Sunday, August 16, 2009

Talking around the problem

isconsin Political Fix
not just another blog
August 16, 2009

By Bill Kraus

A recent e-mail message from a long time liberal Republican whose campaign for a U.S. Senate seat was derailed in the primary by someone who was passionately anti-abortion reminded me of the dangers of over-simplifying complex issues.

It wasn't that long ago that no one would have heard of my friend’s contention that this wasn’t about people who were pro-life versus those who were--what?--pro-death. This was about who would get to choose a hateful procedure, whether that procedure would be lawful, and, if not, what the punishment would be for those who provided and requested it.

The current e-mail was also about another even more complex question and, unconscionably, included a joke about an "Obama Sandwich"--the person who orders it gets to eat it and someone else pays for it--which is this political season’s victim of an attempt to over-simplify to a slogan, phrase, joke.

To some extent I fault the administration for letting the discussion about reform be about medical welfare for the over-publicized 40 million instead of about high medical costs and mediocre medical results.

The fact that my correspondent devoted most of his e-mail to railing against the young, cavalier, cheap, or maybe just stupid part of the 40 million who will unjustifiably benefit from the proposed reform indicates that Obama’s attempt to change the subject and the debate has not yet registered.

The 40 million are a small part of the problem. Bringing them into the mainstream may even be a part of the cost solution.

The main reason for reform is that the U.S. cannot compete in a flat world economy until and unless our grossly inefficient and relatively ineffective way of delivering health care is brought into line. The old saw about GM--”Their Blue Cross bill is higher than their steel bill”--afflicts everyone and everything everyone makes.

The insurance/employer-based system is, in effect, killing our ability to compete.

That’s the problem.

It’s not who will benefit from the fix.

It’s not who will decide how much to pay for what procedure for which patient.

It’s not about denying treatment or downgrading a not-that-great health care delivery system.

It’s about surviving in a world economy where our competitors are getting better health care results for half the money.

Let’s figure out how to do that.

Let’s quit with the slogans, the one liners, the jokes, and the shouting, and get to work on the problem.

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