#60 – Dick Bernard: Health Care Reform and the Middle Class: The Middle Class fighting against its own best interests?

This is post #4 of 13. The others: July 24, 26, 27, 30, 31, August 1, 2,5,6,7,10,15.
Please note comments filed at July 24 and 26 posts.  I also added a brief update at the end of the July 26 post.  The final planned post on this series will be tomorrow.  I hope they elicit at minimum some thought.  If there is to be change, it is up to us, not to somebody else, to bring it about.
This post is particularly difficult to write, even though, except for a couple of too-close calls to long-term “poor”, I’ve always been middle class.  Even with some serious ‘speed bumps’, I’ve been pretty fortunate so far.
It is the middle class (most broadly defined) in this country which bears (and will bear) the consequences of chaotic health care “choice”, misleading sales pitches, and profiteering by assorted entrepreneurs committed to maximizing the “monetizing” of Health Services through many assorted means.  The pinnacle of today’s medical industry, most broadly defined, is about making money, lots and lots of money.  World Class Care is a distant second, and care for all is bad economics if the monetary bottom line  is the objective.
It is ironic, then, to see that the middle class is actively recruited for – and willing to – lobby against any substantive attempts to reform the system that in far too many instances hurts them. 
If anyone will, it will be the American middle class that will truly kill health care reform. 
It is not hard to figure out how “recruitment”  happens.  Fear.  For just one example, somehow or other I got on a nationwide e-list that is, charitably, anti-government and thus anti-tax.  (I’m actually glad I’m on this list (passively) since it opens a window into the exploitation of the Fear people have of change.) 
Here’s the subject lines to date (I may update as new ones come in, as they will): July 3 – generally anti-Taxes; July 18 – Congress plans to Outlaw Private Insurance; July 26 – the insurance reform will cover 12,000,000 illegals; July 28 (three e-mails) – Congress won’t enroll in its own Government Health Care; Obama-care Night-mare; call for One million Tea Bag faxes targeting two Democratic Senators.  The bottom line for this initiative: keep the middle class fearful and confused and divided.  Works well.  Who funds this initiative?  Whatever the case, it exists.
The tone of these e-mails are on the verge of hysterical (and written to sound believable), and my guess is that plenty of middle class folks bite.
But of what benefit to the middle class is the continuation of the current system, essentially unchanged?  If you are very lucky, you are enrolled in a large group plan, you aren’t facing layoff, and the plan has a retirement supplement option which won’t disappear and which you can afford.  That is the kind of plan I’m in, I think.  But I’m in a pretty sheltered environment.  And the part of my plan that covers what Medicare doesn’t – the supplement – is never certain.
(A year ago all retirees of the company were called together for a special session where the benefits people introduced ten or more competing alternative plans that we, the consumers, were invited to look at.  There were hundreds of people there.  Why is Plan E cheaper than Plan A?  What does Plan E take away that you would get with Plan A?  The devil is always in the details, or in the fine print.  Most of us don’t have the skills or the time to navigate this morass.  But this is the choice we consumers are constantly asked to make – and then it’s our own fault if we make a dumb choice.  So, I pick a choice that barely covers chemotherapy because I don’t need that coverage, and I end up with cancer?  My problem.)
The Health Care crisis didn’t happen last week…it has been evolving for years (read tomorrow’s post).  But like the person with a suspicious symptom who refuses to go see the doctor for fear of what the doctor might find, society (based on the rhetoric of its political representatives) seems to believe that refusing to acknowledge the problem will make it go away.  Not.
I know the general parameters of the field of health care pretty well.  In addition to personal experience over the years, and close relatives in the field, for nearly 30 years I was intimately involved with negotiating and administrating several hundred collective bargaining contracts for tiny to large union locals, all of which had some form or another of group health insurance. 
These plans were good, bad or sometimes awful.  Sometimes the participants paid nothing for the coverage; in other places they paid a lot.  In every case, to belong to the plan they had to be a contracted employee, and if they were laid off or left for some other reason, their health benefit ended at some early point. 
Long before I retired in 2000, efforts were already being made to pool the small plans into a much larger state-wide plan, which would spread the risk, and thus create greater efficiencies (lower cost).  To date, so far as I know, such efforts have failed, in large part because the have’s are not (if we’re to be really honest) interested in compromising parts of their quality plans to help the have nots.  In the end, both the haves and the have nots suffer from this short-sighted approach.  But logic doesn’t often fit into this debate, which is emotional.
I’d like to see light at the end of the tunnel, but absent citizen outrage the problem will get worse.  People are and will continue to be forced to make decisions based on bad or manipulated information which, of course, will have bad consequences.
In the end the American Middle Class will decide whether to do the common sense thing and go to some kind of single payer option, or choose instead the status quo which will (my opinion) only continue to get more and more chaotic. 
The decision will be up to us….  What are YOU doing to impact?

1 reply
  1. tom bernard
    tom bernard says:

    Anyone arguing for this legislation should READ IT
    section 16-17 ends new enrollment in private coverage after the bill is enacted.Section 19 mandates that all new individual coverage must be through the government exchange. FEAR? You bet… a 1012 page piece of legislation effecting 1/6th of the US economy the no one has read. Even if they did, it would take rooms full of lawyers and years of court battles just to have an idea of where it was headed. By then it is entrenched and we can go through years of health care reform-reform. This cannot and should not be pushed through in 30 days. Your fellow citizens have every right to speak, and send off e-mails, and post youtube…twitter..etcetera.
    The fact that the Democrats run the entire government right now does not give them the right to operate in a vacuum. They are still accountable for the votes they make. If they do not listen, they will be going home. The Blue dogs that cave and vote for this travesty will be sent packing. Any Republicans voting in favor will need to move out of their home state, as they will never hear the end of it from their constituents.
    DUMP THIS BILL……BURN IT AND START OVER WITH BIPARTISAN NEGOTIATION….Fix the problem, don’t burn down the barn because it needs new shingles.

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