Thursday, July 30, 2009

Health-care reform must be bipartsan, expert says; editor says debate reflects long cultural divide

Nothing in the current debate about health coverage "offers any promise for better days for any of us, but particularly for those living in rural America," former Kentucky state health commissioner Robert Slaton writes in the Daily Yonder. "The health care debate should be about health care, not health insurance."

That, Slaton writes, means "We should be talking about how to ensure that adequate services are available to rural America, about how to streamline the systems and processes and thereby lower cost and improve quality, not just how to “cut costs” (which usually means more regulation, more complexity and more hassles for providers, particularly doctors)."

Slaton faults President Obama and liberal Democratic committee chairs in the House for identifying villains and allowing the fight to become partisan, and compliments the conservative Blue Dog Democrats for their July 9 letter calling for bipartisanship. He says any plan should "address access, affordability, accountability and personal responsibility." Slaton is chair of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce's health-care committee and member of the executive committee of the advisory board of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. He was health commissioner under Democratic Gov. Brereton Jones, a health reformer, about 15 years ago. (Read more) Slaton's article is slated to appear in The Ledger Independent of Maysville, Ky., which has been setting a good example by running such articles.

Yonder Editor Bill Bishop writes for Politico's Arena section that competing approaches to health reform reflect a lomgstanding and "fundamental difference in worldview. It’s a division in what people expect out of life," starting with the split among Protestants in the late 19th Century, defined by theologian Martin Marty. "Private Protestants promoted individual salvation and personal morality," while Public Protestants promoted political action to resolve failures of society.

Since then, the Private Protestants have defined themselves as fundamentalists and entered the public sphere. One major marker of that was the addition of "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954. Then, as the courts and Congress made public certain spheres that many fundamentalists had long considered private, with rulings on school prayer and abortion, for example, they became actively involved in politics. That reversed the longstanding aversion to politics of the largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. In the health debate, Bishop writes, "Public Protestants and their nonreligious heirs favor a government mandate" to buy health insurance and a public option to provide it. "Private Protestants see those provisions as a 'D-Day for freedom'."

No comments: