Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Truth, and myth, and health care

    We don't know this to be unprecedented. The girls generally have demurred in the public eye. But one of the Bush twins now stands guilty of committing truth.

    Or heresy, to those who think health care is a privilege of being born on a proper plot of ground. Those people also will say health care is to be earned with hard work. Tell that to uninsured, hard-working Americans. 

     The deniers are wrong, and young Barbara Bush is right. She said in a Fox News interview that "health care is a right" and she's glad President Obama managed to pass health care reform. Undoubtedly it triggered a Level Orange security alarm at Fox Roger Ailes Party Line Plaza.

       After graduating from Yale, young Barbara helped found Global Health Corps, whose mission is to bring "health equity" to the U.S. and across the globe.

       Regardless of what antigovernment types will say, health care — immediate, quality care — is treated as a right in our country, at least in the ER and at scenes where ambulances converge. If not, bodies would bloat on our streets unattended after car accidents. So, too with those who would suffer cardiac arrest on the sidewalk but who couldn't produce an insurance card in their moment of mortal peril.

       Health care also is treated as a right for anyone who shows up with less-than-emergency needs at the ER.

       Our problem, until Obama, is what little we'd done to help the millions of uninsured Americans stay on top of their needs through doctors' visits and preventive care. Until Obama pressed toward meeting his biggest campaign promise, the ER was our answer to the problem of health care for the uninsured.

       The result? With much help from Fox News's rogues gallery, it is much misunderstood. AARP, aware of how many people have swallowed salty foam as truth, has done a great job explaining this to anyone else wishing to examine it. Check it out at aarp.org. Click on "health care reform." 

      In an exhaustive Q&A using questions from the public, AARP shoots down silly canards and politically juiced overstatements.

      For instance, will this legislation let some bureaucrat decide if one is too old for surgery?

       If that were possible, says AARP, the American Medical Association would not have endorsed it. It quotes AMA president James Rohack, a Texas cardiologist, as saying the organization "was very firm that we don't want someone making decisions who . . . does not know the patient."

        How will the law affect taxes? Nothing of this magnitude comes free, explains AARP, but most of the taxes fall on wealthier Americans — an extra 0.9 percent (for a total of 2.3 percent) in Medicare payroll taxes on earned income above $200,000 a year or above $250,000 for married couples. Very modest.

       In fact, the bill already is addressing a health-care equity issue. Seniors whose Medicare prescription benefits were zeroed out by the so-called doughnut hole are receiving $250 checks to make up the difference.

       No one, Obama included, was completely satisfied with what emerged from the legislative process and became law as health care reform. But one thing leaders in Washington did, to their everlasting credit, was pronounce what we already knew to be true: Health care is a right.

      Either we provide for it the wrong and most costly way, the ER way — up to now the "American way" — or we make it possible for all Americans to get ahead of their needs the smart and more cost-effective way.

       The other option, of course, is to just use a street sweeper to remove the bodies fallen by the wayside when the free market fails them.

John Young resides in Colorado and writes for several newspapers. Jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.


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