Health Carried Away

dissecting both sides of the healthcare debate

Self Analysis

I think that the breadth and sophistication of my knowledge on my topic of healthcare has grown dramatically over the course of this assignment. I now feel I truly have enough information to build an informed opinion on my subject, rather than one based on assumptions and biased influences.

One characteristic of my blog that I would like to specifically address is the nature of its broad subject matter. When the project began, I had such little knowledge on the subject, I didn’t even know how to begin to choose a more specific sub-topic. So I decided to just start writing, and once I felt comfortable, narrow the focus on my blog. However, the more I wrote, the more I realized how hard it was to narrow my analysis of a topic this important. This difficulty was especially emphasized by the fact that my choice of a candidate to support changed depending on which issue to focus on specifically. Each candidate’s platform is based on how they prioritize each of the issues and its importance in the spectrum of all other issues. Because of this, if I chose to focus on an issue like liability reform, my opinion would be shifted toward Mitt Romney, while if I focused on the coverage preexisting conditions, Obama would be the superior candidate. I really wanted to get a look at the strengths and weaknesses of both candidate’s plans, and the best way to do this was write a blog analyzing the issue as a whole.

That being, said, what is my opinion? I was very hesitant to state this explicitly in my blog, because when it comes down to it, I am the most indecisive person in the history of mankind. It literally took me until 3 days after the deadline to decide I was going to UNC (over NC State, gross… I know), anyways, I digress. The point being, my opinion changed a lot over the course of this project, and I often felt that I still didn’t know where I stood. So, did I just close my eyes and bubble at the poles on November 6th?  No, I was remarkably able to come to a decision. I decided to support our current president, and the president of the next four years, Barack Obama.  Now, I could dedicate an entirely separate blog to my arrival at a conclusion, but unfortunately there is not time for that. So, all I will say is that insight I gained from writing this blog, along with many other things, definitely influenced my final decision.

I came into this project an embarrassingly uninformed, unknowingly biased, and slightly scared baby in the world of politics, and I have emerged an politically affluent and carefully opinionated voting adult. The creation of this blog could not have come at a better time for me, and was just the motivation I needed to ensure I could vote with confidence. My skill as a logical and unbiased writer in the social sciences has increased dramatically over the course of this blog, making me proud of my participation in my very first election, and excited for many more to come.

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But Wait, There’s More…

Read all of this blog? Still have a thirst for knowledge on health care and the politics surrounding it? Well prepare to be quenched! I here is a list of links I found helpful and fascinating when creating my blog, and if you are still here reading this, you probably will too!

If I had to choose one post that had the most impact on the content and development of my blog, it would probably be Assesing the New Health Care Law. This Article I found on the CQ researcher gives an in depth analysis of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, examining the opinions of both proponents and opponents, and presenting data that objectively characterizes how the Act will be integrated into the nation.

Is health care public or private good? gave a very well written and logical argument in support of treating healthcare as a public good. I encountered many opinion based articles on this issue, but this one stands out in that it is does a good job of being opinionated without being biased. The article fully addresses both sides of the argument and supports their validity with specific examples while explaining the reasoning for choosing one side over another. Reading this was very refreshing after encountering several links with a very one sided analysis.

Health care act’s glaring omission: liability reform introduced me to a health care issue I had never heard discussed previously. The title misleadingly suggests more bias than is actually present in this article. The author examines the issue through the use of concrete data to support his claims and suggest the importance of this issue. Additionally, their is no mention of a candidate or party support, just an opinion focused on this issue.

This link takes you to a page in which you can download a pdf of the actual Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That’s right, reading the actual words written in the bill. Although I will admit I did not read the entire thing, looking at pieces of the bill helped me verify statetments on its contents. Having the the exact text articulating the bill in a legal context proved to be a very useful resource in fact checking other articles I read.
Speaking of fact checking, you should check out the king of fact checking: FactCheck.Org. This link will take you specifically to an article outlining many of the false political statements used by both candidates early on in their campaigns, covering lies made on a spectrum of issues, including healthcare. I encourage you to explore the site further, because it provides critical insight into the often questionable statements made by politicians.

