My Turn, Bruce La Rue: Sitting out the victory lap

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 11, 2017

I recently watched and listened as President Trump and Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives celebrated passage of a bill ostensibly designed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as Obamacare, with mixed emotions — a cynical blend of disgust, consternation and dread. While our thrill-seeking, entertainment-obsessed culture often leaves us wanting more, I found myself wanting less, as in less government intrusion.

Neither political party is the sole proprietor of hypocrisy; each points out its opponents’ motes while downplaying its own crossties. When Hillary Clinton spearheaded an attempt at providing health care for everyone, conservatives vociferously criticized her plan. I remember right-wing pundits condemning the government takeover of one-sixth of the economy, and rightly so. Many claimed it was a giant leap toward nationalized health care. I agreed, and still do.

A Republican shade of lip gloss does not make it any less a pig. Government takeover of a private-sector industry by Democrats should not be viewed differently than a government takeover of a private-sector industry by Republicans, Libertarians, popes, tyrants, tribal overlords or anyone else.

The architects of Obamacare learned some valuable lessons from the mistakes of HillaryCare, a massive trial balloon that ended up like the Hindenburg. First of all, do not let anyone know what is in it until after it passes the House. Investigative perusal of HillaryCare led to some rather troubling components, not the least of which was a provision strongly discouraging, if not prohibiting, doctors and patients from doing business outside the government network. Mrs. Clinton knew that this provision was the only way to make nationalized health care workable. Otherwise, top-shelf health care professionals will make themselves available to those with the ability to pay. The rest of us will be at the mercy of primary care doctors, nurses, dentists and surgeons willing to work for whatever the government deems appropriate. The evil, greedy rich will receive treatment from the best, brightest and most competent, while we schlubs will be attended by dubious characters with medical degrees from places like the University of Fredonia who hang out their shingles in floor space rented from Big Lots. The proletariat will not long suffer such social injustice, taking to the streets, blocking traffic and destroying the businesses of innocent people.

There is an old saying, “After all is said and done, there’s a lot more said than done.” In this latest example of why we need term limits, there should have been less said and more undone. The mantra never should have been, “repeal and replace,” but simply “repeal.” Instead of starting over and working with doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and Big Pharma, Republicans seem to have accepted the premise that something akin to Obamacare was needed. They fell into the trap, baited by the notion that, rather than add a few pounds of air to the tire, we need to re-invent the wheel.

It could well be that we need not worry about the House bill in its present form. It must now go to the Senate, that most staid, honorable, above-the-fray, haughty, arrogant cadre of public servants, a body about as likely to pass the bill without disfigurement as I am to start at defensive back for the Panthers next season.

As with most serious domestic issues facing us today, the problem is not laws or regulations, but about changing hearts and minds.

If we expect to receive the best health care in the world, we should expect to pay at least something in return.

I have heard relatively intelligent people declare that health care should be free. Does that mean the folks that design, build and maintain hospitals should not be paid? Should doctors, nurses, radiologists, anesthetists and they who prepare those scrumptious meals for the patients do so without recompense? Would you?

Wave after wave of technological advances have made our lives easier, allowing many of us to become spoiled brats. We push a few buttons, flick a switch, type in a password and — shazam — our food cooks, lights come on and we are connected to the world, with no thought or appreciation of the engineering, construction and maintenance that makes stuff happen. We have a medical concern — shazam — well-trained personnel swoop in with the latest equipment, medications, therapy, etc., curing ailments and conditions that took lives 40 years ago, yet we grouse about deductibles and co-pays. Shame on us.

Government intrusion into the health care industry under President Obama was sold as a way to provide coverage for some 20 million uninsured Americans, many of whom chose to be uninsured. After all was said and done, we were saddled with at least 11,000 new federal employees at the IRS at a cost of over $1 billion per year in new spending for pay and benefits, and yet about 20 million people remain uninsured.

Until recently, the Democrats owned the health care debacle. Now the Republicans own it. Perhaps the Democrats should be running a victory lap. I believe I’ll sit this one out.

Bruce La Rue lives in Mount Ulla.