07/19/2007 11:53 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Deadly Mistake In Our Healthcare Debate

There is a deadly mistake in America's healthcare debate, and the more we and our politicians make this mistake, the more Americans will die needlessly.  What is that deadly mistake?  Talking about money instead of people.

President Bush made this deadly mistake at a round table discussion on healthcare, yesterday.  According to Bush, if the United States government were to take the lead in guaranteeing the good health of all Americans, that would lead to "long lines":

I believe government cannot provide affordable health care. I believe it would cause -- it would cause the quality of care to diminish. I believe there would be lines and rationing over time. If Congress continues to insist upon expanding health care through the S-CHIP program -- which, by the way, would entail a huge tax increase for the American people -- I'll veto the bill.

Not only is this statement false, it is the kind of brutal propaganda that results in the deaths of Americans.

Everyone with a clue about the healthcare crisis in our country knows that one of the cruel injustices created by our current system is long lines at hospital emergency rooms.  These lines are not going to come if we change the system -- we already have them and they are a shameful sign of the failure of our current system.

But here's the catch:  these lines are filled not only with people who have been denied insurance coverage or cannot afford to buy it by profit-seeking private insurance companies, but also with people who have public and private coavage, but visit the emergency room anyway. 


The well documented spike in emergency room lines that marked the beginning of President Bush's second term are a product of a spike in chronic illness amongst Americans, particularly the elderly. 

We have long lines at emergency rooms because there are more Americans with long-term deadly diseases, but  our private and public entities are mired in a debate about costs and coverage, rather than engaging us in ways to secure the health of the American people.

Listen to the next statement you hear by a politician and you will see this dynamic.  Does the politician talk about people or money?  9 times out of 10, when American politicians talk about healthcare, they use words like "costs" and  "coverage" more often than words like "people", "families", and "communities.

If we want shorter lines and better care, we need to focus our debate on the health and well-being of people, families and communities and stop making the deadly mistake of talking only about costs and coverage.

As we listen over the next two years -- listen to candidates and elected officials propose ways to improve the nation's health -- we should all pay close attention to those who talk about people first and those who make the deadly mistake of talking only about money.

(cross posted from Frameshop)