Friday, August 21, 2009

A Tale Of The Health Care Debate

Over the course of my lunch hour today, it became unmistakeably clear to me why the health care debate in America is so divisive. As I was leaving my building, I ran into the nice retired neighbor down the hall from me who was the biggest of Obama supporters during the 2008 election. A couple of times last year I took a shot at convincing him that Obama was just another Chicago politician, but I quickly realized that we would no longer be on speaking terms if I pressed my case against Obama. I recently noticed that my neighbor had removed all the Obama bumper stickers from his car. I asked him why he had done this. "We're in open revolt against him," he declared. There were a few other words about some deal with big Pharma uttered before he rushed off to catch his ride.

I proceed on to my favorite local pub where I couldn't help but share the story about my neighbor's disillusionment with one of my favorite bartenders, who is still a believer in The One. She lamented how all these crazies are stirring everyone up and making them scared for no good reason. I asked her if she didn't think some of those folks had good reason to worry about Obama's proposed government-run health care plan. "Absolutely not," she said. "I don't have health insurance and can't afford it." The bartender went on to explain how she pays cash whenever she visits a doctor and negotiates her rates. "That's how I was able to afford my nose job."

I asked my bartender friend, who drives a late model car and owns her own home upon which she had made substantial renovations, if she had ever asked the owner of the bar to offer her a health insurance plan. "She can't afford to buy health insurance for me," she replied. "She's got her own family to take care of." She added, "If I develop any serious health problems, you can bet I'm going to be getting care from Wishard Hospital, which provides great services." "I'm all for them building a new hospital because that's exactly what people like me need to take care of us when we get sick and can't afford health care because we have no insurance."

I didn't raise this issue with bartender today, but I've discussed it with her before. As you and I know, restaurant bartenders and servers earn most of their money from tips. Many, though not all, fail to report significant amounts of their tip earnings to the government. This saves both the employee and the employer money in payroll taxes the government collects from us to pay for those health care services she gets for free at places like Wishard, and to fund Medicare and Social Security for retired Americans. Medicare and Social Security will go broke in the near future because there aren't enough people paying into the system to cover the growing number of beneficiaries and growing costs of these entitlement programs. I was tempted to raise the "are you paying your fair share" argument, but to avoid having a drink tossed in my face, I chose to skirt that issue.

Sitting next to me is an employee of Anthem. I'm thinking this guy is going to be sympathetic with my arguments. Hey, I'm self-employed. I spend thousands of dollars a year on my own health insurance I purchase through his employer, and I rarely see a doctor or utilize any health care benefits because the first $2,500 comes directly out of my pocket. I would rather not buy health insurance, but my parents brought me up to accept personal responsibility. It would never occur to me to believe it was someone else's responsibility to take care of my bills when I get sick simply because I was too selfish to purchase health insurance.

So I asked the guy working for Anthem what he thought about Obama putting private health insurers like Anthem out of business. "That's not true," he shot back. "Our company is going to be given contracts to administer Obama's health care plan just like we do with Medicare." Perhaps under a short-term deal Angela Braly and other health care insurance executives cut with the Obama administration, not unlike the deals big Pharma and the hospitals cut with them, he'll keep his private job funded exclusively with taxpayer dollars. Eventually though as I see it, everyone at Anthem is going to eventually be converted into another government bureaucrat, but only after the Angela Bralys have walked away with tens of millions of dollars in bonuses as their reward for selling out the shareholders and other stakeholders in their companies.

So I left my favorite local pub with a somber reminder of just how quickly the American Dream is fading. What incentive is there to earn an honest living, pay your fair share of taxes, buy your own home and put away a little nest egg to live on when you retire? Let's just sit on our asses and look to government to take care of everything for us. Let's just call it "Hope and Change."


Doug said...

The differing perspectives you describe make me think that health care is the policy equivalent of Rashomon.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Touche, Doug.

indyernie said...

I don't think Obama will get his plan passed.
AARP has already announced that Obama misspoke saying that he had AARP's endorsement. AAPR will be running ads on FOX News and CNN stating that they do not support this plan. With Obama’s support and approval ratings dropping and America’s resistance this plan will never fly.

Anonymous said...

indyernie - They'll force it down our throats the same way they did with TARP.

I'm convinced that the banks want revolution so that they can break us up and Balkanize us under separate controlled leaderships, without the benefit of our Constitution. Obama will follow in Bush's footsteps to rob us of everything we've got until that day happens.

"The lat official act of any government is to rob the people". We're witnessing it on a daily basis.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

"What incentive is there to earn an honest living, pay your fair share of taxes, buy your own home and put away a little nest egg to live on when you retire? Let's just sit on our asses and look to government to take care of everything for us. Let's just call it "Hope and Change."
Why not? It works for 40% of the people in this country!