THE BLOG
08/24/2009 06:48 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Health Care Debate Translated into English: An Example

The problem with the health care debate -- versus the attempt to actually reform a broken system -- can be traced to three simple problems. The first is greed, and I'm not talking about corporate variety. I am referring to the current "haves" who are content to hide behind libertarian ethics so long as Medicare/Medicaid continue to pay in a timely fashion. The second is fear. As you may have noticed, people of all ages prefer the "devil they know" to any change, even if it would make their lives better. The third is lingo. People are batting around so much Kafkaesque sounding health-speak that most of us are simply too confused to react with anything resembling reason.

To illustrate my point, I offer you a letter written by Bill Lehr, CEO of Capital BlueCross of Central Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley to The Morning Call, which is presumably something that people are familiar with in the middle of the Keystone State. He starts out clearly enough, reminding us that BlueCross is a private, not-for-profit and that reform without cost control is meaningless. (We already spend 16-17 percent of GDP on health care.)

Clear as all this is, Mr. Lehr soon enough leads right back at the Tower of Babel. Before you can exclaim 'huh', he's snapping off bits of health-speak, e.g., "Patient-centered medical homes" and "inappropriate lifestyle behaviors." And this guy is better than most.

In the spirit of encouraging rational discourse, I've decided to do my part by removing the rhetoric and sensitivities. Stripped bare, a lot of it makes sense, though I don't agree with all of it. Here goes...

1. Everyone, stop acting like children and discuss this like grownups! (Or else...)

2. We're the good guys. BlueCross has no shareholders. (Please like us.)

3. Universal health care is good, and we support it. (So should you.)

4. Reform won't matter if the cost kills the economy. (Common sense.)

5. Coordinated, preventive care saves money by keeping people healthy; it's also cheaper than withholding care until people get sick. (Didn't Franklin say something about, "A stitch in time..."?)

6. Currently, individuals don't understand how their insurance money gets spent, so they don't object when it's wasted. (That's crazy.)

7. Private competition generates innovation. (Government is notably not mentioned.)

8. Being fat and lazy increases the likelihood of getting preventable diseases. (Please lose weight and exercise.)

9. Congress, slow down so that we don't make needlessly stupid mistakes. (Tom Daschle has "not yet begun to fight" effectively on our behalf.)

10. Please be nice if you see me, Bill Lehr, in Dunkin' Donuts. (This isn't my fault.)

Note: For the record, I first tried this experiment with Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, but I couldn't make sense of anything that either of them was saying.