessary to address all concerns and responding adequately to the asinine charges that have been made in this debate. And to stop some of the ridiculous countercharges.

It does not mean rushing the legislation through Congress.

There is a lot on the line. Groups that want to influence the direction of the debate have already spent more than $57 million on TV advertising, reports With so much money involved, it shouldn't surprise anyone that a lot of dubious information is being spread.

To help you separate fact from fiction, I encourage you to bookmark, which clearly states that it is dedicated to "separating fact from fiction." It is a service of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I will remind you that the Times endorsed Obama in last year's election.

PolitiFact supports the validity of Obama's assertion that the health care plan for members of Congress "is no better than [the one for] the janitor who cleans their offices."

That does not mean, however, that PolitiFact is a pushover for everything Obama says and does. When Obama says, "I just want to assure [you] we're not talking about cutting Medicare benefits," PolitiFact reports that such a statement is "half–true."

PolitiFact also finds that Obama's suggestion that "if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan" is a half–truth.

Likewise, Obama's claim that AARP is "endorsing" the health care reform bill is "barely true," says PolitiFact.

But "half–true" or "barely true" is better than being labeled "false," and that is precisely what PolitiFact says about some allegations from the other side:
  • Ezekiel Emanuel, one of Obama's key health care advisers, "says medical care should be reserved for the nondisabled. So watch out if you're disabled," said Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann. That isn't true, says PolitiFact.

  • And Sarah Palin's claim that a provision in the health care reform bill for end–of–life counseling for seniors is not "entirely voluntary" is false, says PolitiFact.
But don't get the idea that Obama is always right. Or even "half" right or "barely" right.

Obama's claim that "I have not said that I was a single–payer supporter" is just plain false, PolitiFact says.

A lot of oxen are being gored in this debate so it really shouldn't be surprising that people on both sides get carried away. All the more reason to do it right.

Doing this right means waiting until the economy is clearly turning around. Most people won't feel that things are really turning around until unemployment starts to go down. That's one of the reasons I have been saying that job creation needed to be a priority. Despite lip service to the contrary, it hasn't been.

And when it comes down to a choice between providing a roof over your head and the heads of your children or paying for COBRA benefits (and millions who lost their jobs before September 1 of last year do not qualify for the assistance of the government to pay for those benefits) to treat a malady that doesn't exist yet (and may never exist), which expense do you think unemployed Americans will choose?

Yes, I believe health care is important. And I believe the system needs to be reformed.

But food, clothing and shelter are also important.

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