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Dying for health care and a balanced budget

by Jesse Fruhwirth
- Posted // 2010-04-15 -

Utah state Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, writes today about the terrible financial shape of the U.S. Government and the impacts of so-called Obamacare. He ponders that rather than let California and other super-struggling states fail, the federal government will whip out it's China-funded credit card in future years, bail out the states, and just run the nation into more debt.

He's probably right, and that scares me as much as him. In fact, the national debt is probably my number 1 fear--number 2 is death.

Not surprisingly, though, Urquhart posits that the only solution is to reduce spending--he doesn't mention what to do about the uninsured. Naturally, raising taxes to provide health insurance to the uninsured "imposes greater burdens on productive citizens, in order to support more Government and other, unproductive citizens." While it does do that, it seems to me, this is a typical emphasis of someone who's never been sick and unable to get health care. 

I'm not saying Urquhart has never been sick and unable to afford health care, I'm just guessing that based on his comment about "unproductive citizens," which I take to be a euphemism for the poor. I wonder how productive Urquhart would be if he had a tooth ache that was distracting, but had not yet shown signs of infecting his jaw, so emergency rooms didn't feel required to pull it out--until it did infect his jaw. 

What Urquhart and my conservative friends usually refuse to admit is that this country already has universal health care at emergency rooms, where costs are the highest, health problems are most aggravated due to delayed care and preventive care is non-existent. People without insurance are aware of this situation and will continue to access health care however they can. The cost of this trend increasing--which it certainly would without health care reform--has not been comprehensively studied by CBO and other respected entities, as far as I am aware.

This being the case, with or without Obamacare, our finances are screwed. I'm as disappointed as anyone with what came out of health care reform: it's a huge chunk of corporate welfare. I'm quite leery of this silly plan. It's uniquely American, terribly expensive and probably doomed. Is it better than no reform at all? Gosh, I go back and forth every week. This week I'm not sure. 

Republicans could actually concoct their own plan that would somehow prevent "socialist" health care and reduce costs also, but whatever that might be, it would take years to implement, more years to assess for efficacy, and then more years to amend or abandon it if it's not working. As a nation, we may max out our Chinese-funded credit card by then! Let's not forget that D.C. Republicans love corporate welfare every bit as much as the Democrats.

I'm usually averse to reinventing the proverbial wheel. Other countries with single-payer health care spend less and get better health outcomes over all. No one is pretending single-payer is perfect, so spare me the Canada or England comparisons. But if we're worried about the budget, then the health care conversation ought to progress past Obamacare and onto single-payer.

Because, at the end of the day, Steve Urquhart, it takes a solution to our health care system to find a solution to our "unproductive citizens" problem. Without universal health care, we'll be creating more unproductive citizens who are sick or mangled because they delayed care.

The least productive--and least patriotic--I have ever felt was 2004. I'd just moved to Utah after graduating college and didn't have a job yet. I was uninsured and delayed care on an incredibly painful sore throat--I drank a lot of hot totties with whiskey--for more than three weeks. When I finally did go to a county doctor, he warned me that I was approaching kidney-damage territory with strep throat. Do you know how much I would have cost all you productive citizens had I blown out my kidneys and gone to the emergency room, uninsured and unable to pay? A heckuva a lot, let's just put it that way. And if I had become permanently disabled from kidney failure due to silly old strep throat and my own thriftiness? Sheesh, let's not even go there. 

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