Houston, We’ve Had a Health Care Problem For A Long Time
By PETER FENN
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One of my favorite scenes in a movie is Ed Harris playing NASA ace Gene Kranz at mission control when Apollo 13 was about to burn up. He walks into a room full of engineers and scientists responsible for the mission as they are arguing and screaming at one another. He slams his fist down, quiets the crowd and says, “Let’s work the problem, people.”
The other famous quote from that movie was Tom Hanks as Commander Jim Lovell when he said, “Houston, we have a problem.” The actual quote from Lovell was, “Houston we’ve had a problem.” Now that seems more appropriate for the herculean task of solving America’s health care problems.
We’ve had a problem, all right, for generations. We’ve failed to tackle the critical issue of health care in our country ever since Teddy Roosevelt. How can we justify more than 45 million Americans without health insurance? How can we rationalize a system that charges women twice as much as men? How can we not strike back against a system that would deny people health insurance because they had a pre-existing condition or that kicked them off because they hit a cap or got sick?
How can we possibly not recognize “we’ve had a problem” when costs have risen from $1,000 per person in the United States in 1980 to more than $8,000 in 2010? Costs going up 15 to 20 percent a year and eating up one-sixth of our economy are not sustainable.
The Republicans don’t want to work the problem, they want to sweep it back under the rug. Their goal is to turn this into a political football they can kick around between now and November. Five hearings in three days, more votes to destroy the Affordable Care Act. Not one suggested “fix” coming out of the Republicans in the House of Representatives.
I suggest House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Darrell Issa watch the scene from Apollo 13 where the scientists react to Ed Harris. They put everything on the table that they have to work with in the space capsule and figure out how to bring the astronauts back safely to earth. They worked the problem; it is time for all concerned to do the same on health care. Mend it, don’t end it.