Health Care Poll
An Oxymoron, a Paradox — Or Irony?
It looks like our politicized Supreme Court will finally bludgeon the government’s health care reform to death this week.
The people have Already spoken. A Reuters/Ipsos poll over the weekend found that a large majority of people oppose the existing health care reform, but that in the very same poll, equally large majorities favor all but one of the major provisions, the broccoli provision. I’ll explain why that one’s necessary later, but it’s the provision that requires or mandates that everyone get health insurance. Here’s Reuters report on the health care reform adopted in 2009.
Although the provision might seem to offend the American cowboy spirit of loners on the range, I am struck by the inconsistency. Actually I don’t exactly trust polls. The sampling, which pollsters love to tell you is very careful, very scientific, has a serious flaw in my opinion. The sample is dreadfully biased in that no one — let me repeat, no one — who’s too busy, too impatient or too skeptical would ever take part in an opinion poll. So you can juggle the proportion of old versus young, north versus south, rich versus poor, highly educated and practically illiterate and you still won’t create an unbiased sample.
Then, in an effort to sound scientific, the polls are written to be precise, with questions always asked in the same way, as if ambiguity was not built into human language. I’ve subjected myself to one or two opinion polls, and the experience was frustrating. I don’t live my life on a scale of 1 to 5, one being the least and five being the most.
This is interesting. Polls frequently turn up such glaring inconsistencies, really oxymorons, and logically puzzling paradoxes. It’s because of the way we talk, and the way we think. With a wave of the hand, someone dismisses all politicians. Aw, they’re all crooks. And then proceeds to say he’s voted for the same Congressmen at every election for 24 years. It’s so common, there’s an aphorism for this.
Finally, polls take on a life of their own, injecting their spurious conclusions into the political scene, and the effort to measure sentiment starts to motivate sentiment in and of itself.
I feel dread about health care. I fear that the right-wing majority on the court is satisfied that their broccoli analogy talks to the people. That would be sad. Forgot about broccoli? That’s the one in which Justice Scalia claimed that mandating health coverage is just like mandating people to eat broccoli.
The reason I like Obama’s health care reform is the simple fact that it does something. And something has to be done — even if it’s not perfect.
We are drifting into a society where people’s lives and well-being will last only as long as your health lasts. Without health insurance — some kind of shared responsibility for each other — we will be back to the good old days, like Dickens’s London, or our own gilded age.
One of the difficulties with the politics of health care is the numbers. As long as 51% of the people are happy with their employers health insurance, the other 49% can go screw. Deep down, I’m quite sure that’s the way most people think, and it’s rational for them, selfishly, but only as far as they can trust they will keep this insurance.
Not that long ago, many people went to work, expecting to be signing on for the duration. Lifetime jobs were common. Sure there were some professions where the action was fast and furious — like the movie business, the advertising business. And there were some that were irregular structurally, like construction.
Now be honest, do you know of any contemporary job creators who promises to stay put and not pick up and go somewhere else to save a few dollars? Insecurity is built into our economy now. No one’s making an commitments.
So how do you come to have such great health care? And to be sure some of the plans that come with big corporate jobs are nice. The employee whines if his share of the premium goes up to $125 a month, from $100. If he were to buy the same plan in the free and open market, it would cost more like $1,000 a month.
Is this evidence of the generosity, or even the efficiency of your job creator? Hell, no. This is what happens:
- Your employer gets a huge discount from the insurance company. The main reason is that the insurance company can bet that his workforce is old enough to know better; young enough to stay healthy, and stable enough not to self-destruct.
- Your employer gets a huge tax break for buying this already discounted insurance.
- Your employer knows that if you had to pay for it yourself, he’d have to pay you $10,000 or $20,000 more a year.
Guess who pays for all this? In part, I do. Someone pays. I have to pay huge sums to get minimal insurance. Any of you can go to the doctor any time you have a sniffle, as often as you like, and it doesn’t cost you anything. And all of us pay. We all support the uninsured when they waste resources by going to the emergency rooms because they have no where else.
Conservatives love to talk about financial responsibility and personal responsibility, but then why are they so committed to a system that gives giant handouts to businesses?
Now, let’s get back to those broccoli evaders that Scalia is so worried about. The health care system needs the participation of everyone to make it work, so we all get benefits, and we all pay for them. If you have lots of money extra, you can go get plastic surgery every five or six months, and you’ll still have all the advantages of the American health industry. But you would have to pay for the extras, and not bury it in your company’s extravagant executive benefits package, so that we have to pay for you (tax deductions) but you don’t have to pay for us.
People in politics are pretty sure that without a mandate, young people simply won’t buy insurance and therefore won’t participate. They don’t often get sick, so it’s a logical decision, but it kills the system. This argument rings true to me. When I was 20, I’d never have wasted my money on health insurance. When I was a little older, I had it, however, because I was employed by companies that gave it to us. And still I almost never went to the doctor.
Notice that I have not mentioned the insurance companies, the ones who have created the mess we have, and continue to rake off 10% or 15% of the health economy. They have create a bureaucratic nightmare and have imposed firm control over decisions doctors make.
But the health care reform law didn’t touch them. Like I said, Obama had to start somewhere.