Two other sources of information I frequently used as starting points were Obama’s and Romney’s websites. This was a good way of getting information directly from the source, and then further investigating this information in other areas. What better way to understand the candidates’ stances then to get it straight from them?

I was able to clarify the similar nature between Obamacare and Romneycare with this article on an aspect of the healthcare discussion that had been previously brought to my attention. It turns out that the nature of this similarity is one fare simpler than most seem to think, and this article did a good job of clarifying this for me.

This timeline of United States healthcare history helped give me context when writing my blog. I think a very important part of determining where healthcare should lies in understanding what it has come from. With this simple but very informative timeline, the nature of healthcare in the United States over the 20th century can be better understood.

Supreme Court Controversies addresses various cases in the supreme court, including the vote on the individual mandate used in Obamacare. This vote (other than the most recent election results) has been the most important factor in the progress Obamacare has made since it was enacted. This article demonstrated the complicated nature of the supreme court’s decision on this issue.

Check Out My Peeps.

I have had the privilege of following some pretty amazing blogs over the course of this project. And get this, they are my classmates’! I was really impressed with all the incredibly well written, unbiased, informative, and humorous posts that showed up on my reader every week. Three of them were particularly impressive and helpful to me.

Questioning Equality examines the effects of our nations health care system specifically in the LGBT community. It provides an alternative perspective on health care that is extremely important but not frequently discussed. This blog helped widen the my breadth of knowledge on healthcare, providing for improvement in my own posts. It also offered well written analysis of the differing opinions surrounding the issue, especially during election season.

100% Medicare, 100% Confusing does an excellent job of discussing Medicare using simplified and defined language in an effort to make this complicated political issue more tangible and clear. Reading this blog was also helpful in the development of my posts because it proved to be a more clear and unbiased source than many found when researching online. My favorite part of this blog is probably how it engages readers with a very friendly and humorous voice, while making clear and informative points on the topic of Medicare. I must admit to actually laughing out loud to a few of the posts, especially the consistently witty but relevant closing statements.

The last blog on my exclusive list of recommendations is  Common Sarcasm for the Sensible Age. From reading a few other class-links posts, I can tell this has been a popular one, and it is no secret why. This blog is the perfect balance of political analysis and, as promised, sarcastic commentary on the election. It also features the recently trending internet phenomenon of gifs, which I must admit, inspired appearance made in my most recent post. Taking a deeper look at the political content, I have a lot of respect for the acknowledgment of the third party candidate Gary Johnson in a few areas of discussion. This is a bold move in the extremely bipolar political climate, but one that suggests alternatives that can reduce the growing severity of our two party system.

Implications Of An Inconsistent Future

WHEN POLITICIANS HEAR THE WORD “COMPROMISE”

 

The current divide in health care policies of the Republican and Democratic parties suggests little possibility for compromise (an outrageous idea addressed in my previous post). Since we won’t get compromise, we need to get something, don’t we?  Unfortunately, what we get are consistently changing policies that, without long term establishment, lose any ability to be truly effective.

It seems that there will be a very turbulant future with a health care system under which change in party control results in a regular change in policy. Without any effort to come to an agreement, it is likely that the nation’s health care plan will change each time a new party rises to power in each presidential election. We know this to be true in the current election. If Mitt Romney is elected, one of his top priorities will be to repeal Obamacare before it can have any further impact (negative or positive) on the country. Now, I do not condemn Mitt for disagreeing with Obama’s health care policies, nor do I admit to supporting them entirely myself. However, I do feel it is necessary that we allow the time for Obama’s policies to be fully integrated in order to effectively gauge if they need to be changed. All current claims rejecting Obamacare are based on speculation, and while some speculation is supported by evidence, even the most informed predictions cannot be take as fact. When it comes down to it, no one can know for sure exactly how effective or ineffective Obamacare will be. Keeping it on the table is a risk I am willing to take in order to encourage stability and consistency in our nation. Otherwise, we foster a system in which frequent change undermines the effectiveness of any policy, especially one as delicate as healthcare.

So, as I see it, the future of health care looks pretty rough. My only hope lies in the slightest possibility of compromise, which as any politician will tell you, is just plain silly.

 

VOTE VOTE VOTE!

Hey you, you only have four more hours to get out and vote for the NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA! If you didn’t know… this is kind of a big deal. Don’t be like these kids. Get out and vote!

