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Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan

Cable news patterers, also known as pundits, criticized Democratic presidential candidates for their 3rd debate positions on two important issues: health care and guns. That’s unfortunate.

Medicare for All received much derision by commentators for being too leftie. “That can’t pass with the Republican Senate.” “130 million people don’t want to give up their employer-based insurance.” “It’ll raise taxes!” Isn’t it better to assess Medicare for All premises rather than dismiss the proposal as stupid politically?

Many people approaching 65 can’t wait to get on Medicare. Younger employees may be attracted to the program because they’ve had to bounce from job to job. Contract employees probably will appreciate the coverage. Businesses, especially smaller companies, may want to be relieved of a huge, ongoing, unpredictable, increasing benefits expense.

“It will be too expensive,” exclaim the patterers. Health care in any form is too expensive. The financial question is whether people prefer to send their health care dollars from employers and/or their own bank accounts to for-profit insurers or directly to Medicare.

An ancillary question is what will happen to the money employers pay for health insurance benefits if Medicare for All becomes the plan. Will that money get transferred over to Medicare rather than insurance companies, or will it go to employees to raise their salaries to pay the tax increase that Medicare for All will require? In any of these cases, will the total paid by individuals, families, and businesses to finance Medicare be less than what currently finances private insurance, and if so, by how much?

On the provider side, questions involve how entities or persons providing health care services will be paid, and how much. Hospitals may be most at risk. Many hospitals are now fine, hotel-like facilities. That cost is baked into medical care. Many hospitals and other health care providers are building small emergency care and urgent care facilities. Their future depends on current health care delivery economics. Rural hospitals already suffer from inadequate funding through traditional sources.

Employees of health insurance and medical care delivery services certainly will be affected. They will want to know what will happen to their jobs and incomes.

These questions are legitimate and need answers to compare what’s “proposed” to “what is” to determine fairly whether reasonable options are embedded in the Medicare for All concept. Out-of-hand dismissal of health care policy options because they’re difficult and complex is weak-kneed.

Gun politics represents another source of derision. Many cable news commentators on the left and right derided former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s “hell yes” statement on semi-automatic weapons. He wants mandatory buy-back of weapons that have done irreversible harm to many people, including hundreds of deaths and more than hundreds of wounded.

It looks like President Donald Trump and almost everyone else are getting behind a ban on dangerous vaping products. The president and everyone else opposes opioid malfeasance. But to take on banning murderous AK-47s is apparently too dangerous for the Democratic Party and will give President Trump “ammunition” to defeat Democrats.

If some vaping products are on the banning-block for their health danger, then clearly there’s a discussion to be had about the health danger of semi-automatic weapons. Shouldn’t the gun industry and AK-47 buyers/users have to justify why this product should be on the market with something more than “it’s a right bestowed by the Second Amendment?” According to this argument, if someone wants what amounts to a machine gun, they should be able to get it.

But the 2nd Amendment right is not absolute. AK-47s were banned and can be banned again. A lot has changed in the last decade related to semi-automatic weapons. Posing questions about these weapons, ammunition types, ammunition amounts, and accessibility should not be dismissed derisively as too risky to ask. Political patterers are creating their own version of the college “safe place.”

Complex and contentious issues should be dealt with fair and square and respectfully from every direction. That’s what honest debate is about, and that’s what will benefit voters when they fill in their ballots.

Paula Noonan owns Colorado Capitol Watch, the state’s premier legislature tracking platform.

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