Stimulus Package Leads to Duty to Die?

I have been reading a lot on blogs and websites this past weekend about how the stimulus package just passed by Congress is gong to lead the United States strait into a “European system of free heath care for all, a rationing of health care, and even something called “Duty to Die” meaning that someday the “United States Government will determine that you have a ‘duty,’ an obligation, to die.”

After seeing so many of these opinion pieces I began to scratch my head.  Yes, Congress has included some healthcare provisions in the stimulus package, but mostly they attempt to alleviate some the the growing health coverage issues now being exacerbated by the growing unemployment rate, certainly an economic issue. But, how has this turned into doomsday scenarios where senior citizens are being euthanized by government decree?

It was certainly a relief to this morning run across a well researched article appearing in the  Billings Gazette. Maybe it is the clear Montana air, but something has given Mike Dennison, a writer for the Gazette’s State Bureau, the courage to actually pull back the covers on these monolithic, unfeeling European heath systems and get a good look at  how they came about and how they actually work.

What Dennison found is that there are quite a few differences in the plans and that they all came about as a reflection of the culture and circumstances the countries found themselves in at the time they were instituted.

For example, Dennison tells us that Great Britain and France built their systems out the the destruction of World War II. Each country took a different approach to providing health care to it citizens. Each one is working reasonably well for their citizens.

Another, European country, Switzerland,  had a track record of private health insurance coverage, and has achieved universal health coverage by requiring all citizens to buy private insurance. Subsidies are provided to limit the cost, according to one’s income. Does this system sound familiar to anyone in Massachusetts?

After a quick look at the Canadian system, Dennison returns to the United States and concludes that healthcare reform in this country, like elsewhere ,  will undoubtedly build on top of our current system which happens to one that combines a public/private approach to providing health care.

Dennison references  U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, who has taken a leading role in national health care reform. Baucus, who is also from Montana, recently published a white paper entitled Call to Action, Health Reform 2009, where he lays out his vision for healthcare reform.

Dennison sums up Baucaus’ approach as one that plays off the mixed-bag of programs the U.S. currently has in place.

“His general proposal would expand Medicare and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, two taxpayer-funded insurance programs (like Canada). It would strengthen the Veterans Administration and Indian Health Service, which are socialized systems serving a specific population (British model). It would require people to buy private health insurance, while leaving in place our current system of employer-based insurance (France and Switzerland).”

Dennison goes on to write, “This “Baucus approach,” which also resembles the approach favored by President Barack Obama, is a cautious one, which isn’t necessarily bad.”

I think that this is the conclusion that most reasonable people would draw if they bothered to look at the facts, as Dennison has done, rather than jump to their keyboards to spread fear as many of the bloggers and option writers are now doing.

A Twitter “friend” of mine commented over the weekend that this is “Harry and Louis on steroids.”

We can only hope that more responsible journalists, bloggers, and opinion writers will take the time to explore this issue the way the Mr. Dennison has and that we can have a healthcare reform debate based on facts and not fearf-spreading speculation.

By the way, if you are interested in reading hte New Yorker article that provided much of Dennison’s background, it can be found at: http://bit.ly/DU6gr

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