Play

WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 27: U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) looks on during a news conference to announce opposition to the so-called skinny repeal of Obamacare at the U.S. Capitol July 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. The Republican senators said they would not support any legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare unless it included a guarantee to go to conference with the House of Representatives. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Sarah Palin coined the term “death panels” during the 2009 debate about federal healthcare legislation. She asserted that many people, like her own child with Down’s Syndrome, would be brought before “Obama’s Death Panels.”

This was an extension of an op-ed piece earlier in the year entitled “Deadly Doctors.” In it Betsy McCaughey (falsely) asserted the architect of the ACA believed the elderly and disabled were not entitled to medical care; that by paying doctors to talk to patients, the government would be promoting euthanasia.

Neither assertion was true, but both were effective.

Our current president seems to have taken a page from this playbook, running an entire campaign and administration based on similar sound bites.

As capitalists, Americans generally believe the markets will take care of things. If there is a need, some bright entrepreneur will figure out a solution. However, when it comes to healthcare, all bets are off. This market violates the rules of value and transparency. The result: a system driven by special interests

We often pay for technology—the new, new thing—at the expense of the routine. Give a person with end-stage cancer radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery, but if you have schizophrenia, diabetes, or other chronic conditions, better file for coverage and hope the benefits don’t end before you do.

America has limited access to care for decades. Children, the working poor, and those with mental illness have generallyseen their access put under constant pressure. Mental health, in particular, has been ignored for decades, forcing many people onto the streets. The toll on these individuals and their families in terms of lost productivity and stress is immeasurable.

Sure, death panels sound awful. No one wants to think they or a loved one will be considered unworthy of care. But that doesn’t mean we should engage in “irrational rationing”—denial of care if the condition doesn’t make for a good “poster case” or sound bite.

As Senator McCain correctly pointed out, this is not a time for partisan legislation. “We should not be content to pass health care legislation on a party-line basis, as the Democrats did when they rammed Obamacare through Congress in 2009,’’ the senator said. “If we do so, our success could be as short-lived as theirs when the political winds shift, as they regularly do.’’

We need a conversation about what we can and can’t afford as a nation—one that takes into account who we are as a people. I am not arguing for limitless healthcare. The current spend is not sustainable. Still, it presently seems that “America First” means “Me First” when it comes to healthcare—we want to pay for healthcare as it affects us as individuals, but fail to think of our neighbors.

Not everyone will be happy, but we should at least have the discussion.