“Universal” Health Care and Character

[origionally posted at VermontersforObama]

There is a lot being said about the health care plans proposed by Clinton and Obama – very strong language, with Clinton calling for the removal of Obama’s ads as his health care plan is not “Universal”.

But, let us look at the plans. Both are motivated by the desire to provide health care to all Americans in need. And, for better or worse, we do that in this country by providing insurance (though we must point out that there are some essential differences between health care and health insurance).

So, both plans seek to make insurance affordable to all. The difference, it would seem, focuses on a single point – The Clinton plan would Mandate that all had to buy insurance, whereas the Obama plan would Mandate insurance only for children.

Let us be clear. This from a very detailed analysis of the plans at slate.com, a good read

“Obama’s plan creates various mechanisms to make both private and public health insurance more readily available. Hillary’s plan does the same, but also creates an “individual mandate” requiring every American to buy health insurance.”

So, according to Clinton, what makes the plan “Universal” is that the government will be telling adults that they must purchase health insurance. That is what a “mandate” is, the government telling you what to do – not necessiarly providing the means, as we have found out so painfully through the unfunded mandates of the No Child Left Behind education legislation.

Let us leave aside for a moment the constitutionality of the notion that the Federal governement can compel it’s citizens to purchase something. There are, after all, some rough analogies with auto insurance.

So, I think this is, practically speaking, a small difference, given the amount of noise it has been generating.

Should either candidate’s plan succeed in making decent health insurance within the reach of all, making it truly affordable, this will be a great accomplishment, and almost all will take advantage of it. Close enough to universal either way.

But to me the difference speaks much more about the different views the candidates have regarding the American people, the take they have on the character of the citizens that they are running to serve, than it does about the details of policy.

I would think that the problem is not the lack of desire for health insurance. Most people I talk to want health insurance and they want it to be affordable. They are not looking for a reminder that this is what they ought to do, but some help on getting it done.

And a plan that focuses on the reminder as the key ingredient for universal health care misses the boat on the kind of people we are, and the kind of help we are asking for.

This difference runs deeper than the health care plan. Listing to Obama, the focus is on providing people with the tools they need to care for themselves. Providing people with the help they asked for – in this case affordable health insurance – so that those that asked for the help can take it. And, for those that that didn’t ask, or can’t or won’t pick up the tools … well, they don’t have to.

This approach respects individual circumstances, and is grounded in the faith that people can, given the opportunities, care for themselves and each other. This rings true for me. This reflects the people I know, the folks I see working together to help each other and keep the community strong – regardless of political persuasion.

So back to the heat the Clinton campaign is generating over “Universal”. Not many would turn down affordable insurance, regardless of the presence of a mandate. Truly affordable insurance would effectively be universal. So it seems to me that the fight that Clinton is waging is for the exclusive right to the term “Universal”, It is not so much a debate about policy as much as staking out a claim to a powerful buzz word, much as big corporations seek to protect their trademarks.

Universal plans have come and gone in Washington since the days of Harry Truman. The one thing we need is someone to get everyone — Republicans, Democrats, health insurance companies, doctors, nurses — to the table like Barack did when he fought for health insurance for 150,000 more in IL. All the candidates have good policies — Barack can get it done.

About William Robb

William Robb, AKA OtherWill - no not the Will you are thinking of just now, that other one - is the main contributor to this blog
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