Healthcare Reform is the Space Program of My Generation
When I was two years-old, my father was diagnosed Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Two months before being diagnosed, he was offered a job at Nike. He didn't take it. He had no idea at the time, but taking it would have meant bankruptcy for my family. My dad survived and promptly had to deal with over $150,000 in medical bills. This was in the early 1980s. At this time, healthcare insurance was just beginning to be reorganized into a corporate structure.
I take a pretty simplistic approach to most political, economic, and operational problems: if the current system does not operate logically, it must be inherently flawed. Any system that is incentivized or otherwise manipulated by visible hand, is inherently flawed.
The "mortgage crisis" is a prime example of this. There was no logic in the creation of these loans and they were bad. There was no logic in why or how the hell a customer service rep in my company making $35,000 a year could purchase a $500,000 home. But she did. (She no longer has this home, she lives in an apartment like the rest of us middle class "fuck the man" folk).
Of course another, not quite as inyaface example is the healthcare system. I don't understand how my own health insurance works. I have it, but it doesn't do much good. Each doctor's visit ends up costing me around $50, even if it's to check out a wicked sore throat that I was sure was like Alien growing inside my larynx.
President Obama's speech tonight was immediately criticized for not giving much information.
Obama's identified the number one culprit: unregulated and unaccountable profit generating, shareholder-having, health insurance companies. I don't believe this has been so clearly said before this. Additionally, Obama's administration and varying task forces have actually constructed several plans. Only two of which are at the edge of the cliff, one may possibly fall into acceptance.
The Clinton task force didn't get that far. All Hillary and here minions were trying to do was come up with ONE plan.
The last president to attempt such a feat was Harry Truman. He was called a communist for wanting to insure every American. A decade later, care for the sick by a federal entity was cemented in public knowledge as a necessity. Private insurance would take care of the wealthy. This federal plan said nothing of those that were healthy and uninsured. At this point, healthcare costs were 4.5% of the US national gross domestic product.
Another decade later, in the 1960s, 700 health insurance companies found a niche in the marketplace and started taking hold of hospitals, doctors, and society.
View a timeline of American healthcare here.
Really, deregulated corporate private healthcare insurance is a relatively young system and concept - only fifty years-old.
President Obama is faced with a situation that neither presidents Truman or Clinton had to: He has an economy broken by greed and unaccountability and a mass of Americans with no spending power. In other words, he has a huge fucking wealth gap.
The President realizes that this wealth gap is affecting our deficit. Healthcare costs now make up 17% of our national gross domestic product. So to those of you that wonder why no one whined about healthcare in 1950, it's because it was one-quarter the size of the current blood engorged tumor that is the American healthcare system.
View stats on healthcare costs here.
This absolute financial and (often) emotional misery of the American people may just be what he needs to push us over into the world of accepting a nationalized healthcare program and beginning, in baby steps, to implement it.
Finding a way to lessen the percentage of income Americans spend on healthcare is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Just as the space program was a necessity for technological advancement and staking a claim on the big-boy-pants in geopolitics, healthcare is necessary to make American citizens feel safe and thusly put their best foot forward. We're scared shitless right now. We can't change jobs if we wanted to, we can't afford COBRA if we get laid off, we can't get in a car accident even if we have insurance. Government regulation of health insurance firms is necessary to curb greed and increase accountability, in this case, that would improve American morale and desire to spend significantly.
I know it's cliche, but I'm pretty much just posting it for your reference. Y'know, the part about how a "challenge is one that we are willing to accept":
"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."
America then lead the world in technological innovation because it did achieve this goal. Kennedy didn't want us to go to the moon because then we could all chest bump each other and yell "woo yay, we're big men now because we did it first"! He wanted us to go to the moon for all that we would learn along the way. The world forever looked different to people like my father, who as a budding engineer, watched the Apollo 11 launch from his living room in Oregon. It had hope and intrigue.
Healthcare reform is fucking hard. The benefit of going through with it isn't just to do it because it looks pretty in Europe. The benefit comes when Americans have a renewed faith in their country and government and they are less fearful of any slight employment change, or even of having minor and necessary surgery. Less fear means more spending.
This may be one of the largest infrastructure changes American society will ever make. As a nation, we tend to not make major advancements that won't make some major geopolitical shift in our favor. At this moment, however, a growing deficit could impact geopolitics and our global economic standing. Now's our time to shine, kids. This healthcare pill ain't gonna be a pleasant one to swallow, but shit howdy, it'll feel good when it kicks in.