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To: Harvard Dems, Re: Healthcare

October 18, 2009

A few weeks ago, the Harvard Dems, via their blog and website, published “Five Things You Can Do for Health Care Reform.”

#1: “Get informed.” Fair enough.  Use a non-partisan source, please.

#2: “Sign your name” on a petition to support a public option.  Unless you don’t want to, in which case, please proceed to #3.

#3: “Contact your members of Congress” A helpful template sans public option (since you didn’t like it in #2):

I’m writing to express my strong support for comprehensive health care reform, and ask you to do the same. As a student, I’m concerned by the fact that 30% of Americans aged 19-29 don’t have health insurance coverage. It is imperative that we bring stability and security to those who currently have insurance, affordable coverage to those who don’t, and rein in the skyrocketing costs of health care.

How about “Dear Congressman, I want cheaper, better, universal health care. Make it happen because the current system bothers me.”  The difference?  None.

Perhaps some concrete ideas would be helpful?  Maybe tort reform. Oh, right, trial lawyers won’t let you.  Tax benefits.  Oh, yeah, unions.  Well try #4, (while ignoring that 30% may be choosing to pay out of pocket for care.)

#4: Join the photo petition. Tell someone why we need reform.  What is “reform”?  Someone else can figure that out.

#5: Pass it on. But I haven’t done anything.  Oh well, maybe the next guy will have some proposals.

Saying there is a problem is not enough.  Saying “reform” is needed is not enough.  But too many are doing just that.  And once a bill is labeled as “reform,” we will rejoice because our “reform” has come.  If only it could solve the problem.

So a few policy ideas (and, yes, you may have heard these before).

1) Sell insurance across state lines.

2) Tax benefits; level the playing field.

3) Use the Safeway or Whole Foods models; incentivize healthy living.  Let the market do its thing.

4) Tort reform.

This is not to disparage activism, but to encourage activism for substantive policy.  One must do more than hope for change.

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