In last week's Collegian I was unsurprised to see a timely article on America's current hot-button issue: health care. Unfortunately, I found Dan Colosimo's letter to the editor, titled "Health care - the right solution," to be riddled with hyperbolic emotional appeals buttressed by a concerning neglect of rigorous research.
Colosimo provided a case study in taking inherently normative statements, dressing them up and presenting them as positive realities. Perhaps most entertaining was his broad-brush criticism of conservatives reverting to the "politics of fear" in trying to defeat Democratic health care reform. He brilliantly followed this several paragraphs later with a stentorian declaration that "health insurance companies are blood-sucking vampires that prey on human suffering." Yikes - talk about fear!
Alas, such rhetoric is tempting to comment on but irrelevant as a matter of policy analysis and debate. To his credit, Colosimo did include some numbers and research in his article. To his fault, those numbers were neither comprehensive nor fully applicable.
Most misleading was his heavy reliance on the World Health Organization's report that labeled the United States health system as ranking 37th in the world. This report is a favorite rallying point of liberal-minded health-care reform supporters. One looks at such a statistic and comes to the same conclusion as Colosimo: Isn't the United States supposed to have one of the best heath care systems in the world?
Yes, it is and it does. The WHO report, if analyzed further, ranks health systems based on five components: health level, health distribution, health responsiveness, responsiveness distribution and financial fairness. As many observers have pointed out, only health level and health responsiveness are actual clinical measures of health care quality. The other criteria are what researcher and Dr. Ronald Wenger terms "nonmedical, socioeconomic criteria" and account for 62.5 percent of the WHO grading scale.
What does this mean? It means that in terms of the actual quality of health care received, the United States still ranks very high. Want proof? The examples and evidence are absolutely voluminous, but given the length requirements of this article, a few will have to suffice. Research by Michael Tanner in Policy Analysis shows that the "U.S. has some of the highest breast, colon and prostate cancer survival rates in the world," as well as absolutely dominates the world research and development health sectors.
Further corroborating evidence comes from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in which it is determined that the "U.S. ranks first or second in the world in kidney transplants, liver transplants, heart transplants, total knee replacements, coronary artery bypass ..."
The list goes on and on ...
The low ranking the United States received was a result of difficulties in providing access to low-income citzens and distributing our resources. Although Colosimo wrote that our current situation is "the system Republicans want to maintain," he is mistaken. Nearly all Americans realize that our health system is not perfect and certainly needs to be addressed.
Our biggest issue, admittedly, is increasing access to health care for more people. The real issue is how to provide such access: either through a public-option-based plan or a more free-market-oriented solution. Conservatives worry that the public-option alternative will compromise the leading edge America has on medical research and top-notch care.
I would like to suggest that the debate about health care is not being driven by conservatives' attempts to instill fear among U.S. citizens. Although that practice does exist in some form, the real outrage over this bill lies with the American citizens themselves.
The now-infamous town hall meetings are the result of average Americans actually taking the time to read the House's and Senate's health care proposals (and the alarming realization that many of our politicians have not). I am not sure whether Colosimo has taken the time to do this himself, but it would greatly benefit his understanding of the proposed reform and give him valuable insight into why many people are so outraged.
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Sure, "death panels" and "government-rationed care" might seem like far-fetched, politicized punch lines. But, having taken the time to read the House bill, there are real concerns that jump out on nearly every page. Again, the examples are unlimited, but for a miniscule sample, page 30 of 1,018 in the House bill seeks to establish a "Health Benefits Advisory Committee," which has the power to "recommend covered benefits" and "categories of covered treatments" for insurance plans.
On page 50, the House trickily provides a loophole for the inclusion of illegal aliens and immigrants to receive health care on the taxpayer dollar. On page 72, it is decreed that private insurance plans must be part of a "Healthcare Exchange," which in turn must adhere to standards set by the "Health Choices Administration." Page 429 discusses "Advanced Care Planning" for those under the public option and allows for Health and Human Services to consult regarding "life-sustaining treatments."
Effective resistance to liberal health care reform is not coming from Republican smear tactics as Colosimo suggests. As mentioned, those do exist but they have been as ineffective as always. Heck, when is the last time Republicans have stood up and led a movement on anything from Capitol Hill? This revolt is coming from one source: the American people. Colosimo would be well-served to give credit where it is due and acknowledge that average Americans have done their homework and have made up their minds independently.
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