Saturday, February 9, 2008

Dialogue Between Robert and Todd (Part 5)

Todd: I wonder often about the issue of health care and how well citizens understand the issue. I do believe that a society has a moral charge to ensure that people have access to high-quality healthcare. People have a fundamental right to receive treatment when they are sick. But...there's a caveat. People don't have the right to have someone else pay for it. THey don't have the right to a government program that ensures they have treatment when they need it. They don't have the right to ignore preventative measures and get treatment when they could have prevented the illness. There's a lot of caveats.
Todd: Unfortunately our present government (therefore the people) seem much more interested in this pie-in-the-sky notion of "universal health care." Now, universal health care sounds great! Everyone has a good doctor and everyone gets treated and everyone is healthy. Who wouldn't vote for that!??!? But, we know the reality is that we don't have unlimited health care resources. We know that health care organizations have a tough time making money under universal systems.
Todd: We know that employers need relief from health care costs as much as (more than) individuals who are uninsured.
Todd: We know we need a system that invests more heavily in preventative care than band-aid treatment.
Robert: One thing that could help that is to encourage people to take those measures. Let people write off all physicals, for instance.
Robert: Helping insurance companies form more co-ops for individuals without access to health care through their work place could help.
Todd: We also know that putting caps on drug prices doesn't necessarily work because drug companies need bigger profits to ensure that their shareholders will continue to invest in the HUGE cost of developing drugs. I'm not sure that deregulation is necessary the answer to drug costs because the bulk of costs aren't necessarily borne in getting a drug approved, and I would argue that ensuring research-based drugs get to market in this country is a justifiable duty of government.
Robert: Health care is definitely a huge monster for the government (and everyone) to tackle.
Robert: But the worst thing they could do to solve it is to get into the business.
Robert: Working with industry, instead of squeezing it, is definitely something the government needs to get back to. Continuing to treat corporations terribly does not encourage people to come to the table.
Todd: It's tough, but something isn't working right within the market. Drug companies are spending more and more to put out products and health insurers are making less and less money. Businesses can't afford coverage, individuals can't either. Businesses are struggling to offer health insurance to employees or even their owners for the self-employed. And every year, we have higher quality medical technologies in the USA, and each year we have higher infant mortality rates, and our life expectancy is no greater than other developed nations. Something isn't working right here.
Todd: I wish I knew what the answer was, but I just don't. There are a lot of proposals out there that I've yet to read, and with most things the answer probably is within a combination of them.
Robert: As Glenn Beck said the other day: we can now do things to people (medically) in this country that we can't afford to do.
Todd: And as we're having this discussion I just saw Hillary Clinton say at a rally something about freezing interest rates to ensure people "Keep their homes." It's solutions like that that make me cringe when both sides of the aisle start pandering like that. Not only would freezing interest rates accomplish nothing, it does not speak to the fundamental issues of bad usery laws that allow predatory lending and allow uneducated people to get credit that they cannot afford.
Robert: One thing I heard on the radio a few weeks ago was about what we're eating. We're too into processed foods that we microwave, and our bodies don't get the nutrients they used to from pasture fed meats and organic vegetables, so we have to eat a lot more to get those nutrients. We gain weight, and our health declines.
Robert: The telling statistic the author describing this pointed out: look at our spending on health care versus food from around 1960 (I think) and compare it to today. The percentages are inverted.
Robert: And it will lock more people out of homes, as people are denied loans because of the locked rates even though they might have been able to afford such rates.
Todd: The move to organic food is an excellent one, and one that the market is driving in a very real way. The government is doing well in states and at the federal level to provide some relief to smaller farmers to ensure they at least have access to the marketplace. More public education on the value of eating better and investing in organic research for mass-food production is a good use of public funds, personally. It's a much wiser investment of public money than continued public health care dollars going into a giant grave (literally).
Robert: Definitely, by finding ways to improve health from the beginning, we save a fortune down the road. Just like educating people on any subject will save society long-term.
Robert: That's one reason I support turning welfare into a training program, and even providing some child care for single parents who enter the program.
Robert: Help people get jobs and get off instead of staying on the dole.
Todd: Which is one of the reasons I believe in the agency I'm working for. Invest in early development, and you save bundles down the road on the child who turns into a functioning adult who can learn and improve him/herself
Todd: A question that I've personally struggled with is this. What is government's role in promoting or providing access to postsecondary education?
Robert: Well, if the government would remove a lot of the taxes from the equation that make it so hard to live on a low wage, then people who are not interested in post-secondary education can still make a living to survive.
Robert: But while they do keep those taxes in place, they should do what they can to help individuals who cannot afford it to find ways to fund further education. We should not have a system that puts everyone in college, and certainly not one that pays everyone's college costs, but we could have one that makes college loans more available, and gives grants to truly exceptional students (though I'm not sure how to determine who those students are).
Todd: Do you think that providing college tuition assistance would hinder research universities from making more money, in other words manipulating the marketplace to keep their costs low? Research universities need that revenue to do the research. Endowments alone don't pay for it.
Robert: Hard to say.
Robert: But imagine what corporations could do to work with colleges if they had more funds to invest with them thanks to the elimination of corporate taxes.
Todd: That's very true.

