Congress passed the Health Maintenance Organization Act in 1973 with full support from then-President Richard Nixon. The healthcare delivery landscape in this country was forever altered because of it. That single piece of legislation politicized what was previously a very personal thing.
In the nearly 50 years since, all things healthcare has become a political hot potato. Politicians routinely run on promises of reforming healthcare. Talking heads talk about it while think tanks produce white papers discussing its details. What’s more, both major political parties are guilty of playing politics with healthcare.
The real tragedy of it all is found in the actual delivery of services. It is encapsulated in a single word: fear. American consumers, the ones who are supposed to be the primary beneficiaries of healthcare delivery, live in fear of getting sick or being injured. They fear they will not be able to afford their medical bills. They fear the cost of the health insurance will get so high they will not be able to pay for it.
Just Another Administration
Dallas-based general agency BenefitMall published an interesting piece in early January 2021 discussing potential healthcare changes under the Biden administration. Not even three months in, some proposals are already in the preliminary stages of implementation. This is nothing new. The previous administration implemented its own changes early on. So did the administration before that, and the one before that.
We have reached the point where it is just another administration. We have reached the point of having no other choice but to plan for changes in healthcare delivery every time political power changes hands. It’s not supposed to be this way. Healthcare delivery is supposed to be a relationship between provider and patient. It is supposed to be relationship governed by the two parties, not dictated by bureaucrats.
Reacting Out of Fear
Politicizing healthcare delivery causes people to react out of fear. Consider an employee looking at a potentially better opportunity with a new company. Despite that opportunity looking like it could significantly advance the employee’s career, he decides to reject it out of fear that his health insurance benefits will not be as good.
There are people who will not go to the doctor because they fear the possibility of being given a prescription that they won’t be able to afford. They are afraid of needing medical tests that are not covered by their insurance policies. They are afraid of going to the grocery store because they’ve been led to believe the coronavirus is lurking around the corner, just waiting to infect them and keep them from working.
None of this is good. When we react out of fear, we do not make wise decisions. In fact, fear causes us to make irrational decisions. It also causes us to falsely believe that we can protect ourselves from all harm if we just create a safe little bubble from which we never emerge.
Accepting the Status Quo
Worst of all, the fear created by the politicization of healthcare causes many of us to accept the status quo. We don’t want to upset the healthcare delivery apple cart. So we are willing to continue voting for the same politicians and their same failed policies because we can’t imagine life without health insurance benefits. The politicians know this, by the way, which is why they won’t depoliticize the issue.
Healthcare delivery has been politicized. There is no arguing that. As a result, things like health insurance and prescription plans have become larger-than-life. We obsess over them to the degree that we live in fear of losing them. That is the real tragedy here.