The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Health Care Debate Requires Rational Thought, Not Riots

3 min read

Viewpoints Editor

In recent months (though it seems more like years), the debate about health care has exploded. Whether or not the US should implement a single-payer system like Canada’s has gone from an ideologue’s dream (or nightmare) to an idea on the minds of many Americans.

But lately, it seems the facts of the debate, like whether a governmental bureaucracy could adequately manage millions of Americans, whether people can keep their current plans and whether the government (and the taxpayers) can afford such a system, have fallen by the wayside in favor of fear-mongering, name-calling, and rude, unproductive interruptions.

The average conversation about health care seems to last about five minutes before someone cries, “Death panels! The government will kill your grandma!” or “Socialism!” or something equally absurd. The craziness comes from both sides, resulting in a debate that’s really just a shouting match.

So before we look at the actual facts of the debate, let’s look at the debate itself.

Now, I’ll grant that politics is messy. There are millions of people in the US and there’s no way everyone will agree on anything, much less something so central to people’s lives as health care. Such a hot button topic regularly gets people so riled up that they can’t see straight, resulting in town hall meetings that devolve into riots.

So here’s the question I find myself asking anytime I hear about the health care debate: What the hell is wrong with people?

Because we’re no longer discussing (or even arguing about) what to do about health care and how to improve an obviously flawed system. More often, I find people are trying to scare the other side into submitting, and nothing gets done.

So let’s all agree to A, calm down and B, grow up. If you disagree with someone, say so, but there’s no reason to name-call and there’s certainly no reason to start a riot.
I think if politicians, cable news personalities, and even the average Joes would talk rationally about their opinions, taking both sides of the argument into account, we could actually do something about the millions of uninsured Americans, especially those burned by major insurance companies.

For example, instead of crying “Socialism!” every time someone mentions a single-payer system, maybe we could remember that public schools, libraries, and police and fire departments are all partly or largely run by the government and while those institutions are far from perfect, maybe government-run programs don’t automatically make us a socialist country (and whether that’s desirable or not is also debatable).

Maybe instead of crying “Death panels! The government will decide who live and who dies!” we could remember that currently, insurance companies already do that. Millions of people every year are denied claims because non-medical personnel and businessmen decide what’s an emergency or not (and whether it’s financially worth it to pay for some procedure) or any insurance at all because of pre-existing conditions beyond their control.

As I said, there’s no way to get everyone to agree on something as important as health care. Regardless of the resolution, people will disagree. And they’re allowed to. Freedom of speech is an important tenant in this country, and I’m certainly not going to deny anyone that right.

But maybe if we stop the fear-mongering and the name-calling and have a rational discussion about the matter, we could reach some sort of decision and maybe even fix a system that is in dire need of a change (regardless of what you think that change should be).