Sunday’s column by Issac Bailey calls to mind an issue that arose in my family many years ago. My mother, a welfare administrator for the State of Arkansas, had become passionate about the need for a health care program that would focus on the needs of the elderly. She saw clearly that the desperate financial circumstances facing many older people were the direct result of medical debts. She rejoiced when President Johnson signed Medicare into law (over the strenuous complaints of many in the medical community), and was gratified by the resulting decline in poverty among the elderly.
But just a few years later, when legislation was introduced in Congress to establish means testing in the Medicare program, she was outraged. She could well afford the modest changes proposed, but did her utmost to defeat the legislation. It died, never to return, even though its enactment would have postponed or eliminated the potential financial crisis now facing Medicare.
To me, her history shows the intensity of reaction that has always marked the health care debate. There’s passion here, rather than logic. And it’s particularly evident in the Red-state aversion to anything that might help Obamacare succeed. Worried that the working poor might appreciate the benefits of expanding Medicaid? Refuse to accept the expansion before they figure out how it will help them. Concerned that the cost of the insurance exchanges may be lower for most people, rather than higher? Accuse the law’s supporters of bankrupting the country. And so on and on.
The law is not perfect, but its flaws can be corrected. Why would you spend all your energy in trying to kill it before it has a fair chance to show whether or not it works?
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And here’s a question for the law’s opponents to ponder, especially those who worry that Americans are losing their freedom: Is someone who faces a crushing medical debt as free as someone whose debts have been paid under Obamacare? Think about it. To my mind there’s nothing sadder than the donation jars at cash registers in country stores pleading for money to defray a family’s medical expenses.