BY Michael Powers
Obamacare. Sounds vaguely ominous, doesn’t it? Kind of feels like a loanword, something that just doesn’t quite fit into the mold of the English language. It’s probably that indefinite unease that has led the word to be splashed over headlines and blog posts as far as the eye can see. Go ahead, Google it. You’ll note that there are over three million hits.
As of this article, however, Obamacare doesn’t seem to exist. I don’t mean that it hasn’t passed. It is, quite literally, a fiction. Obama isn’t now writing, nor has he in the past written a health care bill. Bills that are in the mix include ‘America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009″ from Senator Max Baucus (the most scrutinized proposal so far), ‘United States Health Care Act” (H.R. 676) from Representative John Conyers and ‘America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009″ (H.R. 3200) from Representative John Dingell. It would seem kind of silly if blogs everywhere started screaming about the horrors of ‘Dingellcare,” I suppose.
‘The Devil,” as the old clich goes, ‘is in the details.” Little proverbs like this are usually useless and serve only to reinforce whatever you’re thinking in the first place; still, I like this one. Yes, Obama is trying to pass health care reform. Yes, he has been supporting the ‘Baucus Bill.” No, he’s not behind the scenes scribbling riders into the legislation about murdering grandma. Though that is what I feel many of the authors of those three million plus hits are trying to express.
However, personal reviews of Internet ramblings aside, there are numbers to look at. Poll numbers, to be specific. I remember reading recently about a Rasmussen poll that said a plurality of Americans opposed Obama’s health care reform. The poll asked, ‘Generally speaking, do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and the congressional Democrats?” Fair enough, no need to go confusing people with actual legislation. It might be important to note, however, how easily that simple sentence polarizes the debate. Call me crazy but putting ‘Obama” and ‘Democrats” into a question about health care might get you some skewed results.
Let’s take a look at another poll. A recent New York Times/CBS News poll shows that 65 percent of Americans support that most radical of reform, the dreaded public option. Respondents were asked, ‘Would you favor or oppose the government offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get that would compete with private insurance plans?” If 65 percent isn’t a mandate, I don’t know what is.
Of course, there are always problems with this, too. Like the Rasmussen poll, only a little over 1,000 people were interviewed by landline phone. And lest my own criticism be used against me, the use of ‘Medicare” in the question could skew results toward the positive. Still, it highlights the importance of what exactly you ask. If both polls are perfectly correct in their data, it could just mean that 56 percent of people don’t want the specific ‘Baucus Bill” plan but that 65 percent still wish to have a robust public option.
The important thing is that one approaches any poll such as these with a healthy skepticism and uses it as a means to inform oneself. They are at best snapshots of public opinion and at worst a tool of misinformation. It’s understandable that most people don’t have the wherewithal to keep up to date on the winding maze of legislation that accompanies the topic of health care. Most of the time I certainly don’t, and as of now I am certainly no expert on what is or isn’t the best way forward for the country.
Maybe we should, as I recently read, just let ‘the people with medical degrees make important decisions on health care.” As I understand it, the thrust of the statement was to imply that doctors wouldn’t necessarily want the same thing for their patients as ‘bureaucrats.” A valid point (though how insurers aren’t bureaucrats is beyond me). Did you know that a recent poll of 2,130 doctors by the New England Journal of Medicine showed 63 percent supporting a public option to compete with private options (i.e. not a public option alone)? Don’t just believe me, though. Take a look for yourself.
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BY Michael Powers