Thursday, February 25, 2010

Politics: On the So-Called Summit

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Presumably, others will better cover the political aftermath of the so-called "Health Care Summit" held in Washington, DC earlier today, not that much appears likely to come of it. I want to offer just three points.

First, Wyoming senator John Barrasso obviously did not watch the NTV interview with Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams available at this web site. Williams made it very clear that he was satisfied with the provincial health care that had found his heart problem and offered him options for addressing it. He chose to take the option of going to the United States because he was in a hurry and wanted to minimize recovery time in order to get back to work. Basically, he was an elitist--he spent extra money to get a world-class procedure. Did the Wyoming Republican really want to emphasize costly, discretionary procedures, such as that obtained by Williams in the US?

Second, and following closely from that point, I don't understand why more isn't made of the fundamental contradiction in the Republican argument about quality of care. They go off about the United States having the best health care system in the world, and then say they want to focus on cost control. Why do the people that live and breathe the free market not seem to understand that "you get what you pay for." If one doesn't fundamentally reform the system (say, to a single-payer system that minimizes overhead), the only way to reduce costs in a fundamental way is to avoid expensive procedures and minimize payments to health professionals and providers. Yes, liability reform would help at the margins (and I wish the Democrats would include it in their proposals just to get it off the table, even if it isn't a panacea), but fundamentally, the only way to make the system less expensive while maintaining the health insurance industry is to pay less for it. Pretending that won't affect quality is disingenuous.

Finally, I am greatly disappointed with the media coverage of this event. Granted, I didn't sit through the hours of what might best be described as bickering, but most coverage sure didn't even try to get at the substance of the day. Even CBC radio and television, as well as the commercial networks, focused on the silly exchange between President Obama and Senator McCain in which they referred to the election being over. In video coverage, only the the PBS NewsHour chose to air any of the few moments of agreement during the day and generally tried to capture the strongest points raised by both sides. Is there really only one outlet for real journalism left in North America?

No comments: