A Philosopher's Blog

Health Care Rhetoric II

Posted in Medicine/Health, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on July 22, 2009

As CNN pointed out in a recent online article, Bill Clinton tried his hand at health care reform and failed in this attempt. Now that Obama is pushing his own health care reform, certain folks are hoping to make sure that he suffers the same fate as Bill Clinton.

One tactic that is being employed is the use of advertisements calculated to make people fear government based health care. One such ad claims that the health care plan will put a government bureaucrat between the patient and the doctor. The ad includes the nice visual touch of a bureaucratic geek menacing the doctor and patient in a dire nerdly manner. This nicely taps into the fear of some folks of geeks and, of course, bow ties.

It is, of course, reasonable to be concerned that the government will act in ways that would interfere with health care. As Thoreau argued, governments have a tendency to get in the way of things and sometimes it is best to have a government that governs less.

The approach of the ad does, however, have some serious flaws. The first is that it is unsupported rhetoric (hyperbole), scare tactics and most likely a straw man attack. After all, no plan has been formalized and hence the ad is attacking a plan that does not even exist yet.

One concern about the ad is that it presumably is intended to imply that the current system does not put a bureaucrat between the patient and the doctor. This is hardly the case. Insurance companies are bureaucratic entities and they obviously decide what will and will not be covered. This clearly impacts the sort of care that a patient is able to receive. For example, when I had my quadriceps tendon repair, I was informed that my insurance (Blue Cross/Blue Shield) stopped covering adjustable leg braces shortly before I had my surgery. So, I had two choices: I could do without something essential to my treatment and recovery or I could pay for it out of my own pocket. While no geek came to menace my doctor, a bureaucrat did try to come between me and my treatment. I was clearly told that the brace was essential to my recovery-it was not an optional thing. Yet, my insurance company had effectively told my doctor that it was optional and not worthy of coverage.

This is, of course, just one example. Unfortunately, a little research will easily turn up many cases of insurance companies decisions affecting treatment (or lack thereof).  Insurance companies decide what they will cover and how they will cover it. As such, to imply that the government presents a special menace in this area is hardly accurate. True, the government might stick in a government bureaucrat to screw things up, but this would merely be replacing an insurance company bureaucrat. Whether the government bureaucrats would do a worse job or not is something that is worth considering, of course.

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