Obamacare a Band-aid solution to a big problem

A couple of weeks ago we published an editorial that, more than anything, pointed out what we believe are some of the reasons why the U.S. Supreme Court’s review of and eventual decision concerning Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, will be immensely important to our country’s future.

A few days later, I received an e-mail from an organization called the Small Business Majority, which included the subject: “Small business owners in Oregon support healthcare reform law, tell Supreme Court to uphold it.”

Of course, I was interested. In a nutshell, the press release (because that’s what it was) quoted some small business owners who support Obamacare.

“The costs have been crushing us,” the release quoted one, a Mike Roach, co-owner of Paloma Clothing in Portland.

Small Business Majority, in case you’re wondering (I was), is a “national nonpartisan small business advocacy organization founded and run by small business owners and focused on solving the biggest problems facing America’s 28 million small businesses,” according to its home page. It conducts “extensive opinion and economic research” and works with small business owners, policy experts and elected officials nationwide to “bring small business voices to the public policy table.” OK, so it’s a lobbying group.

I get e-mail from these groups all the time. I usually don’t pay much attention to them. But, just like many of you readers, I’ve got a very personal interest in the whole area of health care. As a small business owner in a community that has experienced its share of economic problems, I’m certainly sympathetic to the problems cited by Roach and represented by folks such as the SBM.

To be blunt, I know exactly what they’re talking about, as do many local small business owners. I know what it is like to be without health insurance. We’ve been there. The problems cited by Roach and others, about having to choose between offering needed benefits (health insurance) and laying off employees, about the difficulty of continuing to be competitive and creating jobs, about the tremendous costs of meeting what used to be “basic” needs and benefits, are very real.

I’ve learned, the hard way, that as a business owner you’re often at the bottom of the barrel, even if assistance is available – such as state health assistance programs for the low-income population like some struggling business owners I know. The bureaucrats who operate these programs apparently don’t understand business and when they see numbers like “gross income” (the amount of income you take in before you’ve paid your bills) they see things that the business owners and their bankers aren’t seeing, at least not after their business has paid its expenses. So, in my experience, even the programs that exist are of little assistance to businesses because they assume that if you’re still afloat, you must be making money, that you’ve got to be in pretty good shape.

Well, I guess it does mean that the business owner still has a job. But after you tally in all the fees, the taxes (remember Measures 67 and 68?), the costs of maintaining employees (wages, more taxes, unemployment insurance and, maybe, benefits), the costs of goods and services necessary to do whatever it is you’re doing, debt service, etc., there isn’t much left over – except in the minds of our leaders who see “Business” as a cash cow.

That might seem like a rabbit-trail rant, but I mention that because I do understand these people’s frustration. There is no question that healthcare is every bit as problematic as the supporters of Obamacare suggest. It’s a mess. Recent news accounts have documented how hospitals sometimes bill exorbitantly for services that aren’t even clearly identified, how patients with insurance pay one rate while the impoverished uninsured get treated for free, or close to it – paid for by the insured.

As someone who gets a kick out of solving problems, I’d love to do it here but I don’t have the answers – unless some fundamental attitude changes take place in our nation. Capitalism is a wonderful system as long as there is conscience employed somewhere in the mix. But when greed becomes the sole driver in capitalism, it can get ugly, and to me that is what we’re seeing in the medical field today: profit over probity (integrity, uprightness). Medicine is too much of a business now, and too little a profession of actually serving the needy.

So having said all that, you’d think I was an enthusiastic proponent of Obamacare, which, its supporters keep telling us, will even the playing field.

I’m not, though, because although the Affordable Care Act would indeed provide immediate solutions to small business owners, the cost will ultimately be paid by small business owners, limiting or removing their (and others’) ability to contribute to the general prosperity and welfare or even survive.

Unfortunately, history gets short shrift from today’s society. We post-moderns are all about ourselves, you know. We only care what we think, how we feel. So we ignore the fact that socialized medicine was a disaster in Russia and Eastern Europe (along with the rest of the communistic systems there) and although those societies have had their struggles in the process, they’ve deep-sixed a lot of that because letting things operate on a free-market basis just works better, thank you.

We ignore the fact that doctors come from Canada to work in the U.S., including some local physicians, simply because although our system stinks, theirs stinks even more.

We run a lot of columns in this newspaper advocating free-market solutions to problems or pointing out problems that we blame on the failure to follow such approaches, so we probably appear to be political sticks-in-the-mud.

We do see the problems that spawn ideas like Obamacare. But at the same time we realize that in our current society, in which, for various reasons, an increasing number of people in our state and in our nation have become dependent on the government to meet their needs – Social Security, Medicare, unemployment, the Oregon Trail card, etc.

I, personally, am not convinced that the intentions behind a lot of those programs were evil, but the result is not good for us. Instead of people becoming productive, self-assured, responsible citizens, we’re becoming dependent on an inefficient, expensive process that will self-destruct some day because it is fundamentally flawed from the start.

It is just a Band-aid solution to a big problem, and a bad one.