healthcare reform and the appeal to emotion
“There are actual sick people with actual families feeling actual pain and facing actual tragedy because of this grotesque, wasteful, perverse, immoral, evil system that we labor under. Health care reform is a necessity because this is true and the fact of its truth tells us that change has to come.” ~ Freddie, on the healthcare reform
Freddie is right and he is wrong in this post. He is right because there are some opponents of healthcare reform who really don’t care about the human cost of all of this, about the real, suffering people out there who are, as Freddie put it, being “raped” by our current system.
These calloused, uncaring people Freddie is talking about really do exist. Many are a subspecies of the population known as politicians. Some are another subspecies known commonly as pundits. And of course there are many, many people who are ill-informed enough by their political leaders and news sources to think that the real threat is not a lack of affordable insurance but rather some creeping government takeover. I personally think that this is a bit of a dramatic position to take, whether or not there is some truth to it (and there is).
I think the human cost is very real and very troublesome, and writing it off because the government may become more involved in our insurance is just silly, though we should be honest about the repurcussions of more government in anything (rationing, restriction of choice, etc.). These are necessary parts of government involvement in anything, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing all the time. I have personally benefited from Medicaid and realize full well that the government can be a force for good. It can be a piece to the societal stability puzzle.
But Freddie is also wrong in that he is conflating the reality of the debate with the caricature of the debate. Or rather, he is taking the caricature of his opponents and leveling an accusation against that caricature rather than at real people. Admittedly, the leadership on the right makes this very easy to do, but doing it is nonetheless wrong. It leaves no room for honest opponents.
There are plenty of good arguments for containing healthcare costs, and the concern that bringing in more government and more coverage will lead to higher costs is not only valid but logical and consistent.
Without actually putting in place measures to contain costs we will soon run out of money for these programs. There will be a human cost there, too. People will suffer.
The reforms being debated now still provide lower-middle-class people with unaffordable insurance and the play-or-pay fines are too low to meaningfully change behavior. This will perpetuate the current problem. There is not enough of a structural shift being debated in current reforms.
Current reforms don’t do enough to contain rising costs from the supply side (doctors and drug makers etc) which means we will have no reliable cost containment over the long haul. Costs will be borne by consumers and taxpayers. Even this reform isn’t a free lunch.
Perhaps expanding Medicaid would have been more sensible, and providing catastrophic coverage on a means-tested basis through vouchers or direct government insurance.
The list could go on and on.
So saying that this current reform is bad policy is valid, whether or not you want more people to be covered. You can say it and still believe that there is a human price being paid by keeping people uninsured. It doesn’t make you a monster, which is what Freddie is trying to do with his appeal to emotion, draping that appeal in the language of truth and necessity.
On the other hand, opponents of current reforms should take a look at their arguments and see whether or not they’re taking the easy ideological path. It’s way too easy to just decry everything the government does as bad, as an encroachment on our liberty, etc. without really thinking about the wider picture. Government is a part of our society, and it always will be. Perhaps limiting government doesn’t mean ruling out its involvement in things like healthcare. If there were two places I’d be comfortable seeing a healthy level of state involvement once the streets were paved and the cops on their beats, it’d be health insurance (not care) and education.
The question, then, is not whether we oppose healthcare reform writ large, but whether we oppose this reform or that and why. The question is not one of merely costs or merely coverage. It is a complicated question and simplifying it down to “No government!” or “People are suffering!” does very little good. Partisanship is all fine and good until it becomes blinding. And I think that’s what these arguments are. They go past good partisanship into the realm of sucker punches. They are appeals to fear and emotion rather than good solid arguments for one position or another. By all means, take a position. Be a partisan. Freddie is right to remind us of the human toll, but he’s wrong to assume those he disagrees with are unaware of that toll, and wrong also to think that simply supporting reform will do enough to put an end to that suffering.