8.13.2009

the health care debate is making me sick

The health care debate is toxic, revealing a lot about us as a nation. And it feels embarrassing — like the whole world can see our underpants. Or hear us fighting in the kitchen.

First, most of us can't describe accurately the details of the health care reform now under debate. That makes us look stupid or too busy to care.

Second, most of us can't describe accurately the health care or insurance we currently have, so that makes us look kind of stupid or lazy.

Some of us don't care about people who don't have health insurance, so that makes us seem unsympathetic or super lucky.

Most of us don't understand that we're already paying for people who don't have health care — which makes us too busy to care, in denial or merely rich.

Some of us — a lot of us — already receive health care under some form of government plan, but don't believe in health care under some form of government plan. That makes us hypocritical or selfish. In some camps, I hear that makes us patriotic.

A lot of us are a combination of these things: too busy, lazy, a bit stupid perhaps, lucky, unsympathetic, in-denial, really rich, hypocritical, selfish ... and patriotic.

We're having an identity crisis when it comes to caring about the nation's health, which makes me think what we really need is psychotherapy. But, sadly, that's not covered under most health plans, if you have one at all.

To many, health care reform is scary, like someone's building a halfway house for criminals right at their doorstep. It's a N.I.M.B.Y. ("Not In My Backyard") issue evolved into a N.O.M.B.O. ("Not On My Back, Obama") issue.

People never change. But policy can, so our health care reformers must get more creative and visionary.

How about a Cash for Clunkers Program? Not for cars, but for older, beat-up people whose bodies have wear and tear, and can't go long distances when they're filled with gas?

Our government is offering us $4,500 to buy a new car. Can it also offer humans incentives — say, a tax break — to join a gym? To quit smoking? Or to buy produce from local farmers? Reward schools that teach kids how to eat right and exercise? You know, kind of like that class we used to offer kids called "gym."

Let's pay people to stay healthy, instead of only paying for them when they get sick. Then maybe our nation will find its compassion, the one true antidote for its health care identity crisis.

Brian Unger is a writer, satirist and actor.
He helped launch The Daily Show and he is a regular contributor to NPR.

5 comments:

vegas WOLFINGTON said...

I really like the idea of subsidizing smoking cessation and weight loss, but it could in no way be regulated, ya know? The statistics about how huge of an impact smoking and obesity have on our health care system is staggering. Preventable disease dangit!

Heidi said...

We've had the need to use government health insurance, and while it was helpful and "free"- I almost cried the first time I got to pay my own co pay at the Dr. It was nice to feel self sufficient again! Sometimes it is a pain dealing with insurance companies and they have too much power over the Dr's and a huge influence over the care people recieve. It is almost like they don't care to do preventive things but will pick up the tab when something really bad happens, all the while they could have saved $$$ with preventative measures. I'm all for incentives for making good health choices, getting your annual visits in and staying in good health. Some people think that if the government takes it over it will be better. When the government takes it over it is not always so hot. Look at our not so quick digital switch over..not that that is super important in comparison to other critical issues, but it was a government action and not done all that well. Also, when we were on wic I told them I only needed formula for one day. That is all, because I was only away from my son for one day. They gave me so much formula I had to give it away to people! Same with milk. Nate joked that we could have lived off of wic only-although it was intended as a supplement to the diet of me and my children.
I saw a friend say that it was inhumaine that we don't have "free" medical care as other countries. Nate, who works in the health care field explains that hospitals must provide care to everybody. You cannot be turned away - especially in emergency situations. You may get billed for it, however a lot of people skip on that part and then the Dr.'s and hospitals have to write it off and it does get paid for...eventually.....by those of us that pay our taxes! Nothing in "free".
I would love to see health insurance companies make a reformation were they will provied a better product that gives incentives for good health practices and offers to cover preventive care, which in turn would save them money in the long run. I wish that with the use of good ethics and providing a good product that they could be competitive in the market (of health insurance) and make things work better. I don't want the government to take over...there are too many special interest groups involved and it will not be more efficient. Nothing is perfect..I don't think it ever will be. Our government is far from it and I don't agree with every part of it all of the time. However, when I visit and read about other countries I am glad that I live in this one and that I am a part of this government. It could be worse, a lot worse!

Emily Ruth said...

I was gonna say something, but Vegas & Heidi said it for me. Man, smart people read your blog; )

M. G. said...

This guy is right on some points, but he buys into the government objective that we either don't care or are rich or a part of the problem...that is bunk. The government wants us to think we are too studpid to understand and fix our own problems....therefore we NEED the government to do it for us. NO THANKS Give a man a fish and he is fed for a day.......

Linz said...

I live in socialized healthcare and I can tell that it is NOT the way. Something should be done to help those who have NO insurance but going full social....NO THANKS!