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Our Culture Inchoate: Healthcare #21

Updated: Oct 16, 2019

Torres speaks at a Think Tank in DC about National Health... and Healthcare.


MC: Ladies and Gentlemen, our third speaker tonight, Congresswoman Honoria Torres of the 16th New Jersey congressional district. Welcome, Mrs. Torres.

TORRES: Thank you for the invitation. I have great respect for the Balboa Institution and the ideals of American Exceptionalism that it aspires to. Your invite tells all Americans that diversity of thought is not a bad thing… it’s the essential thing.

I think our National Health is an existential issue, third only to both National Defense and the National Fisc. Note I said Health specifically, not healthcare. But healthcare has much to do with it, truly. I believe our National Health includes healthcare, infrastructure, education and our environment, as they are important among many other elements that make up our health, culture, and happiness as a nation. And there will always be sorrow thrown in to keep the balance.

Right or wrong, most Americans see healthcare, in and of itself, as a right. Access to healthcare cannot be denied, surely, but some people, many millions actually, want healthcare only on their own terms: bad habits, bad choices, and poor personal maintenance, and then they wonder why they’re sick. And they want it free.

The republicans campaigned for over six years on basically one issue: repeal and replace Obamacare. And they blew it. For the last two years they had a chance, and essentially had no coalesced plan… especially around the biggest emotional flashpoint: pre-existing conditions. They had an answer, but could not articulate it.

The notion that pre-existing conditions is not covered by insurance is patently absurd, but it does illustrate why people confuse insurance, a financial product, with quality healthcare, a most agreeable and necessary goal for everyone.

(Polite laughter)

I think we look at it wrong. My premise is not popular, because it isn’t “free” nor do I say “stick it to the rich.” For example, one reason, a big one, that I became a teacher is because there was a healthcare component. It’s part of the union contract and my compensation. Because of that, it creates a taxable event. We can debate ratios: those who contribute nothing are taxed to X extent, those who contribute substantially pay Y. For that opinion, people hate me, which is kinda silly. Disagree with me, but don’t wish me dead. Please.

Some givens are required to pay for it. Private insurance creates the largest and most effective method for maintaining the funds necessary to carry the industry, both medical and financial. And allow insurance companies to cross state lines.

Parochial healthcare rules by state that are inherently restrictive makes little sense to me, in respect to the underlying financial product. And I believe that menu driven insurance packages should be allowed, while still supporting American cultural objectives that everyone benefits from indirectly: emergency services, pre-natal care, child birth, vaccinations, infectious diseases, and the like..

Here’s my proposal, in general, overly simplistic terms.

Everyone needs skin in the game. Everyone should pay. Raise deductibles. The day of the token $10 co-pay should end. For this hypothetical, make the initial visit $100, minimum, even if for a toothache or a head cold. Everyone should pay for emergency services, too, at the point of service, after care is provided. But after a certain amount, both one visit or an annual amount or a major operation or continuing critical care, the state pays. Pays it all. Elective services should have different rules, which will be hotly debated or summarily dismissed. Medication should be included. Skin in the game.

This will cover pre-existing conditions, too. This will cover catastrophic. This will cover everyone… no one should go broke paying for necessary life-giving healthcare, but no one should expect “free” anything. Yes, the poor will always have Medicaid. But they should try to contribute something, and incentives for healthy living, especially among this group, should be explored. Skin in the game.

Now, free marketers will say, with some merit, that there will be fewer doctors because service costs will be controlled and doctors will earn less, thinning the field of providers. Then we need to incentivize the medical profession. Free schooling to super-qualified, hard working and serious candidates as doctors and nurses and attendant services. Free, paid by tax dollars, with a commitment to service.

As an aside, some democrats are touting free college for all… which is nothing more than an irresponsible bribe to young voters. I went to college and I thought of myself as a serious student. But I was surrounded by the unserious, and if college were free to some of those clowns, well, I shudder to think… Where’s the value if it’s free? Skin in the game, friends.

Incentives for healthy living, a variety of flexible packages to purchase private insurance at reasonable market rates, and the safety net for all for catastrophic care. Skin in the game.

We are simply not being creative. No party has a lock on a moral stance on healthcare, or caring about people, or for the chronically ill and infirm. This is America’s plan to create. With 330 million people, it is not about what works for everyone, but what is available for everyone to access. It needs to have both a heart and a head.

Skin in the game.

Republicans promised something and did not deliver. They ran on eliminating Obamacare, and all they accomplished was defunding it… and raising other private rates in the process. Their losses in last November’s election is at their feet. But do we know why they failed?

Because too many of both parties are beholden to the interests of the insurance, pharmaceutical, and medical appliance lobbies, to name a few. There are many conflicting agendas and PAC money can dry up for ambitious elected officials if the wrong legislation is pressed. For shame, congress, for shame.

And the democrats are scuttling their own sailboat just as the wind picked up.

The 2020 field is premature and almost juvenile in pandering to the extreme elements of the party. Maybe someone will break from that pack, because, well, if Donald Trump can be carried by a cynical media into the White House, any of the current candidates can be, too.

I think the media is bashing all of the candidates right now, probably through operatives in separate camps, intent on destroying rather than improving the discourse. Sad, but there you have it. And the radical no-holds-barred elements are driving the message. Promises of no private insurance, no college tuition; let’s face it, they are unserious and should be ignored.

Planned Parenthood and their ilk have a stranglehold on the democrats. I am living proof that if a democrat doesn’t toe the line, she’s out. Well, I am not going to be cowed by a myopic party leadership. I don’t think we have any real leadership. The republicans do not either, as Mr. Trump is their party leader, but he’s no republican, that’s for sure.

Healthcare in the US is the best in the world and is available on short notice. No queue, no delay. Quality care comes at a cost, and everyone must have skin in the game.

One final note. When I deem practical, I plan to challenge Speaker Pelosi for her job. I should have acted earlier in the year, but I did believe then that I was too green. Not anymore. The alternative is too catastrophic for the party and the nation to not act in good conscience.

We need fresh blood, responsible people, young, diverse, and unafraid to sacrifice today to ensure our future… I believe the three existential elements are National Defense, National Fisc, and National Health. If I am invited back, I would like to expand on the other three elements of National Health: Infrastructure, education, and our environment.

Thank you again for your time.

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