How should we discuss health care?
One of my favorite theologians wrote: “”Conversation is a game with some hard rules: say only what you mean; say it as accurately as you can; listen to and respect what the other says, however different or other; be willing to correct or defend your opinions if challenged by the conversation partner; be willing to argue if necessary, to confront if demanded, to endure necessary conflict, to change your mind if the evidence suggests it.”
First, get the story right. Old people won’t be euthanized under a new health care plan. There’s no risk we’ll suddenly become like Albania. Be accurate. Don’t be the guy who angrily said to his representative, “Don’t let government touch my Medicaid!”
Learn about how other countries handle health care. Read about Kenneth Arrow’s famous essay on health care economics to learn why we are where we are. Check out the Cato Institute and their arguments and compare to the Economic Policy Institute.
Second, discern the best argument from the side you disagree with. Will there really be rationing of health care? Will the quality change? Will it overwhelm the system? What if there is less inventiveness in technology or medicine? Is health care economics different than buying food? What is “recissioning?” Does more technology always mean better health? How does fee for service compare to results based care?
Third, be aware about why you believe what you believe. Have you had good health care? Have you had to fight insurance companies? Did you have poor or excellent experiences in countries where insurance was regulated or provided by the government? What are YOUR criteria for assessing a good or a bad health care plan?
Fourth, give yourself some distance from slogans. Although there are many uses of the media, it tends to manufacture conflict via sound bites. The news cycle spent a week of pontificating on the word “stupidly” rather than on health care. The media will sometimes repeat wrong facts that go viral. Not everything on the internet is true.
Fifth, remember that change rarely happens neatly. It took 40 years for the Israelites to find freedom; it took 100 years between the civil war and the Voting Rights Act. There will always be some messiness. There will be unexpected and unintended consequences.
Last, no plan will be perfect. There will be trials along the way. A comprehensive health care plan will surely change the economy and our society in some fashion, but it will not mean the end of what makes our faith or country worthy.