Health Care: Good Deficits, Bad Deficits

“There are no solutions, Bernstein–only the rearrangement of problems.”
David Mamet, ‘November’

Is the health-care debate a mess? It is. By which I mean it’s sure hard to keep up with the competing claims about what the pending legislation will do or won’t do. Yes, our leaders try to make things easy for us by declaring one set of ideas (theirs) good and another set (someone else’s) bad; the “someone else” in this equation returns fire in the same terms. It’s only certain at this point that nothing about the health-care system or the bills that may effect some changes in it is simply “good” or “bad.”

For me, “good” consists of two things: First, make health coverage universal. In a nation as wealthy as ours, no one should be without medical care. Second, ensure that health coverage is affordable for all. The devil, as they say, is in the details. The bill headed to the Senate floor is about 2,000 pages long. What all do you think is in there?

Rank speculation aside, one concern that lies outside my list of “good” or “bad” attributes of health-care legislation is the deficits they’d cause. This may be uncaring of me. I don’t want my kids and their kids to be paying for my colonoscopies, or for yours either. But I have to say that when I hear the opponents of the health-care bills screaming about deficits, it’s hard to take them seriously. Right down the line, these are the very same folks who thought nothing of committing the nation’s wealth to the Iraq war, deficits be damned. Some economists say that that little project will wind up costing us $1 trillion–the low estimate–before it’s all over. And although I think we can rest assured that the investment has been worthwhile for most Iraqis who survived our good intentions, I don’t think all that money has done a thing to make life better for the tens of millions of people here — a group double the population of Iraq, by the way — who make do without medical care.

So let’s see where the health-care legislation takes us. It may be far from perfect. but improvement, not perfection, is our goal. And if we mess it up on the first round, gee, it won’t be the first time. We’ll just have to go back and try to to better. That seems to be the only way this system of ours work.

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