The Health Care Debate Is Not “About Policy—or Values; It’s About Politics”

Over at the Hasting Center’s new “Values and Health Reform Connection,” blog Joanne Kenen’s candid post, “Honest Debate, and Candid Solutions” caught my eye. I recommend it to HealthBeat readers.  (Kenen writes The  New America Foundation’s “New Health Dialogue Blog.") Below, an excerpt:

“Liberty. Justice, Responsibility, Solidarity.

“These are some of the American Values highlighted in the Hastings Center’s report on Connecting American Values with Health Reform.

“Watching health reform unfold here in Washington, however, that ‘Connection’ is painfully elusive.  The debate is not a careful calibration of competing rights, values and obligations. It’s a political moshpit. Instead of values, we have vitriol.

“Outside of Washington, even extremely astute people ask me why we can’t fix a health care system that is inefficient, inequitable and downright inexplicable.

“I patiently explain that this fight is not purely about policy (or values). Health policy becomes a gritty proxy for politics.

“Values, or at least ideology – particularly about the size and reach of government – play a role in politics. But an awful lot of what passes for policy debate is trench warfare before the next election.  Look at the list of amendments proposed for any of the major bills – and ask yourself how many are meant to improve the health and well-being of the American people and the American economy, and how many are meant to score points, woo donors, placate interest groups and create a C-Span moment.” [my emphasis]

To read the rest of Kenen’s essay, click here.

11 thoughts on “The Health Care Debate Is Not “About Policy—or Values; It’s About Politics”

  1. I’m so sick and tired of this so called health care debate, I can’t stand it anymore.
    The administration needs to decide where its priorities lie. Does it want to continue to maintain the 700 plus military facilities around the world, fight 2 wars that no one really wants us to be fighting, funding a 500 plus billion dollar Pentagon budget or does it want to provide quality healthcare for the citizens of this country? The answer should be obvious, just as the source of funding for the helathcare should be very obvious.
    Where are the priorities?

  2. I would suggest that the ideological battles are merely cover for what this is really about – MONEY.

  3. Where are our priorities you ask… Where they should be I say – healthcare reform, the economy and the safety of American soil…Would you forsake one for any of the others?????
    God bless.

  4. Stan–
    I, too, very tired of war. (I was opposed to the invasion of Iraq in the first place. I remember Vietnam and foreaw another Vietnam)
    I would like to see the troops come home as soon as possible–though extricating them without losing many troops iw not easy.
    That said, the money we are now spending on wars will not fund sustainable health.
    War is a “one-time” expense that we wind up fuding over 10 years, 12 years, whatever.
    Healthcare, on the other hand is a “forever” expense–we need to find the dollars to fund $1.6
    trillion dollars worth of care (in todays’ dollars)
    (Covering everyonoe, it’s not likely that we can shave much off that $1.6 trilliong. We can reduce waste–but then need that saved money to dover the people who are not receiving care now.
    Preventive care for everyoone doesn’t save money long term–people live longer.
    This, of course, is good news, but the bottom line, is that healthcare will ontinue to cost roughly 16% of GDP.
    But we will be getter a much bigger bank for our buck: many more people will be getting care. MOreover, if we are wise we will plough some of that $1.6 trillion into public health, and most importantly, if we begin eliminating waste the share of GDP that we spend on heatlhcare will not continue to grow. Thus high quality care for everyone will be sustainable.
    Still, bottom line, the money saved if we pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan tomorrow will now begin to fund universal coverage over the next 100 plus years.
    We need to find the money within the $1.6 trilion we are now spending.

  5. There are real ideologs, but they are very very very few.
    I think most people making ideological statements are using them in policitally correct ways to gain self interest goals.
    In other words, I agree with SW, but its not always money. It could be any of your garden variety deadly sins; pick any of the seven.
    My favorite hidden motive is Pride/Vanity, and it is perhaps the easiest to cover and confuse with real altruism.

  6. Ed–
    While the number of ideologues may be few,
    conservative ideologues have an enormous amount of money and power.
    This is why we have had largely conservative govt in Washington for the past 29 years. This is why it is so difficult to untangle the banking mess and clean up Wall street.
    I’d suggest reading “The Conservatives Have No Clothes,” by Greg Anrig (full disclosure- he’s my boss at the Century Foundation.) The book describes how conservative think tanks are funded.
    The same people are funding the opposition to health care reform—and opposition to Obama. As they have said in leaked memoes, opposition to health care reform has less to do with reform, and more to do with wanting to “break Obama.”

  7. I don’t think these conservative types with money are ideologues, I think they are often a good example of greed driven (although it could be gluttony or lust). The difference is I think the same is true with most seeming liberal ideologues, even though their particular reason, their motivating sin if you will, may not be greed. Pride/vanity seems more prevalent with some libs.
    I think that there are very very few who stand for their principals simply on principal. Wendel Murray seems to be one.

  8. Great. So the story of the day is: higher taxes, more people with medicar (which is already a broken process) & the eventuality of horrible health care because nobody wants to enter a field where you must go to school for an exceptionally long time, only to find out that you’ll require a second job to support your joy of saving lives because you get to fundamentally be a government employee who is salary doesn’t let you break even.
    There’s some nice things here, but they are far outweighed by the negatives. Let’s keep the stuff that keeps the insurance companies under control (who, by the way, base some of there process on medicare), scrap medicare & medicaid & rebuild them from the ground up in to some not-so-terrible programs, since trying to put a band-aid on the problem has not been working, & then we’ll see where the dust settles & go from there.

  9. Ales–
    I’ve never heard of a doctor who had to work a second job to keep food ont he table.
    Average compensation, mid-career, for primary care docs is $160,000–and they really should be paid more.
    But virtually all physicians are paid far, far more than most Americans.
    The big problem is that they leave med school with so much debt. We’re the only developed country that doesn’t subsidise med school education.
    This is because we’re not willing to pay the higher taxes that most Europeans pay in order to live in a society with substanial safety nets for everyone.