Healthcare Reform

Midway through President Obama’s press conference last night, I switched over to ESPN to watch the Red Sox-Rangers game. As I watched the Rangers tie the game in the third inning, it occurred to me that George W. Bush might also be watching the game. After all, he has good healthcare coverage for the rest of his life, thanks to the federal government, and he’s the former owner of the Rangers. So, I pondered, how is it that I am as disinterested in the current healthcare debate as our former president? And why don’t we blog more about this issue?

I can’t speak for Mike, but I haven’t commented upon the current debate for two reasons. First, I don’t find the key elements of healthcare reform all that controversial (and this blog is supposedly about controversies in infection prevention). Among other things, meaningful healthcare reform should provide universal coverage, should reward quality over quantity of healthcare delivery, should pay for preventive care, should prohibit insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, and should require transparency from hospitals for key infection prevention measures. As a part-time VA doc, I think the federal government can do healthcare, and can do it well. There are certainly controversial elements of the debate, such as how to pay for reform, but those are mostly outside my expertise.

The second reason I’m not blogging about healthcare reform is pure cynicism about our political system. I’m frustrated by the way the media portrays this debate as a political horse race, and with how many politicians use the debate as such. And I’m sad that many, if not most, of the members of Congress are hopelessly conflicted by financial relationships with key interest groups in this debate. Rather than listening primarily to their constituents, who are in constant peril of losing healthcare coverage, being denied care, paying exorbitant rates for inadequate coverage, etc., they keep busy with fundraisers that provide exclusive access to industry lobbyists. Here is a telling section from a recent NPR story on Max Baucus, for example:
"Baucus courts these inside-the-Beltway donors by inviting them to Montana for weekend getaways — skis and snowmobiles in February, fly fishing and golf in June, and coming up on July 31, "Camp Baucus," which is billed as "a trip for the whole family."

Tickets start at $2,500.

So as Baucus and other lawmakers attempt to craft a bill that can smash through a virtual gridlock of interests, the awkward question lingers: To whom are they more attentive — their voting constituencies back home or the dollar constituencies who are at the Capitol every day?"

This explains why I’d rather watch overpaid athletes play baseball. Go Cubs!


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