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Commentary: Health care: It's enough to make you sick

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 20, 2009 - August is traditionally a slow news month. In the United States, Congress is normally in recess and our liberties are thus momentarily secure. In France, the whole country goes on vacation. The lethargy of the Dog Days allows a thoughtful soul the chance to savor the dwindling glow of summer before taking up the quotidian tasks that September inevitably brings.

Occasionally, some unanticipated calamity will shatter the respite -- the outbreak of WW I comes to mind -- but these rare exceptions merely serve to prove the rule. Unfortunately, because of the effort to revamp the national health-care delivery system, we are suffering through a 1914-style August.

The good news is that I have a 3-step plan that should resolve the debate to most everybody's satisfaction. The bad news is that left-wing humanists and right-wing humanitarians may kill us all in the name of compassion before it can be implemented.

To better understand the problem, let's review some of the more outlandish fallacies circulating about health-care reform prior to revealing its exquisitely simple solution.

Whack Granny

None other than ex-basketball player, ex-beauty pageant contestant, ex-vice-presidential candidate, ex-governor, current unemployed conservative part-time moose hunter Sarah Palin has proclaimed that Obamacare would create governmental "death panels" to determine which citizens were worth saving. Presumably, oldsters and the disabled suffering from otherwise curable diseases would be left to perish if their treatments were not deemed cost-effective.

A particularly spirited (and since withdrawn) editorial in the Investors Business Daily sounded a similar note about socialized medicine in England: "People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless."

Interestingly, Professor Hawking, who is afflicted with debilitating ALS, was born in the United Kingdom and has lived there all his life. Unfortunately for the editorial board of the IBD, he's 67 years old and claims to still be alive. Hawking responded, "I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS. I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived."

As for X-Palin's concerns, it's worth noting that the passage of the draft legislation that so alarmed her was patterned after a proposed amendment by Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., one of the most conservative members of the upper chamber.

When told of her interpretation that the clause promoted euthanasia, Sen. Isakson responded, "... How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You're putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don't know how that got so mixed up ..."

The senator may not know how it got so mixed up but I have a strong suspicion. Come in from the tundra and hit the library, Sarah; it was the Democrats who passed the original Medicare bill over the howling objections of Republicans. That bill did nothing to restrict senior citizens' access to health care -- instead, it gave it to them free of charge.

Pick Your Proctologist

ABC News reports that there are now five health care lobbyists in DC for every 1 member of Congress. While it's obvious that specialized interests have fanned the flames of paranoia on behalf of a very profitable status quo, reasonable citizens harbor legitimate concerns about governmental intrusions into their private affairs.

These doubts highlight a fundamental flaw in the Obama Health Plan -- namely, it doesn't exist. When the president sought to advance the cause of health-care reform, he attempted to profit from lessons learned during the disastrous Clinton-era effort in that regard.

Rather than craft a detailed proposal by executive fiat only to see it ripped asunder on Capitol Hill, he returned to the original constitutional model and gave Congress the task of developing appropriate legislation.

As of this writing, various bills are under consideration in the House and Senate, all of which combine for thousands of pages of legalese. I'd guess that nobody's read all of this; and if some poor soul has, he or she probably would have difficulty attributing a specific proposal to a given bill. Though the House has agreed on a provisional "discussion" version, nothing is set in granite and the Senate hasn't even signed off on this tentative draft.

Because there is no one plan to debate, critics are free to hunt and peck through the various proposals for objectionable material, leaving the president to defend random ideas that may never even come to a vote.

Mr. Obama would be better advised to promulgate a Patient's Bill of Rights, vowing to veto any legislation that failed to safeguard these basic liberties. Once voters were assured that they won't be compelled to gas their grandparents and are free to pick their own proctologists, the hysteria may die down sufficiently to allow for reasonable discussion.

The Guzy Plan for Thinking Citizens

As promised at the outset, I have a 3-step proposal to salvage what is left of the August reverie while still accommodating health-care reform. (The same plan, incidentally, can be modified to solve the looming Social Security crisis.)

Step #1: Allow Congress to pass any health-care bill it sees fit.

Step #2: Ensure that whatever plan congressional leaders come up with for the rest of us is the only plan they can access for themselves and their families

Step #3: Grab your sunscreen and head for the beach.

M.W. Guzy is a retired St. Louis cop who currently works for the city Sheriff's Department. His column appears weekly in the Beacon.