 

Compromise?

I started off this blog with a central purpose of analyzing and understanding both sides of the very polar health care debate. I feel that over the past four week I have effectively accomplished this, and now have enough knowledge on the subject as a whole to propose a theoretical compromise in which both parties would have an opportunity to meet in the middle. I want to reiterate theoretical nature of this post, because in our current political climate, there seems to be no effort to approach any sort of agreement.

In order for the compromise to be truly balanced, it must combine the most fundamental aspects of the contradictory plans. In this case, the fundamental difference lies in the role government plays in providing healthcare to the people. Mitt’s plan focuses on giving power to states, fostering a more competitive environment in which states can learn from one another in order to develop optimal plans. Obama wants to unify the nations healthcare system under the control of the federal government so the nation can progress as a single entity and provide consistent coverage to all citizens. I believe that there is a way in which both of these systems can be incorporated to create an effective balance of state and federal power. In such a compromise, the state would be provided funding from the federal government to create a healthcare system that best suits their needs (as in Romney’s plan). However, this funding would have some regulations requiring that the state incorporate standards implemented nation-wide (as in Obama’s plan). These regulations would cover the issues at the chore of the healthcare discussion including coverage of preexisting conditions, the maximum price of care, medical liability, and the lifetime caps on insurance. At the same time, the state would be able to control its own independent system and use the funding in areas most applicable to its particular situation. For instance, the state would have control over the distribution of Medicaid, because impoverished populations vary in demographic and size from state to state. This incorporation of both plans would allow for state experimentation and improvement articulated by Romney, while still providing a unified growth in key areas supported by Obama. In this sense, this compromise effectively incorporates the ideas of both parties, and we can all live happily ever after.

Well, theoretically.

Is healthcare a public good? (part two)

In the last post we took a look at aspects of healthcare that characterize it as a public good. This post will examine the other perspective (healthcare is not a public good) and then address my opinion on the matter.

No. Healthcare is not a public good. This is how it has been historically treated in the US, and how it should remain. One of its most prominent characteristics that exclude it from other public goods is its very personal nature. While public goods, by definition, are payed for by everyone and provided to everyone equally, health care needs a far more personalized focus that varies from person to person. For instance, public education, which is a public good, is payed for by taxes and distributed equally (well, ideally equally) to the entire population. Everyone pays for it, and everyone receives the same 13 years in a public school system. However, when it comes to healthcare, not everyone will receive the same benefits. Some will pay and need no treatment, while others will pay and need far more treatment than they paid for. In this way, the benefits of healthcare being treated as a public good will only be applicable to those who need it, and therefore do not exemplify the collectively beneficial nature of an ideal public good. Additionally, while some argue competitive markets do not adequately foster effective methods of care, there is evidence that competition has improved treatments. This is especially apparent when examining the pharmaceutical industry, in which competitive markets for effective drugs have lead to breakthrough innovations for a variety of diseases. This kind of rapid development demonstrates the effectiveness of the free market to promote pharmaceutical improvements.

So, what do I think?

While the free market is an extremely conducive to economic growth and an important aspect of individual freedom, the very delicate nature of an individuals health, and ultimately, life, makes it something that cannot be effectively handled in the free market. This distinguishing factor, I believe, comes from two fundamental differences between health care and other commercial goods. The first is that when purchasing healthcare, buyers are in a very vulnerable position, and therefore cannot adequately seek out the “best deal” like when purchasing in a commercial market. Individuals are more likely to settle for what is there in order to receive any sort treatment, rather than demand better options. The second difference is one I covered in my previous post: everyone will need health care and no one knows when. So although we may treat health care as a public good, ultimately everyone will seek it out, weather or not they can afford it. In this sense it can be most effectively provided through creating a system in which its accessibility for every individual is a priority. Otherwise, it will be subject to abuse in the free market.

Is healthcare a public good?

A public good is something that is non-rivalrous and non-excludable, meaning it benefits everyone and cannot be reserved for use by specific individuals or entities. It has been long established that it is the government’s job to supply public goods to its citizens. Examples of these include public education, police enforcement, sewage treatment and water supply. The passage of Obamacare represents the first fundamental shift from the treatment of healthcare as a commercial entity to a public good. This has brought up the chore question behind political disagreement over the bill: is healthcare it a public good? In this post and the one that follows, I will examine the reasoning behind the two possible answers.

