Fix it, don’t euthanize it

I said, doctor, doctor, mister m.d., can you tell me, what’s ailing me?” — The Young Rascals.

Currently, the antibiotic-resistant “semantics syndrome” continues to infect the body politic.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, in writing the 5-4 decision upholding the historic health care law, sorted out the words well. Despite what President Obama said, the “individual mandate” is, in fact, a tax, and therefore legal.

This led many to immediately deride Roberts’ decision as “political.” Because as words go these days, “political” is the worst epithet one can hurl. Never mind Roberts isn’t running for office. Other words that might be used: Prudent, practical and judicious, words mostly absent in our “debate.”

Depending on who is writing or talking, words can make the law sound like an onerous burden that demands everyone get health insurance as a form of punishment.

Or it can sound like a law that will ensure nearly every American has health insurance, ending the United State’s status as the last industrialized country to enact some kind of universal plan for its citizens.

Choosing to remain mired in the current “debate,” Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney quickly vowed to repeal the law if elected. That Romney denies the success and popularity of the Massachusetts health-care model, implemented when he was governor, remains difficult to fathom. It works. It’s an extremely useful blueprint moving forward. (Is it “political” to wonder how it would feel to lose the election to Obama and “Obamacare” when, after all, it’s modeled after “Romneycare”?)

Unlike Romney, Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, who joined other Republican attorneys general in challenging the law, is not calling for its repeal. Since he is running for governor in a state that favors the law, his reversal will definitely be called “political.” Fine. It’s also prudent and practical. McKenna said it is now “politically unrealistic” to “completely blow it up” and critics should instead spend their time trying to fix the bad parts. Exactly.

McKenna knows our state is in position to help lead the country on health care reform. We’re one of only 14 states already making changes. Just as with the individual mandate/tax/fine provision, the law can’t succeed without eliminating the current waste-based cost structure.

Toward that end, the law contains provisions for creating cost-effective and medically effective care. One is a “value-based index,” written by Sen. Maria Cantwell, (D-Wash.) aimed at reforming Medicare from a “quantity” based system that simply rewards doctors for sheer numbers of procedures performed. It is modeled after medical providers’ innovations and cooperative agreements already in place here at home.

If the law was a patient, would we really say it needs to die before it can be made healthy?

Correction: The “Good Lovin’” quote was incorrectly attributed in the original version. The song was written by The Young Rascals.