Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Moogie's Independent, Conservative Objections to a Public Health Care System

Last weekend I read a blog post that questions why conservatives have an overarching desire to decry government-operated health care as "evil" and "horrible." The post goes on to analyze TRICARE, TRICARE for Life (active-duty and retired military health benefits) and the VA system, and pronounces them outstanding examples of government-care that military retirees are fighting to retain beyond the current debate. The author states:

"You can't have it both ways. Either TRICARE and the VA are superior systems, worthy of our sacrifice, and thus a government-managed health system can be great. Or, they're terrible, scary, and Communist-Nazi schemes that have to be eliminated, leaving troops and veterans to find their own care for their lost limbs, brain injuries, and other wounds.

"America's veterans and troops would say the former. It's why for years they have fought to expand the government programs, not kill them. That's why we find it so confusing that conservatives want to bar the doors and keep those Americans who want to be in a public system from even having that choice."

It's simply not that black and white.

TRICARE is funded to take care of military families on, or called to, active duty -- those families who make sacrifices daily in order to provide services to the American people. It's a variety of employer-provided healthcare/health insurance: a quid pro quo, if you will, because our national security depends on total troop readiness -- a very complex concept. TRICARE in retirement and TRICARE For Life are available only to those who served a minimum of 20 years, along with a few other prerequisites; they're not for every Veteran, as is the VA. TRICARE and TRICARE For Life are indeed successful health plans (albeit not perfect plans), so why do I cry foul about the "horrors and evils" of a public option or a government-operated health care system/insurance in the context of the public at large?

Here's something to chew on: a "public option" health insurance is little more than a spigot that someone turns on when he needs it, without paying for it in many cases, like pumping out of a well without paying for city water.

That's an American Way, you say. Right? Go out there and witch for the water and dig the well (i.e., opt-in to the public plan)? Bully! But, what happens when the well runs dry?

More often than not, when faced with a dry well, you drill/dig horizontally and tap into your neighbor's spring, thus straining your neighbor's resources until neither of you has water, and the two of you must choose to ration the remaining water. Or you take out a loan to acquire a new water source. Hello, Mr. Growing Deficit.

I don't necessarily believe that government-run health care would be an utter failure (although my husband still swears that the VA killed his father -- and I don't wholly disagree with him) -- because American health care providers are beyond superior for the most part. But, for starters, my objections to providing private option insurance include: (1) finite healthcare resources will ultimately lead to more rationing than we experience even today; (2) no quid pro quo will be required of the average, poor-downtrodden Joe; (3) yet more bureaucracy will be required to manage the system at the federal level; (4) a disastrous chilling effect on the insurance industry will result, potentially crippling a huge percentage of our economy; and (5) a bunch of other stuff that makes my head hurt.

The foregoing is a good beginning to explain why I, as a conservative (and, for full disclosure's sake, a member of a retired military family), object to a public system.

My objection redoubles when taking into consideration the many less-burdensome alternatives on the table that are being ignored in the greater debate: i.e. -- tort reform; removal of interstate competition among private insurers to inspire creative competition, while retaining state oversight for intrastate activity; federal regulation of insurability (pre-existing condition/denial of insurance issues); open negotiation between insured and insurer concerning covered conditions (this could eliminate costly across-the-spectrum coverage for services not required by everyone such as maternity or pediatrics or unique psycho-sexual-physical services and procedures; etc.) Almost all of these suggestions are truly deficit-neutral, so why are they being ignored?

The entire health care reform effort is way over the top in its race to fruition. So, capitalize on that word, "fruition ," and think of reform as ideas that can bear lovely fruit. Then, don't forget about the rotten apple(s) in that proverbial barrel.


  1. Tricare's fine by me. Of course, I get all my treatment from civilian doctors because there's no military treatment facility here that's authorized for retirees (which is a plus, IMO).

    The VA is a different animal. They're much, much better than they were in the 70's and 80's, no doubt, but they're still the option of last resort to anyone with an option to take.

    Another thing to look at isn't military health care, it's the health care given to American Indians.

    Up until they began to build and operate casinos on their land, Indians were in some of the worst conditions this county's ever seen. Every aspect of their lives was government controlled, and every aspect was substandard.

  2. Tricare has done right by me, as well. I have to add that my 12 year old and I are enrolled in Tricare Prime, which isn't free but doesn't break the bank at $115.00 per quarter. I fear BIG changes are coming with Tricare; there are already rumblings about the "burden" health care represents in the DoD budget. Gates' budget submissions have requested significantly increased user fees for Tricare (but not yet acted upon), and I'm OK with that... to a point.

    One of the things that does piss me off, though, is the general deterioration of the military health care system. And most specifically, the number of military hospitals that have been closed or reduced to "clinic" status over the last ten years. I'm of a mind that "things" will ONLY get worse for the military if and when a gub'mint-run general health care system comes to pass.

    Rustmeister: You're not the first person I've read who has brought up the poor quality of health care provided to American Indians.