Yes. Healthcare is a public good. The cumulative effects of the health and wellness of the entire population are of great concern to every individual citizen. It is no secret that healthier populations directly benefit productivity, stability, and quality of life for any given community. In this sense, it is in the best interest of all citizens to invest in the health of their nation as a whole, thus making healthcare a public good. Additionally, the current treatment of healthcare as a commercial good like any other product we purchase is fundamentally unrealistic. Everyone is not necessarily going to purchase an ipod or a shamwow in their lifetime, but as U.S. solicitor general Neal Katyal put it, “Everyone is going to seek health care. No one can know precisely when.” In this sense, any benefits of handling healthcare as a commercial good in the free market will be ultimately undermined by the fact that everyone needs it.

In my next post I will take a look at the other side of the argument.

 

 

Obamneycare

There has been a lot of talk about the similarities between Obamacare, Obama’s healthcare plan for the United States, and Romneycare, Romney’s 2006 healthcare plan for Massachusetts. This post will examine these similarities and their significance.

Probably the most glaring similarity between the two is the implimentation of an individual mandate. While this has been conservatives’ favorite aspect to criticize of Obama’s plan, it can be found directly in Romney’s Massachusetts legislation. Both Obamacare and Romneycare require that all citizens (or in Romney’s case, all Massachusetts citizens) purchase some form of healthcare or risk being fined by the government

Additionally, both plans make insurance available through a government instituted individual insurance marketplace, titled “Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector” under Romneycare, and “exchanges” under Obamacare. These insurance marketplaces provide coverage options in “tiers”  for different levels of insurance based on need and affordablility. Romneycare and Obamacare both expand Medicare coverage, but in different ways and to different degrees. Romney made Medicare funding more available for aid to children, while Obama also expands its accessibility to adults. Both plans also limit insurance company’s ability to vary premiums, specifically based on health status and gender.

So, how can Romney continuously criticize the effectiveness of Obamacare when it comes from a plan of his own? Romney argues that the system is effective on a state level, but not nationally. His plan is based on the idea that every state operating under unique systems will allow for a more competitive and successful environment. This idea appeals to those who believe in the ability of the free market to promote progress. However, since there has been no previous example of a system of this nature involving healthcare, it is hard to say if ideology will translate to reality. I will explore this more in the next post.

Lets get this straight..

Throughout the course of this election, the campaigns of both parties have made some questionable claims regarding their opponents. In this post I hope to bring up several of the lies thrown around about healthcare, so you guys can be sure you are getting all the facts.

Romney has claimed Obamacare “puts the federal government between you and your doctor.” This statement is both vague and fundamentally not true. Obamacare does not intervene with the actual health services provided, just how insurance companies charge for these services. The federal government will remain entirely separate from the actual the doctor-patient relationships. Additionally, an ad from the Romney campaign states that the 2.3 percent medical device excise tax to be implemented as a part of Obamacare “taxes wheelchairs.” However, wheelchairs will not be taxed because they are specifically exempt from this portion of the bill. The Romney campaign makes this false claim in an attempt to appeal to elderly voters, but instead presents an inaccurate idea of Obama’s intentions for healthcare reform.

On the other side, Obama continues to insist that under Obamacare, “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” While this will be true for most Americans, the Congressional Budget Office predicts that 3 to 5 million workers will no longer receive insurance benefits from their employers, and instead move to new insurance providers. While a portion of these relocations will be by choice, many of them will be required under the new legislation. Additionally, a Obama campaign ad claims that Romney “backed a law that outlaws all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest.” This statement is the result of false conclusions made after Romney discussed abortion in a 2007 debate without specifically addressing his opinions on exemptions. On separate accounts, he has made it clear he supports abortion in cases of rape, incest, and concern for the life of the mother.

The frequency of false claims made during this election season can create an extremely confusing environment for the voter. It is apparent that both campaigns are guilty of presenting false claims in an attempt to better their chances of election. This is why it is very important to be critical of the information presented in order to make the most accurately informed decision when heading to the polls.

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