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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The time to act is now: Pass the healthcare bill

Published: September 11, 2009
Section: Opinions

<i>ILLUSTRATION BY Ida Chelengar/The Hoot</i>

ILLUSTRATION BY Ida Chelengar/The Hoot

Every day’s news begins with another ominous update on the free-falling healthcare reform legislation. After months of furious debates, angry town hall meetings, and more name calling than anyone cares to remember, there is less of a chance for real reform than there was before. The old joke is that Congress is the opposite of progress, but the drama playing out on the national stage is starting to prove it true. The only aspect of reform that the two sides can seem to agree upon is that reform is needed.

Both the Democrats and Republicans are culpable for this boondoggle. The Democrats are determined to push through a much needed public option without providing much needed tort reforms while the Republicans seem unwilling to accept any kind of Democratic bill whatsoever. Even when President Obama hinted at taking the public option out of the bill (thus making it more like symbolism than reform), many Republicans stated flatly that they wouldn’t vote for any bill sponsored by the Democrats. Meanwhile, the Democrats are scrambling to figure out how to soothe their counterparts (by making the bill more irrelevant) while watching themselves be berated by uninformed townspeople on national television. The only winners in this dispute are the undertakers who receive the steady supply of those who couldn’t afford to wait while Congress stews.

Forty seven million people live without healthcare, and the number grows every day as more and more suffer the side effects of the recession. What of these, the reluctant victims of the health care system? Why aren’t these the ones whose angry tirades litter local news channels? Every day, they face their own private death panels, and I doubt that their most pressing thoughts are whether the country is trending towards socialism or not. The main goal of a public option would be to provide a viable option for these poor souls. Nothing short of a public option will fully solve the problem. Even the co-ops that are currently being touted by more moderate Republicans would not necessarily provide care for everyone. A public option would ensure parity.

There are those who state that the public option would be a financial burden for generations to come and would result in some sort of rationed healthcare run by the government. However, the current healthcare system is already threatening to collapse from fiscal strain. In the long run, the public option would cut down on costs as it would do away with the costly E.R. visits of the uninsured, and it would eventually replace such costly and poorly run government funded programs as Medicare and Medicaid. Thus, rather than paying more for a lesser product, we would be paying less for a better result. Also, for those who already have insurance, it will provide something to fall back on. Those who are rejected by insurance companies or who can no longer afford to pay their premiums will finally have somewhere to turn.

Meanwhile, contributing greatly to the costs of our healthcare system are doctors who order unnecessary tests in order to protect their livelihoods. One mistake and a doctor could have his entire life destroyed. While it is understandable that a doctor who makes a mistake should be held accountable, it is not right that they should have to forfeit everything. Tort reform is an important issue which is being decidedly left out of any serious reform talks. An untold sum of money could be saved if not for these extraneous tests. While some will say that extra testing can only be good for a patient, many of these tests use radiation. By getting an extra test, one may actually be increasing the likelihood of contracting what they’re being tested for. Thus, the testing is not only detrimental financially but physically as well.

The public option and tort reform are two key ingredients to any successful healthcare bill, yet both now seem to be falling by the wayside. If events keep progressing in their current manner, healthcare reform will be little more than a pyrrhic victory – a placebo for an ever worsening patient. Like a non-binding resolution from the U.N., such toothless healthcare reform would provide only moral support for a very tangible malady.

I truly hope that Congress can work out some kind of compromise that actually does address the many issues at hand. However, I fear that this legislation is bound to crash in a hailstorm of media pressure. This is an issue that’s too important to bypass and too dire to succor with a faulty resolution. The time to act is now, lest the future generations curse our indecision from premature deathbeds.