Amidst a discussion of health care in which both candidates rattled off plans for tax credits, debated employment based health care, and praised electronic health records, it was the question from an audience member that really told of one of those “fundamental differences”.
The question of the night went to Lindsey Trella, “Senator, selling health care coverage in America as the marketable commodity has become a very profitable industry. Do you believe that health care is a commodity?”
Sen. Obama didn’t answer the question head on, but did give an adqueate reply describing the burden that the middle class faces when it comes to health care. He spoke well of the “moral committment” to address the crisis.
McCain’s language clearly demonstrated that to him health care is just another marketplace commodity to be bought and sold. He spoke of increased efficiency, tax credits, competition across state lines, walk-in clinics. (Don’t get me started on walk-in clinics.) Never was McCain’s position on health care more clear than when he said:
Don’t we go across state line when we purchase other things in America? Of course its OK to go across state line because in Arizona they may offer a better plan that suits you best than they do here in Tennessee…the American people will have increased funds to go out and buy the insurance of their choice and to shop around.
Marketplace commodity, marketplace commodity, marketplace commodity. Americans might as well comparison shop at Wal-Mart or Costco for health care insurance.
The follow up question by Tom Brokaw hammered home these differences, “Is health care in America a right, a privilege, or a responsiblity?”
McCain casually answered, “I think it’s a responsibility, in this respect, in that we should have available and affordable health care to every American citizen, and every family member…” Make sure its available and affordable (which no one defines) and let what happens happen. Let the market play out.
Obama assertively responded, “Well, I think it should be a right for every American. In a country as wealthy as ours, to have people who are going bankrupt because they can’t pay their medical bills…there’s something fundamentally wrong with that.”
All of the answers to health care flow from these most basic questions–is health care a right? Is health care a marketplace commodity? This is what divides the two parties. When people go into the emergency room they expect to be treated regardless of insurance status. If someone has appendicitis they expect to have surgery regardless of their ability to pay. If someone needs a blood transfusion they are not asked to pay for the unit up front. American values dictate that health care is a right and not a commodity. Now it it is time to get public policy in line with our values.