This Time It's Personal

Lorie Byrd

7/28/2009 12:00:01 AM - Lorie Byrd

President Obama’s approval ratings have dropped significantly over the past few weeks, at the same time he is trying to push his brand of health care reform through Congress. Whether the drop is a result of recent economic news, or specifically tied to his health care agenda, it will impact how likely he is to get the plan he wants passed.

There are many possible reasons the president is experiencing a decline in his job performance approval rating, not the least of which is because many people now realize his policies have very personal implications.

At a recent neighborhood function a woman asked me what I thought of President Obama’s health care proposals. I asked her what she thought. She told me she is a registered Democrat and most of the time she doesn’t really think what politicians do affects Americans on a personal basis.

She said it is different when it comes to the issue of health care though. What the government does on that issue can affect Americans in the most personal way possible. Health care was the issue she based her vote on in 2008 and she voted for McCain. There were, no doubt, many other Americans who voted for Obama based on the same issue.

Over the coming weeks, more and more Americans will focus on the issue of health care and will consider how changes in public policy are likely to affect them. There are several reasons Americans see health care as the most personal issue and why their opinion of the president’s plan may come to be the issue upon which they base their votes in the next election.

Health care is an issue of life and death. The issue that has traditionally influenced the outcome of presidential races and the approval ratings of presidents is the economy. The economic well being of the country hits voters in their pocketbooks . While economic issues are also very personal, as they affect an individual’s ability to find a job and feed their families, they don’t have the same immediate life and death implications that some health care policies do.

When governments require private health insurers to cover certain types of screening procedures that prevent cancer, the tests may become more widely available to the public, resulting in real world life and death consequences. This is a way government involvement can have a positive, and very personal, effect.

In countries where the health care system is government run, the amount of time a patient has to wait for surgery to treat life-threatening conditions obviously has similar life and death consequences. For those waiting for that treatment and their families, this is obviously very personal.

In addition to the physical life and death consequences at issue in health care reform, Star Parker and others have recently pointed out the very personal moral issue that has reemerged as a result of the health care debate.

Parker recently wrote, “Subsidized health care delivered through a proposed government insurance plan would inevitably mean abortion funding in the standard benefits package. The only way around this would be explicit language to prohibit it. Attempts by Republicans in three House committees to insert such language were defeated, despite a handful of conservative Democrats joining them.”

The implications of the current health care debate on the issue of what pro-choice groups refer to as “reproductive health care” has served to mobilize many pro-life organizations to fight against any legislation that would permit new funding of abortion.

Abortion is a moral, as well as a life and death, issue. In addition to the physical and moral implications of health care reform, the topic receiving the most discussion in the current health care debate in Congress is economic in nature.

The amount various health care plans will cost the American government (funded, of course, by American taxpayers) is being vigorously argued, but there are also very personal costs that will be determined by any reform plan that is passed. The reason Americans are willing to even consider sweeping government health care reform is economic. The problem is not the quality of health care available in the United States, but rather what access to that care costs individuals.

When an individual has to give up things they are used to enjoying in order to pay for their prescription drugs, it is personal. When a family declares bankruptcy because they could never afford to pay the medical bills for a family member’s extended illness it is personal.

The outcome of the current attempt at health care reform is yet to be determined, but it is evident that Americans are now paying close attention to the issue, and for very good reason. This time it’s personal.