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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A few random thoughts about health care reform

1. I've become a little tired of those that are treating the arcane meanderings of the House and Senate as the faults of the Obama Administration. In truth, his idea that Congress should draft the legislation is correct. That's Congress's role. They have to create a plan, vote on it, hash it out, agree to it. Obama's treatment of Congress is appropriate: it's the behavior of the legislative branch that is so dismal. Obama has expected the representatives and senators to simply live up to their own responsibilities, and he's used his loud microphone to set the agenda and push on deadlines. That's his role.

When Clinton attempted to present the legislature with a fully-formed bill for them to debate and sign, he was attacked for leaving them out of their own process. Now, Obama has opted for an approach more in line with the actual way the government is set up to work. That's not bad leadership. That just means we have a system that's designed to allow for easy obstruction.

2. I believe in the public option and I believe we can't achieve true reform without one. But I also think there are initiatives on the table besides the public option that, if passed, will fundamentally improve health care for everyone. It's easy to focus on the uninsured, and forget that those Americans with insurance, even presumably decent insurance, are still trapped and abused by the system.

One of the awful facts of our current system is that it relies on employer based coverage, which ties good health care to your employment. This means that leaving a job, striking out with a new business, taking risks financially: they all become life or death decisions with possibly catastrophic risks to your finances and your health. If you have insurance (like I do), the control of a for-profit system has made indentured servants of us all. If each person's right is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness... isn't this against our core principles? Of course. The public option isn't just to help those without insurance currently get coverage: it's to free those with insurance from the fear of losing it.

Insurers abusive behavior towards those that pay high premiums in good faith should be literally criminalized. To create confusing forms, to seek to deny claims based on technicalities, and to reward the withholding of service for payment rendered is not only hardly a free market service, but is a business practice akin to lying. To sell something, and then not provide it, is fraud. In all the legislation that I've read about, there are provisions that would penalize insurers for this type of behavior. That alone, with no other reform, is a huge step improvement. Simply put, the law must be changed in order to force insurance companies to alter their own behavior. Their excuse is never that what they're doing is right...their excuse is that it is currently legal to deny coverage for any purpose they see fit.

3. The principle of budget neutrality has never applied to making war. Why does it apply to making people healthy?

4. Raising taxes will harm no one. At all. Period. Those advocating against raising taxes on the wealthy are doing so without an ounce of principle. Woody Guthrie would write songs about them if he were alive. Where's our Woody Guthrie these days? Oh yeah, he's probably sponsored by United Healthcare.

5. If the public turns against health care reform due to false advertisements, false claims and an inaccurate media: does that mean their concerns become correct and codified into law? There have been plenty of good and correct things that were publicly unpopular in certain places before they happened. Like getting into World War II. There were many states that, if you polled them with modern methods during the 1950s and 60s, would have been very against the abolition of Jim Crow laws. Should those poll numbers have dictated policy then?

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