Sunday, October 04, 2009

Nattering Nabobs of Negativism

Representative Alan Grayson, Democrat from Florida, has gained a lot of attention for his now-famous description of Republicans' plans for healthcare (Step 1 - Don't get sick. Step 2 - And if you do... Step 3 - die quickly).

His speech, delivered on the House floor, was quite refreshing, mainly for the response it provoked among conservatives and liberals. It may help shift the momentum of the debate so that Democrats are no longer on the defensive. More importantly, it serves as a stark reminder that there are serious consequences to cosmetic reform measures that largely protect special interests.

People without insurance, or with inadequate insurance, often enter the healthcare system with late complications of their illness that end up costing society far more than if they were treated earlier. From a purely economic viewpoint, it is better for society if such people die quickly, and Grayson's comments insinuate that this is the Republican perspective.

While clearly an exaggeration, it does remind us that healthcare reform, fundamentally, cannot simply be about economics. It has to be based on the notion that every individual has the right to receive healthcare. If we proceed from this principle, then we can find a way to make the economics work. But if we start from a position of profiteering, then no meaningful reform will ever take place.

Representative Grayson appears to be fighting for principles - even before tackling healthcare, he has taken a leadership role in holding the banking industry accountable for the money it receives from the federal bailout.

This surprises me somewhat as he is a Harvard educated multi-millionaire; I was almost hoping to find out he was a teacher or policeman who rose up to fight for his constituents. Well, we'll take what we can get...

The reality is that health care reform will largely protect special interests while requiring only incremental "sacrifices" that will nominally expand insurance coverage for the uninsured or improve coverage for the underinsured.

The public option, a government-backed insurance plan, was a creative solution that could have made a meaningful difference. Hopefully, Grayson's comments will remind us of what is at stake and encourage real reform measures to be considered...

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