Reality Check - Health Care Reform

As a lawyer, my radar screen is pretty active when it comes to the words people use, because those words have real consequences in people's lives, especially when they are found in laws that govern how we live our lives.

The nearly 2000-page legislative behemoth passed by the lower house of Congress in the wee hours of November 7, 2009 contains these words:

  • The word regulation appears 181 times.
  • The word tax is there 214 times.
  • The word fee is there 103 times.
  • The word shall is there over 3,000 times!

It is an odds-on bet that almost nobody reading this article has read Nancy Pelosi's 2000 page bill, and it is probably also true that at least some readers are inclined to support what is publicly being called "health care reform." After all, look at the words in that phrase.

We all know how important good health is, right? So, that's a no-brainer word. We all like to think of ourselves as caring people, so the word care is a no-brainer, too. And we have all been conditioned to think that reform means making things better. So, that word moves us positively at the emotional level as well, doesn't it? And we all know that there are problems with the high cost of medical procedures, and that there are problems associated with the cost of private health insurance.

So, from the standpoint of the words that move us, here is the political calculus on Health Care Reform:

Health = good

Care = good

Reform = good


Expensive medical insurance = bad

Expensive medical procedures = bad

So, it's clear, isn't it, that "health care reform" wins hands down. It's not even a close contest, is it? Judging by the words in the phrase that people are using to identify Pelosi's legislative behemoth, it seems to be a no-brainer that any caring person who values good health and is concerned about the high cost of medical care will support the bill, right? Well, actually, no -- because if you look at the words in the bill, itself, what Pelosi's behemoth actually does is nationalize the administration of health care in America, and that's a far cry from reforming our existing health care system.

When we think about the government taking over the administration of health care services in America - and that is what the Pelosi bill does - do we think of wise and caring government employees whose primary focus is our personal well being? Or do we think about timeserving government bureaucrats who are principally concerned with protecting their own job security by making decisions that that will not send government auditors ballistic?

Let me put it another way. Have you ever actually had to deal with a government bureaucrat? If so, then you will agree with David Harsanyi, who sagely observes:

You will, of course, need to be plastered to buy Pelosi's fantastical proposition that 450,000 words of new regulations, rules, mandates, penalties, price controls, taxes and bureaucracy will have the transformative power to "provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending . . ."

So, what's to be done? Are the American people stuck with the calculus of Health Care Reform, or is there still time for a reality check? Well, being a spiritual optimist and a social pragmatist, I'd say we better flood the United States Senate with phone calls, emails, letters, and prayers - and we better get on it right now!

For a start, here are some critically important Senators who for various reasons might not go along with the Health Care Reform herd in the Senate:

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) 202-224-5623
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) 202-224-2043>
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) 202-224-4843
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) 202-224-4041
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) 202-224-2551
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) 202-224-6154
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) 202-224-5824

Contact them immediately and repeatedly, and don't forget to contact your own Senator. And remember, in politics a letter is worth 100 emails. So, if you still remember how to do snail mail, you can get the postal addresses of every Senator here. Let's do it, people. Our personal freedom and our democratic Republic depend on it.

Jed Gladstein is an attorney, author, and educator.