Got health care?

Ben Clarke Political Consultant and Speechwriter
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If ever the American Medical Association deems ‘en masse paralyzing confusion’ a pre-existing condition warranting treatment, I have a hunch the tab for national health care may soar north. In the immortal words of Joe Biden (I love that guy), the passage of health care reform is a ‘big fu#*ing deal’. No doubt. But is it a good deal?

I honestly don’t know. Nor does anyone else, for that matter. And that is mildly troublesome. Confusion abounds. In the wake of the bill’s passage, I received a plethora of perplexed e-mails from friends who hold the misimpression that I am intelligent. These are bright folks, representing every shade of the political spectrum. And they are utterly baffled. In the words of one individual, “Can you explain to me if the health care bill is good or bad?” Another, an accomplished far-left anarchist from New York bound for Interpol’s Most Wanted noted, “I am surrounded by high-fiving and I can’t high-five because I don’t know what this bill actually does.” And she is one of the infamous 32 million Americans without health insurance at the moment.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi fell a smidgen short of allaying that confusion when she stated “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” Hmm …

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 2,409 pages. By any measure, a weighty tome. We are told it will expand coverage to 32 million Americans. President Obama called it a ‘common-sense’ bill. Common sense. Succinctly summed up in 2,409 pages. By most estimates, we just transferred one-sixth of the U.S. economy into the very hands that brought us the efficiency and compassion of the Internal Revenue Service.

As of April 7, 52 percent of Americans still oppose the health care reform bill (40 percent support it). Either President Obama—this generation’s ‘Great Communicator’—did not explain the bill well enough, or he did, and the American people did not like what they heard.

Many of the bill’s provisions don’t kick in until 2014. That is an issue unto itself. In theory, some of the provisions that begin immediately are commendable:

—Tax credits to 4 million small businesses to entice them to provide health care

Curtailment of past practice by evil insurance companies to drop folks if sick

Incentives to encourage preventive care

A welcome to legions of unemployed college students, who—in addition to moving back into their parents home after graduation—can now extend their eternal burden by staying on their parents’ health care policy until the age of 26

Sounds like ‘common sense’ to me. The remaining 2,408.5 pages may render it otherwise. In the words of P.J. O’Rourke, giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

Regardless of your politics, the process here should be troubling. Transparent? Not exactly. God knows what residents of Nebraska and Louisiana ultimately got for their elected senators’ arm twisted vote. Free HBO? Omaha Steaks for life? Google stock? Once the bill surpassed the necessary 216 votes, pundits wondered if Democratic leaders might use parliamentarian tactics to keep the vote open beyond the standard 15 minutes, so that vulnerable Democrats from politically volatile districts could safely switch their votes from yea back to nay. Talk about bedrock principles.

Livid Republicans decried the fact that they were ‘locked out’ of the process. Frankly, the way they were foaming at the mouth and riling up the Tea Party masses throughout this debate, I don’t blame Democrats for dead- bolting the door. This whole thing was ugly.

A recent headline caught my eye. A bastion of brazen bandits broke into an Eli Lilly warehouse in Connecticut last month and made off with dozens of wooden crates of prescription pills. Prozac. Cymbalta. (You know, the drugs that can either cure your depression, or inflict raging diarrhea.) The value of the drugs? $75 million. Eli Lilly flacks said the heist would not disrupt their supply chain. And experts surmise that any impact on the company’s financials would be immaterial, given their $21.8 billion in sales last year.

Pharmaceutical companies generally get a bad rap. I am not hopping on the bandwagon. I know they spend billions on research and development before those Flintstone vitamins can legally hit the shelves. But … a few guys wander into a minimally secured warehouse, browse about unnoticed for a few hours, and make off with $75 million in prescription drugs? And, it appears, the loss is but a blip on Eli Lilly’s financial radar? At a time when seniors are choosing between buying the prescription drugs they need to survive and putting food on the table, this tale is more than a little unsettling.

At the end of the day, I hope this health care reform thing works out. Really. We all should. Seems foolish to root for abject failure. If the ship sinks, we all go down.

Life jackets aren’t labeled Republican and Democrat.

Ben Clarke has worked in Washington, D.C. as a political consultant and speechwriter for the past ten years. During that period, he has served as chief political writer for GOP strategist Frank Luntz, speechwriter for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and communications consultant for Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign. He has worked on countless House, Senate and Gubernatorial campaigns across America. He has also worked on or covered campaigns in Ukraine, Georgia and Greece. He recently relocated to the Berkshires in Massachusetts, where he works as a freelance writer.