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Health care debate is healthy, necessary for the future of our country

April 11, 2012

Ignorance in bliss

Two-and-a-half years ago, anger shown at political town hall meetings were at an all-time high. It didn’t matter if it was a Republican or Democrat town hall, and it didn’t matter where it was located; there was usually someone at each meeting with a camera to try and catch someone from Congress saying something he or she shouldn’t have, or someone in the crowd yelling at the member of Congress about legislation.

Even here in Sterling, U.S. Representative Cory Gardner was having a town hall meeting and two gentlemen in the audience almost had a fight in the Tenant Art Gallery. Why was there such animosity? A lot of it was over President Obama’s health care legislation making it through Congress.

Unfortunately, many of those who came to the meetings to show their anger didn’t always have their facts straight. At a town hall meeting held by Rep. Robert Inglis (R-SC), someone in the crowd told Rep. Inglis to “keep your government hands off my Medicare.” A letter sent to President Obama said, “I don’t want government-run health care. I don’t want socialized medicine. And don’t touch my Medicare.”

Economist and political analyst Arthur Laffer said on CNN, “If you like the Post Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles and you think they’re run well, just wait ‘til you see Medicare, Medicaid, and health care done by the government.” Unfortunately for all these arguments, Medicaid and Medicare already are, and have always been, government programs.

Fortunately there are some locations that provide facts that aren’t partisan. One source for looking at our debt and deficit crisis is the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which can be found online at http://www.pgpf.org.

Four scary facts about our current health care system:

  1. As a country we spend nearly twice as much on health care per person than most other major developed countries.
  2. Nearly half of all U.S. health care spending is funded through federal, state, and local government programs.
  3. Health care spending per person is projected to double in the next 20 years after taking inflation into account.
  4. The federal government spends more for health care than it does for defense, Social Security, or any other single spending area.

Based on these facts we need to be able to debate possible solutions. If these trends continue as they are set up to, health care can bankrupt our country. There are a variety of solutions we need to consider, research, and debate, not just eliminate because a talk show host tells us what we should say.

Each of these solutions have pros and cons, but unless we start considering all of them, health care will ruin us.  Here are a few solutions presented from the Peterson Foundation:

  1. Adopt electron health record systems to reduce medical errors, paperwork, and administrative costs.
  2. Develop and communicate proven “best practices.”
  3. Reform the medical malpractice system.
  4. Adopt better ways to organize and pay for health care.
  5. Promote wellness and prevent disease.
  6. Create a national database and insurance market.
  7. Reform federal health care programs to make them more sustainable.

Our elected representatives need to be the leaders in making changes. Our elected representatives get their cues from the people who elect them. As a society we need to let our representatives know it is O.K. for them to research and debate.

Unfortunately, most of the messages they receive are from one of the extremes. Health care can bankrupt the country, but we also are a country that has the right resources and people capable of making the most effective and efficient health care in the world. We just need to let our leaders know they have our support to open up the debate.

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