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No matter which side you are on, arguments over health care bill are completely meaningless

In the wake of Sunday night’s vote, health care has again become the news of the day.

Commentators and politicians across the spectrum voiced their praises and condemnation. What is most telling in their discussions is how little is actually said.

On the one hand, supporters of the bill declare its passage to be heralding a new dawn in America, a kind of fruition of utopia. Against that is the equally ludicrous view that this is the last straw, the culmination of a long process of hostile takeover of government by socialist fascists and the final nail in the coffin of freedom.

Each view is ridiculous. The health care bill doesn’t do anywhere near what needs to be done to treat the health care crisis in America, despite Democrats’ enthusiastic patting themselves on the back. The obvious solution — single-payer universal coverage for every American — isn’t even mentioned anymore except as some evil bottom line of some slippery slope that is “Obama’s radical agenda” (Sean Hannity’s oft-repeated words).

From the conservative side, the fear is multi-fold. Doom and gloom scenarios unfold nightly on Hannity’s show and others like it. Coverage may actually be reduced, socialism has won the day and Americans have been stripped of what was left of their freedoms: each of these are possible consequences of the health care bill, according to conservatives.

The problem with these analyses isn’t even that they are wrong. The problem is that they don’t tell Americans anything meaningful about the health care bill. It’s possible to watch CNN, MSNBC and FOX News all day long, and not know a single shred of useful information more than what you knew going in. Quips and buzzwords will be tossed around left and right, but actual distillation of information is marginal at best and never properly contextualized.

In a Washington Post column, Ezra Klein puts the bill into some perspective. Although Congressional opposition can shout about numbers like $900 billion, they fail to mention that the spending is spaced out over 10 years. According to Klein, in the year the bill finally takes effect — 2014 — Americans will spend $3.7 trillion on health care, and $160 billion of that will be the bill’s spending. Supposedly, 30 million presently-uninsured will have coverage. In other words, that’s 4.3 percent of health care spending covering 10 percent of the population.

Some things about the bill have come to light since its passing. A handful of recent New York Times articles, including one Q&A piece with reader-submitted questions, help understand the effects of the bill.

One of the measures, and the one which brings about the most ire in conservatives who charge that it’s unconstitutional, is the forcing of Americans to buy health insurance. Somehow, mandatory auto insurance doesn’t bring out the same level of anger and disgust, but that’s the kind of logical inconsistency which has become all too common in mainstream media commentary.

But forcing Americans to buy insurance is hardly “providing” them coverage, certainly no more than we are “provided” auto insurance. For Americans who cannot afford the government program, subsidies will apparently be provided, but the legality, paperwork and bureaucracy of the Democrats’ plan falls seriously short of the kinds of sweeping reform we need. We are a long way from achieving “historic” and “landmark” changes.

Still, the bill does, at least from a surface glance, make some important moves. Perhaps the most notable is for college students, at least those fortunate enough to have parents who are still employed. Instead of being cut off at a certain age or after graduation (varying from state to state), the new bill will extend coverage to college students until age 26 under their parents’ plans. This is obviously helpful to college students about to graduate, entering a troubled job market.

Essentially, however, the same system will remain in place. According to Klein’s piece in the Post, about 90 percent of the country would remain virtually unaffected — their lives wouldn’t be any different if the bill hadn’t passed. It is expected Obama will sign the bill some time today and the majority of it will go into effect in 2014.

Conservatives may rally against it as being the grossest expansion of government since the New Deal; liberals may hail it as just the thing the country needs to move forward and prosper. They’re both wrong. It’s a shame the very real, very serious health care crisis has been passed over in favor of limp legislation, given the illusion of strength by vehement arguing over relatively minor nuances, tweaks and details.

Respond to Kyle at [email protected]

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