Monday, August 3, 2009

A First Look

This bill is long. War and Peace long. Ron Jeremy long. Longer than the last two minutes of any close NBA game. So long that I wonder whether congressmen are paid by the word so they fill these bills with random fun facts from Us Weekly just to pay off their hookers and their families (Congressmen have hookers who visit them in secret society fundamentalist clubs, then get their parents to pay the hookers hush money - they’re just like us!). But not long enough that, in little chunks, it can’t be tackled. Yet, I suspect that some of the motive for making this bill so long is that it will discourage all but the most stubborn, bored, and/or totally lacking in all matters of social outlets to really read the damn thing in an effort to understand it. Fortunately for you, I have no life and would much rather delve into this word salad so that I can toss aside all the nonsense.

The byline on this bill reads, “To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes.” So basically we get more stuff that is better than the old stuff and pay less for it? There can't possibly be a catch. Only 1,017.75 pages to go.

The next notable part of this bill is the listing of contributors:
Wait a second – Mr. Waxman? The Henry Waxman?! True story: Henry Waxman is my hometown congressman and he visited my high school when I was in 10th grade. He gave a special talk to the occupational immersion program I was in, a program created for fat awkward kids so that we could sign up for internships in the community rather than do P.E. (For the record, the production company I worked on for that program put this puppy on TNT during my're welcome.) I remember that talk vividly because a) his physical appearance is so shockingly comical that I can only hope that he gets a paycheck every time they play that Chipmunks Christmas song on the radio and b) he spent 30 minutes talking about his crowning achievement that took him more than 20 years to accomplish – the creation of those Nutrition Facts labels on all food. At the time I remember thinking, “In 20 years the best he could accomplish was a nutrition label that no one reads and is probably wrong a majority of the time?”, but now I find that reminder of how awful everything I eat actually is for me strangely reassuring. Well played, Waxmunk, well played.

The next four pages represent a comprehensive outline of what will be discussed, and we finally start with some meat on page 4. “Division A – Affordable Health Care Choices".

Wait, I thought that was the purupose of the whole bill, not just a “Division”? I wonder whether some other random stuff is going to make its way here on page 746. Anyways, the bill states that it will build on what works and repair aspects that are broken. Funny, that doesn’t make it sound like we become socialist commie pigs if this bill gets enacted. Further reading outlines insurance reforms, including creating something called the Health Insurance Exchange, and “shared responsibility among workers, employers, and the government…so that all Americans have coverage of essential health benefits.” I still don’t feel like a communist traitor, but I know that this raises an interesting point of contention – some could argue that there is nothing “essential” about health benefits in the first place, that it is a commodity like anything else and should be treated as such (rather than being something special that requires a 1,018 page bill). (In fact, this came up in the presidential debates last year; Obama thought health care was a “right”, whereas McCain thought it was a “responsibility”.)

This is a tempting thought, as it builds on the notion of personal responsibility that this country was presumably founded on, traced back to our Founding Fathers (less clear is whether this can be expanded to include the personal responsibility to eradicate native Americans and exploit slaves from Africa, but hey, thanks for playing). However, these same people don’t have their panties in quite the same bunch about that less-popularized but far more obnoxious requirement that we all have car insurance. So basically, their argument goes that no one should care that you couldn’t afford to insure all those bones you broke in a nasty car accident (caused, no doubt, by your poor vision that could not be corrected since you lack insurance to get glasses), but if you didn’t insure your piece of crap 1994 Ford Taurus that not only will never get you laid but now needs thousands of dollars of repairs, you’re in a veritable legal shitstorm.

In other words, health care is “essential”, it is a “right” AND a “responsibility”, and anyone who says otherwise clearly hasn’t been sick before. Your thoughts, please.

Alright, five pages down and I’m feeling great. Tune in next time to figure out why they need to spend six pages defining words like “State”, “Family”, and “QHBP Offering Entity”. Also, why “Essential Benefits Package” sadly has absolutely nothing to do with sex. I think.


  1. welcome back fake doc...

    Good luck tackling this one man. I'd bet a dollar that you're called a commie by the 10th post.

  2. Welcome back! I've been reading your posts since "Ah Yes, Medical School" and I'm glad to see you tackling this issue as only the Fake Doctor can!

    Looking forward to reading more...

  3. Late comment
    LOL so true about car insurance hahah
    Keep'em coming!

  4. Fake Doctor, I'm not sure you've completely thought this through. Car insurance is mandatory because it protects the other party in an accident; it's not mandatory for one's own protection. Not analagous to healthcare, therefore.

    As far as your assertion that healthcare is a 'right' - well, I know you're busy, but I don't really think you explained why you feel that way. Not in this post, anyway.

  5. Tuckster (and any other interested parties),

    Doesn't healthcare insurance protect the other party ALSO?? If you don't have healthcare and you show up in an emergency room, the ER is required to treat you, which passes on the cost to the hospital, which then passes on the cost to the other (insured) patients, which passes it on to insurance companies, which makes insurance more expensive, which makes it even more difficult to afford, etc., etc., etc.

    This is not quite as simplistic as a 2-party car accident in which one guy is clearly at fault (i.e. went through red light), and the other is totally innocent, but the principle is the same, no? Whether healthcare is a "right" is irrelevant, and controversial, and very difficult to expound upon, but it is certainly a societal "good" and certainly does protect the other party.


  6. One thought - You don't HAVE to own a car so you don't HAVE to have car insurance. However, my understanding of the bill is you have absolutely no option on the healthcare coverage.

  7. Not truly Carmen,

    You may opt not to buy coverage and despite what Glen Beck seems to "believe", you don't go to jail, but part of your tax refund will be decreased as fine...So when you see people clamoring about paying money, it's not really out of pocket and hopefully this makes it at least a bit more palatable for most. So no matter what you'll most likely be paying in. Also, is owning a car in our current society really a choice? I mean, yes if you live in a city or within walking distance of your place of business but truly in most areas you more or less must have a car in order to simply get to and from work.