Mud Dust Smoke & SnowBy Patrick McGann

In the future, in all 50 states, all health insurance will cover preventative care, doctor’s office visits, maternity care and mental illness. Health insurers will not be able to cancel your policy because you were struck with a costly disease. You will not become uninsurable because your blood sugar got out of whack. You will not be too terrified to show a doctor that bump in your breast because you’re afraid of losing your home.

In the future all Americans will have health insurance and that will make our health care system just as efficient and just as accessible as every other industrialized nation.

It will not be easy to get there. It will be complicated. We will make mistakes. There will be unintended consequences and unforeseeable vexations. A great many people who already have access to health care will not understand how it will save them money to help make sure millions of others have insurance rather than face injury and illness without it.

I think it’s likely that many people will get lost in abstract ideology and worry about slippery slopes to socialism and other nonsense. They will lose track of the difference between a vital service of community and dependence on government. Worse, they will see only philosophy and not see human beings. And you will see, they will do anything to try and stop people from the help they need.

At some point someone will have to find some way to explain that this is worth doing. That it will be worth the transitional problems. And that if we don’t find the courage and wherewithal to deal with the health care crisis in America, it will bankrupt us and destabilize our entire political system.

Someone will have to spell out that health care costs are at the heart of this nation’s budgetary problems. And I don’t envy that person because I think there are just too many people in this country who don’t want to know.

Do you think America will ever have it in her to tackle this problem? Are people too selfish? Have they lost the ability to help each other? Will they ever again be able to see other people’s struggles and realize that the cause of freedom is not served by widespread misery?

Someday, the actuaries and financiers will be pushed out from between health care providers and their patients. We will start looking at results and outcomes and measure our success by how little we need health care rather than by much we do.

When we finally work up the nerve to deal the health care crisis in America we won’t be able to predict exactly what is going to go wrong. We can predict that something will go wrong because it is after all the federal government which has a peculiar ability to screw things up. And the problem is crazy complicated. But I’ll tell you this, it’s easy to predict what will happen if we don’t do something.

Someday, the conservatives will get backed into a corner by the reality of this devastating problem. And they will see the progressives and the liberals gathering more and more momentum for a Canadian-style, single-payer system or even a British-style socialized system and they will come up with a plan that will keep the insurance corporations in charge of the insurance.

And I predict that after a long string of failures, the liberals will finally surrender. They will have their own little civil war and the winning argument will be that we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good and if they go ahead and adopt the conservative plan, at least millions will be helped and isn’t that the main point?

And you mark my words, the minute the Democrats adopt the Republican plan, the Republicans will denounce it and do everything they can to block it. They will conjure up the ghost of Joseph Stalin himself. They will use the complexity of the plan and spin outrageous scenarios to strike fear. They will try to turn the young against the old. They will seize on every wobble, every hiccup, every sour turn of phrase, every undotted “i” and every uncrossed “t.”

But what they will not do is offer up an alternative.

I think when the day comes that we actually do what we need to do, it will be rough going, and all the more so because while some are juggling the chainsaws, the opposition will be trying to make them stumble, without shame or reason and without being able to say they have a better way.

It’s important to talk about the future, don’t you think? It’s good to have an idea what will make this a better place and provide for a better life for all Americans. You have to have a picture in your head of where you want to be so you can fight your way through the brambles to get there.

The future is important, true, but it’s also important to realize that at some point in the past, somebody thought about our future. They worried about health care and the growing crisis. They wondered, I’m sure, if anyone would ever have the guts to try to do something about it.

Merry Christmas, everybody.

Patrick McGann lives in Twisp.