Ongoing debate about health care reform: Wake me up when it’s over

Health care reform? It’s background noise at this point, as far as I’m concerned. To echo the feelings of the late, great English journalist Christopher Hitchens on the matter, as imparted to me via (a high-brow forum for objective debate, or something like that): Wake me up when it’s over. Yet another discussion point has fallen victim to partisan stratifying, with the dialogue inevitably devolving into two predictable pools of buzzwords. Whether it’s a Democrat bemoaning your lack of “compassion, bro,” or a Republican informing you of the steadily churning conspiracy to destroy America one unfunded mandate at a time, the only thing that seems to be perpetually absent from the discussion are opinions which are structured on anything other than stale, regurgitated talking points.

Language is a powerful force in politics. Just take a look at the sensationalized or faux-emotional names of most bills which pass through Congress (“____’s Law”; the Violence Against Women Act; the Reducing Barack Obama’s Unsustainable Deficits Act, etc.). The health care bill in question here is officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but detractors and the brevity-minded prefer “Obamacare.” Both reflect political tactics that place an obvious emphasis on poking the opposition over pursuing productive aims. The formal title advertises the ambitions and supposed outcomes of the bill, while “Obamacare” tries to demonize the executive who signed it into law (and ignores the other two branches of the federal government that also approved the bill).

Meanwhile, most Democrats (and the general public, including myself) have only a superficial understanding of it. Nancy Pelosi herself said no one would know its full extent until the bill already had passed. The Republican Party, on the other hand, has yet to offer m(any) viable alternatives.

Everyone agrees that American health care is operating in a failing system, particularly as costs continue to rise disproportionately with income or general living costs. Still, deliberation between the only two parties with a substantive, national voice is glued into two immovable soundboards.

The American so-called “left” insists that this is a necessary step towards modernity, considering every European and developed Asian, African and Latin American country has some form of national health coverage. The “right” will occasionally mumble some sort of market-driven alternative, but the Republican Party’s focus is unapologetically centered on Barack Obama’s political downfall, not repairs of a broken model. The back-and-forth never changes, and gridlock sets in.

Absent from this debate, as with most American political discussions with wide-ranging relevance and impact, are alternative perspectives.

Rather than offer improved alternatives, conservative political elites have aligned all energy on doomy forecasts for the near future. The party which is so eager to grandstand for free markets makes little effort to assert those beliefs in the reform discussion. Expectedly, these representatives also tend to be receiving the most generous donations from “health maintenance organizations,” more familiarly known as insurance companies. HMO’s were federally mandated upon businesses with 25 or more employees in 1973, and costs began to swell soon after.

On this, along with other consumer-empowering market-based options, both sides are largely silent. Last year, Maine enacted a statewide health care reform stressing limited intervention, market forces and consumer choice. This opens up bigger questions of why the Republican Party is so reluctant to stress a deregulation of the health insurance market — the answer is in the wallets of campaign contributors, particularly HMOs.

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