Sunday, March 7, 2010

How Do You Eat An Octopus?

Health care is truly a massive beast with countless tentacles simultaneously flailing about. Many of these appendages do need to be reformed. The fundamental problem with the health care bills that are being put forth is that they are asking us to swallow this octopus whole, rather than carve it up, consume and digest it bite by bite. In other words, senators are being asked to vote for or against a myriad of good and bad proposals contained in a nearly 2,000 page bill that few if any have read. The result is a general lack of focused, intelligent debate from both sides and a public that's even more in the dark.

Why not break up the bill into individual proposals and discuss, debate and vote on each one? For example, we could separately debate and vote on measures that sought to: create a more efficient medical records system, prevent individuals from being denied medical insurance due to pre-existing-conditions, enact reasonable tort reform, create a more competitive insurance market, address fraud in the medicaid system, expand coverage to the uninsured, promote preventative care, just to name a few. Rather than swallow 2,000 pages whole without understanding their implications, senators and concerned citizens would be given the opportunity to read and better understand (let's say) 50 pages that dealt with prescription drug reform. And to ensure transparency, it would be ideal if it were detailed which lobbyists supported, opposed or (dare I say) even authored which proposals.

Proposals that made sense would be voted for and those that did not would be voted down. With the current labyrinth like package of proposals we cannot be sure which Republicans are "mean spirited obstructionists" and which Democrats are "power hungry partisans." But, once we break down this beast into its individual components there will be no excuse for Republicans to vote against reform because "there are too many bad apples in the barrel." And equally, there will be no excuse for Democrats to push through bad, individual initiatives in order to "break the status quo and push forward needed reform." Of course this means that the process will take too long for an increasingly impatient public, prone to sound bites and generalizations rather than intelligent debate. But, when reshaping 16% of the economy and the health care of millions of Americans, isn't it better to take your time and do it right? Isn't it better to eat your octopus one bite at a time?

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