Tasked with writing primarily, if not solely, on Foreign Policy and world affairs issues, it can be difficult for this Examiner to turn attention in published articles to major domestic policy debates, such as the state of the economy and, recently, the health care reform debate.
However, after yesterday's passage of a bill overhauling health care in the U.S. by a narrow vote of 219-212 in the House of Representatives, after at least a year of debate and wrangling by Obama Administration officials to garner support for the bill, it is hard to omit or ignore the firestorm of controversy.
It is not for this Examiner to lay out the exact details of the plan, although a few informative links are provided below for readers' convenience. And this article is indeed commentary and reflects this Examiner's opinions and views, and as such should not be taken as an objective straight-news piece.
Health care reform is neither heavenly nor hellish; it just is
It is bothersome that among the comments that have been widely publicized, oft-heard, are that the plans and policies of the current U.S. administration are anti-American, unpatriotic, and evil, just to name a few. As if health care reform is sending the United States careening on a path towards hell and decay.
On the other hand, there are people who see health care reform as a major step towards "rescuing" America from itself and thus rescuing the beacon of Western civilization and democracy. Again, as if providing health insurance is really going to turn the U.S. into a Heaven-on-Earth.
Why can't it just be neither? This Examiner thinks the concept of health care reform is positive and a good thing overall that will eventually help improve people's lives in this country. One simply needs to look at other countries in the world that have adopted some form of universal health care.
Canada, Germany, Australia, Japan, Sweden, or Norway, for instance, are all stable Western-style political and economic democracies, with the Scandinavian countries in particular boasting functioning social-democratic welfare systems. Their health care systems have not doomed them, nor have they necessarily transformed these countries into supreme world powers or economic overlords.
To put it simply, health care in Germany, Japan, or Sweden is not the savior or destroyer of values or the civilization - it just is. Regardless, studies have shown that the U.S. health care system has been shown to underperform in comparison to plans in the aforementioned countries.
Health care and otherwise, Nazi and Socialism/Communism don't match
Still, among the major components of the heated debates, tea parties, protests, and town hall meeting shouting matches have been fears of "socialism" associated with authoritarian Soviet-style dictatorship, mixed in awkwardly with accusations that President Obama is simultaneously a Nazi. (As Sweden and Norway, mentioned above, show, a country can have socialistic elements without being dictatorial; furthermore, the U.S. has not been completely-capitalistic since the Gilded Age of industrial monopolies in the late 1800s.)
Chicago itself has had its own share of protesters with posters depicting Obama with a Hitler-esque mustache, with captions equating his policy as socialism. For a person that has come to the United States from Europe, with an acute awareness of history, and a healthy dose of political knowledge and awareness, it can be difficult to say the least to not confront such protesters.
Do people here really know what Nazism really was, besides that it was an abbreviation for the German words for "National Socialism"? To associate two ideologies that could not be more opposite bespeaks of an unhealthy amount of ignorance, which is played upon by "opinion leaders" and loud commentators on both sides of the aisle.
Domestic policy lessons can be extrapolated from other countries abroad
Universal health care has been adopted in multiple countries abroad, many of them indeed democratic countries with close ties to the U.S.
It can very well be a good thing for America; if the bill indeed does, however, contain clauses and articles that turn it into an unfeasible disaster, it can still be repealed or replaced, if simple amendments and add-ons later on fail to improve the situation.
However, as the U.S. and its people forge ahead to try and fix various domestic issues, various lessons can and should be taken from abroad - to try and fail is at the very least courageous and shows acknowledgment of a problem; to condemn any attempts at change or policy reform to improve a situation is to ignore existing problems and issues.
The U.S. has plenty of templates available amongst multiple Western democracies around the world; perhaps it's high time for domestic lawmakers to evaluate what are the best qualities they can take from foreigners, and figure out how they can realistically apply what they learned in America.
Some informative links on health care reform:
- http://www.healthreform.gov/ (official government site)
- http://www.whitehouse.gov/realitycheck/ (official White House rumor control site)
- http://www.reuters.com/news/globalcoverage/healthcarereform (Reuters coverage)
- http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2009/health.care/index.html (CNN coverage)
- http://www.c-span.org/Topics/Health-Care.aspx (Health Care Hub from C-SPAN)
- http://www.governingdynamo.com/governing-dynamo-home/2009/7/18/health-care-reform-youtube.html (includes many government videos concerning health care reform)
- http://www.cms.hhs.gov/ActuarialStudies/05_HealthCareReform.asp#TopOfPage (from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services)
- http://www.consumerismcommentary.com/2010/03/21/the-new-health-insurance-law-and-your-money/ (article providing an overview of the plan's costs to the consumer, not accounting for earmarks)