And that was where our one night chat ended. Now I hope the readers of this blog understand why I appreciate Todd contributing. He brings a lot to the table that helps me think and expand my knowledge. I hope anyone still reading at this point has enjoyed these posts. Hopefully we will get to post a chat like this again soon.


melissa said...

Interesting convo.....

On your thoughts of post-secondary education...(ok, and remember that I am a liberal here...)

A college education is not the answer for everyone. And I'm not just talking about inherent intelligence or stuff like that. One of the most intelligent people I know never went to college and runs a plumbing contracting business. He laments the demise of vocational ed. I think he's right. Huge sectors of this economy are not being served because of the emphasis on college.

Of course I don't even think they're getting the college prep part right. :)

Robert said...

I completely agree with you about the demise of vocational education. I am very proud that my state has a program that helps students get technical degrees in the same way it helps students get college degrees. HOPE Scholarship in Georgia is available to anyone who graduated from a Georgia high school and qualifies for one of these criteria: 1) for a college/university type tuition I believe the student must achieve a high school GPA of 3.5 now (it started at 3.0) and get into the college they want it to apply to, or 2) they can use it to go to technical school for anything that is run by an acredited institution in Georgia. Those opportunities include nurse, auto mechanic, and even truck driver with dozens of others. It has been a wonderful program in our state, and I am proud I got my undergraduate degree thanks in large part to such a scholarship program.

In another way, a Republican in this state (who may be our next governor in two years) is working to shore up the vocational programs available. He has pushed through groundbreaking legislation to allow school systems to start what he calls "Career Academies" where students not interested in the traditional/college-prep diploma program could go to a school to learn a trade. I am a huge supporter of his idea, and when I spoke to him about it and asked if he knew of the school like that in my hometown, he told me that it was one of the models he used to come up with the idea to do it. He started out the speech where he explained that plan by saying "I flew all over this state on a plane owned by a plumber." He said he learned when he became involved in a bank that doctors and lawyers don't make all the money, but tradesmen do - the electricians, plumbers, and auto mechanics. He is our current lieutenant governor, by the way.

I know that college is not for everyone. I absolutely agree that more people would be served in our education system if we let students who have no interest in certain subjects get more of a vocational education. Our drop out rates across the board would go down. Our workers in the economy would have better training to do jobs that interested them, and fewer people would fill the welfare roles.

You sure sound like a closet Republican, Melissa. I say that jokingly, but Republicans believe in education, or at least the ones I support do. The more educated our populace, the better off we all are. And in case you were unaware, I work in a business every day with a man who has eighth grade education and another with a high school education who out earn all but maybe the top two percent of workers in this county (including the lawyers and bankers) because they know their field far better than most. I absolutely know they had no need of a college degree to get where they are. I look to them (as an MBA myself) when I want to understand my business better because they know a lot about it that I have yet to learn.