It’s Here, It’s Queer: Our Perplexing Healthcare Package
Of course I mean “queer” in the original, archaic, Webster’s-approved sense of the word: Strange. Odd. Puzzling. The healthcare bill that nabbed a narrow victory last night in the House of Representatives is nobody’s idea of a coherent reform package. It’s a grotesque piece of work that resembles one of those loopy mythical hybrids: a gryphon, perhaps, or a Donklephant. It goes to show you that sometimes a compromise can breed monsters.
The new package, which will be stamped with President Obama’s seal of approval any day now, has something in it to offend everybody. For the first time ever, it forces the American people to buy health insurance or face stiff penalties. Ditto for companies with 50 or more employees. At the same time, it forces insurance companies to cover high-risk individuals whose costly health woes could sink a battleship.
You have to agree there’s a lot of forcing here. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to be forced. It’s what totalitarian governments do to earn their unsavory reputations.
Yes, it’s a grotesque creature, this new healthcare package. By compelling everyone to patronize private insurance companies, it seems to favor conservative interests. But then it turns that bias upside down by putting those insurance companies in a government-imposed stranglehold: not only must they insure the ill and infirm… they’re compelled to grant them carte blanche — no more lifetime caps on benefits. This part of the package is a leftist’s vision of nirvana.
Granted, the bill offers a few overdue public perks: it promises to extend Medicaid to the borderline-poor, and it offers partially subsidized health insurance for the struggling lower middle class. These benefits aren’t exactly free, of course: they’ll cost taxpayers an estimated $948 billion over the next ten years. But what’s an extra trillion 0r thereabouts to a nation already in hock up to its eyebrows?
People who hate the new package (and their numbers will be legion) will undoubtedly huff about the perils of compromise. They’ll assert that this certifiably weird program embodies the pitfalls of moderate thinking: by trying to please everybody, it pleases nobody.
But it just ain’t so. A truly moderate program would have offered a public option as well as a private option. Instead of forcing the uninsured to buy insurance and the insurance companies to insure them, it would have promoted freedom of choice. Two systems, side by side, existing in the spirit of friendly competition… each serving the needs of its customers.
Too simple, alas, and too much to ask for.