Tonight after work I picked up Zari from school and drove to downtown Chattanooga to talk to some Occupy protesters. Like any group, I agree with some of what they say and disagree with some, but they were pleasant, polite people. I’m sure I’ll see some of them tomorrow morning at the Hamilton County Election Commission, where they are gathering to sign petition forms for people who want to get on the ballot for the Chattanooga Mayor’s recall election. I’m hopeful that they’ll sign my forms so that I can take care of everything on one visit.
On to today’s issues…
Health care is a complex issue. I need to start by explaining a few of my core beliefs. First, I think everyone should receive a minimal level of health care regardless of their ability to pay. In some areas private charities have admirably filled this role, but in others the demand for services outweighs the ability of the community to provide adequate care without government intervention. However, I also believe that government is too involved in health care. Even without Obamacare, the federal government would have paid over half of all medical expenses in the U.S. this year. In other words, there hasn’t been a free market controlling prices in the U.S. for a few decades. In most places there are only a few large insurance companies from which an employer, or more and more likely, an individual can choose. Many of these policies are shell games, since while they may claim to pay 80% of a bill, in reality agreements between the insurers and service providers often result in a write-down of 70%, meaning that most of the “discounted” cost may still be the patient’s responsibility. Finally, the U.S. suffers from a severe disadvantage in the export of manufactured goods, because international trade agreements do not consider government-provided health care to be a manufacturing subsidy. Simply put, a U.S.-built Corvette is more expensive overseas because German and Italian manufacturers don’t have to pay for health insurance for their workers.
A couple of years ago I read about the health care system in Switzerland. The short version is that every person is required to purchase minimal health insurance coverage. If someone can’t afford it, as determined by 8% of the person’s income, the government pays the rest. Insurers are not allowed to profit from this minimal policy, but they can market add-on policies that provide additional coverage, for things like dental care and private rooms. Out of pocket expenses are higher than in the U.S., but that’s really an apples-to-oranges comparison, since employers pay health care costs for many Americans.
What I would like to see happen is:
- Laws prohibiting insurers from operating across state lines repealed, leading to higher levels of competition.
- People required to purchase minimum health insurance policies in a manner similar to people being required to have car insurance, with government subsidies where necessary.
- All insurers being required to provide these minimal policies, with restrictions on how much profit they can make from these. I don’t find prohibiting profit appealing, because the profit motive often drives efficiency, but it does need to be reasonable.
- When employers no longer have to provide health care to their workers, they need to pass this savings to them in the form of increased pay. These companies should make more due to improved international competitiveness, not by passing this savings onto their shareholders.
Please note that I am fully aware that I am not an expert in this field, so I know full well that this will not work as proposed, but I do think that the underlying ideas are sound. In my opinion, while Obamacare has many things I really like, such as the prohibition on denial of coverage for existing conditions (Note: “Pre-existing” is redundant. Something cannot exist before it exists.), but much of the plan is putting bandages on bullet wounds.
I see an abortion debate dominated by fanatics on both sides, while I think most people are like me and fall somewhere in between the extremists. One key issue is the discussion of when life begins. Historically, there are five stages where the definition of the beginning of life was defined legally:
- Formation of the fetus
- Quickening (when the movement of the fetus can be felt by the mother)
- Viability (when the fetus can survive outside the womb)
Pro-choice advocates often argue for birth, while pro-life advocates argue for conception. (Personally, I think both are wrong, but that’s not really my point.) In Latin law, it was sometimes considered homicide if a woman was poisoned after formation of the fetus, and always if after the quickening, and British law agreed with this interpretation. For many reasons, this seems like a reasonable line in the sand to me. I don’t want abortion to be used as a contraceptive, but I also don’t want women to have to get government approval to terminate a pregnancy, such as in the case of a pregnancy caused by a date rape where the victim may not even know her attacker. I will argue that a sound policy would be to allow abortion up to X weeks (somewhere in the 12 to 16 week range), but severely restricting abortion after that, probably to cases where either the life of the mother was in danger and, perhaps, to cases where the fetus was severely deformed, although I’m not sure how comfortable I am with the latter.
Both extremes have dominated this debate. I think it’s time for a middle-of-the-road option with a solid legal precedent. Let’s say, however, that you disagree with me and you believe that life begins at conception. My proposal is still better than the current legal situation. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing.
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, and I want more ideas to help make my ideas better for everyone.