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Response to Probitee’s Comment on “The Worst Bill Ever”

November 4, 2009

Recently a lengthy comment to a recent post on a Wall Street Journal article titled,The Worst Bill Ever”  was offered. I thought I had set a limit to the number of characters that could be used in a comment;  guess not.  Although it is impossible for me to personally respond to the thousands of comments that are received here daily, I have selected this particular comment to further comment upon.

One interesting note before we begin.  The author of the following thoughtful and cogent comment below is the same author that stated less than three weeks ago in a different comment that “Beauty is in the eyes of the beerholder, and the candidate who dispenses the most beer wins.”  A remarkable progression in thought indeed from that comment to the one displayed below.  So, here’s to you, Probitee, on the remarkable progress you’ve made in just a few short weeks in Hugoville.  Keep both lobes firing.

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Hugo,

Your blog reference to a Wall Street Journal article caught my attention but raised more questions than answers. [Hugo:  You’re welcome.] Four months ago I found myself adamant about wanting health care reform. Admittedly my opinion was not based on having an abundance of facts, but in defense of my position there were few ‘set in stone’ facts available. During the ensuing four months, I have made great strides gathering more information about the issue, but I am still befuddled. Writing my Senator and Representative did not produce any worthwhile results [Hugo:  It could be argued that the aggregate of those seemingly pointless calls and letter prevented a larger, less ‘bipartisan,’ and potentially worse bill from being passed back in July.  The balance of power between the People and Congress has gotten skewed over the years.  You have no authority, no power, no staff.  You are numbered as one and count next to zero.] , and despite my Representative responding, my Senator remained mute. After reading “The Worst Bill Ever” in the WSJ as per your suggestion that it was ‘worth it’, I will agree that the proposed Obamacare (sic), also known as ‘‘America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009’’ may be one of the most significant pieces of legislation facing Congress in our lifetime. Not only did I read the opinion article but managed to read through 277 comments as well. Forgive my naiveté, but is it common practice that articles of importance not have an author on such a prestigious news network site? This question is not an intentional slight, but when an issue of such notoriety causes as much rancor among the nations’ constituencies, it would be comforting to have a reference to know where the writer or writers’ allegiances lie. [Hugo:  I echo your curious sentiment regarding the unnamed author. However, I rely less on judging one’s motives and prefer to rely on my reading comprehension skills.  This is why I have worked tirelessly for so many years on the world’s stage as a leading opponent of languicide.  Words have meaning; in fact, that is all they have.  And they have been abused too long.  I will continue to defend the meaning of words, but secretly I prefer numbers, for I can quicker ferret out bad math and phony numerical reasoning than I can determine the fruit of an untrue heart and tongue. ] From a myopic perspective all I found was, “The Topics pages provide background information and data, news and features from our archives and the latest headlines from the Journal and the Web.” As a reader who has a penchant for the truth and who perpetuates a demand for honesty, I found the lack of specific references a bit disconcerting. The article appeared to have a Republican slant. Perhaps promoting fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) was the purpose. It certainly caused FUD for me. [Hugo:  I’ve got FUD, too.  I didn’t know what to call it. It feels right, though.] With due respect for your opinions and to the authors’, I believe Representatives and Senators will have an opportunity to amend the bill on the floor allowing for adjustments that may be more agreeable to everyone. [Hugo:  A suggestion to “amend the bill on the floor” to make it “more agreeable to everyone” downplays the magnitude of the opposition.  From what I understand there are many discrete reasons to oppose (or support for that matter) the legislation, but there are commonalities to the opposition:  taxes, debt/ deficit, jobs, government involvement in personal decisions and wellness.  There are many, too, that do not want this health care reform bill passed in any form at this time. They argue that there are steps that can be taken immediately and progressively to build the framework of a more robust, efficient, and cost-effective health care system without going “all-in.” ] Can you agree that the health care system has proven to be hard for presidents and policymakers to reach a consensus on because of its complexities? [Hugo:  Yes, I do agree. ] The intricacies of this issue extend beyond the political arena to those with no or limited insurance wanting to see coverage expanded, to those with good coverage who worry that changes will cost them more and disrupt a system that they think works pretty well. I worry too. My insurance premium rose twice in one calendar year and now costs half my monthly salary. Personally I would prefer to pay less and go to any doctor, specialist or hospital I chose. Unfortunately my current plan does not allow me those privileges. [Hugo:  A belief that this bill would alleviate one of the problems you’re experiencing is fantastic and is indicative of the modern romanticization of  big government help.]

An article in USA Today on Politics stated “that officials who provided overall cost estimates did so on condition of anonymity”. Another statement by Representative Virginia Foxx from North Carolina reported her saying that people have more to fear from Democratic health care legislation than from terrorists. House Republican Leader, John Boehner of Ohio, said at a news conference, “Our goal is to make it as difficult as possible for Democrats to pass it. “ [Hugo:  First, in reference to the USA Today article, cost estimates released by anonymous officials do not sound noteworthy.  The as-real-as-it-gets numbers will come from the CBO.  But as we’ve seen, they do preliminary assessments based on conceptual legislation and they do full analyses based on actual legislative language.  Secondly, I agree with both quotes you provided above. At this moment I fear health care reform more than terrorists.  And from what I hear, there is nothing stopping the Democrats theoretically from passing a bill without any Republican support.  In a similar position of lacking authority as those opposed in Congress, I want to make it difficult as well.] How can this kind of rhetoric not cause FUD? At pollster.com independently sponsored telephone poll results indicated that a true majority support the Democratic proposal; albeit they are not super majorities. FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania found twenty-six lies and many misleading statements being reported about H.R. 3200. There were an estimated 46 million uninsured according to the 2007 Census and it is believed that number is higher now. [Hugo:  May I offer a reread of my letter to Congress, where I make the distinction between ‘instantaneous’ uninsured and the ever-insured, the latter being the purported component that makes the necessity of such large-scale reform urgently required. ] These uninsured use the Emergency Room (ER) at hospitals now because they cannot be turned away under a 1986 federal law. Doesn’t that suggest they are using the ER for routine care? [Hugo:  No, I don’t think so.   I don’t think you can show up at the ER and demand that you get weighed, have your cholesterol checked, and receive an anal exam.  I don’t know for sure, however.] The current bill being espoused by House Democrats may not be the bill you or I agree should be legislated into law [Hugo: My understanding of what’s been promised with the legislation:  a) keep your current plan if you like it;  b) expand coverage to 20 to 35 million people; c) no tax increase;  d) no increase to national debt; and e) no change in quality of care.  That is a mighty combination of goals.

If, as a nation, we are going to take a stab at near-utopian health care, we had better have a real good plan, have considered all feasible alternatives, have a plan to verify to what degree the recommended solution worked, a plan to adjust along the way, and have a clear understanding on how things will look if the plan does not go as thought.  These are basic steps to problem solving that are not dismissed as conveniently as they’ve been here when considering things of much less importance and scope. ] , but certainly we can agree that reform of the current health care system needs altering because it is unsustainable in its current condition.

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