The New York Times has debuted a new blog this weekend called Health Care Watch which kicks off with a bang as it makes inquiries into why health care seems to suddenly be missing from the ongoing Presidential debate.
Blogger Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist, is the chairman of the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health. He likens the current political situation regarding health care to that of chronic vs. acute health conditions.
The current state of the economy as bailout becomes the word on everyone's lips is an acute condition. The sub-prime mortgage meltdown is another one. Both are immediate and painful, having symptoms that demand immediate attention. The health care crisis is a chronic ill, like heart disease or diabetes, one with far reaching a deadly ramifications if left untreated, but lacking the sharp immediate pain of the previously mentioned conditions. Anyone following this blog or other sources of info addressing the issue of chronic ills knows how much harder to deal with and more expensive they are.
In Mr. Emmanuel's words:
[...] More encouraging is that at least Mr. Obama and his advisers also recognize that solving the deep problem of the economy cannot be done without solving the health care mess. Economic, tax and health care policy are inextricably linked. Middle-class incomes have hardly grown in 30 or more years (except for five years in the 1990s when health care costs were moderated), budget deficits are escalating and will only worsen and investment in education and other engines of long-term economic growth are declining.
These problems are all driven by health care. Rather than go to wage increases, almost all of the growth in workers’ productivity has been swallowed up by rising health care costs. Medicare cost increases are the tsunami that will drown the federal government in red ink; health care — Medicaid and insurance for state workers — is now the No. 1 item in state budgets, consuming tax receipts used to support primary, secondary and college education.
His premise is that in order to cure the ills our economy is currently suffering, we need to address the state of health care in our nation. In this regard, the acceptance speeches from both sides of the aisle are less than encouraging. In Sen. Obama's speech, less than a minute was devoted to health care, approximately 100 words out of 4,900. Sen. McCain's is even more worrisome with less than 50 words out of his 4,000 word speech covering health care issues -- a whopping two sentences.
Let us hope that this issue finds itself back on their radar soon. Health care is suffering a chronic set of ills that impact our entire economy and touches almost every single American.
SOURCE: "What’s Happened to the Health Care Debate?" 09/28/08
photo courtesy of benfrantzdale used under its Creative Commons license