A generational look at health care and some miscellaneous thoughts

By Reade Brower

“One has to be lowbrow, a bit of a murderer, to be a politician, ready and willing to see people sacrificed, slaughtered, for the sake of an idea, whether a good or a bad one.” -- Henry Miller, writer (1891-1980)


This week I’ll share my column with the next generation, my son; he wondered in an email exchange last week: “You are a small business owner and I'm curious to hear your thoughts on what should be done about the affordable care act. I have put my own thoughts on paper and think I have a decent solution."

Jesse Brower, age 29, of the Arlington/Boston, Mass., area writes: I wonder why neither side of the aisle is promoting this as a way to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act: namely, leave it up to the states to create their own health care markets, like Mitt Romney did in Massachusetts more than 10 years ago. Wouldn't that seem to fit the bill of "less government," like the GOP promotes, while also creating reasonable requirements for states to figure out what works in their local markets? What works in one state may not work in another, and that's one thing the ACA does that small businesses can't stand; it's what plays into the narrative that the Obama administration is "anti-business."

Treat it like the drinking age, where states lose federal funding if they choose not to make it 21. In this case, create consequences if states choose not to address “health care for all” on a statewide scale. If you want your highways funded by the federal government, figure out a way to provide all your citizens that have access to those roads affordable health care that fits basic standards.

It's worked in Massachusetts for more than a decade, and if implemented by each state individually it could work ... the biggest complaint about the ACA seems to be that states that can't afford it are still forced to buy into it, which is a legitimate gripe.

What do Maine Sens. Collins and King think about it all? Going this route would be an easy way for the Republicans to get this off their backs. They could push to give "Obamacare" a Jan. 1, 2019, expiration date, and penalize states for not setting up their own systems by then (or later, based on what makes sense).

That’s the “two-cents” from this not-yet-30-year-old.


Reade Brower, age 60, of Rockland/Camden writes: The approach to give some or all of the power back to the states seems worthy of exploration. It won’t be as simple as ceding it to the states for reasons similar to why the Electoral College is a method of choosing our leaders. You need to give all states a voice, whereas popular votes favor only the urban areas of population mass.

Think about this like another common service our government provides, the U.S. Postal Service. The post office charges us the same to deliver a letter to our neighbor across the street as it does a friend or relative in Hawaii, even though the cost to get the letter to Hawaii is more. This works to keep us connected and sharing the costs does not dis-empower those not living in urban areas or in hard-to-get-to places.

Heath insurance is similar. We can't allow the states to completely control health insurance without federal oversight or insurance companies would only agree to provide coverage in states that were most economic for them, rather than giving all our citizens the opportunity for affordable care. What if the post office paid its carriers by the letter? All carriers would want to live in the urban areas, because the housing is closer together and the volume of mail is higher, making them the cheapest places to operate. Nobody would want to deliver that letter from Maine to Hawaii unless they were paid a lot more. You can imagine that if it cost $100 to get your letter to Hawaii, you would stop mailing.

That's part of the challenge we face; we need to have certain criteria and mandates that make sure states that don't make financial sense for insurance carriers get enough subsidy so that their people still get coverage.

But, there is a bigger problem with the current situation: shame on the Republican-led Congress and Senate for considering repealing without replacing. If that happens, it is irresponsible and does not fit any standard of common sense. When vindictive politics get in the way of doing the right thing, politicians should sit themselves down and take a time out. It feels to this outsider like the Republicans care about only one thing when they vote this as a bloc, and that is not the American public -- at least not those who will be negatively affected by repeal. Republican-led – the key word is "led"; let’s challenge Republicans who represent Maine to step up and lead, that's what the public needs.

Other quick thoughts this week:

The boycott movement against Linda Bean and L.L. Bean seems misguided. I agree with those who call it a “bullying strategy.” Questioning the legality of her donations is the job of law enforcement, not groups hell-bent on destroying her just because of her political views. That feels a lot like McCarthyism. To make an individual choice to boycott Linda’s business is one thing, but to have a group come down and spread it to L.L. Bean is simply over the top politics at its worst. The Bean Board is not supporting Trump; as individuals, my guess is that Hillary won the popular vote with them, so punishing a company for one director's views is wrong; the reason there is a Board is so that one person's views don't dictate the business. If you like the boots, buy them. If you don’t, don’t.

In Camden the recent commotion around kicking the taco guy and the sports rental shop off the Snow Bowl Mountain defies logic. It passes none of the common sense rules and hides behind a claim that the letter of the law wasn't followed in the permitting process. Common sense says fix it; in the meantime give them a 30-day temporary permit so that they don't lose their investment, and the mountain doesn’t lose those services. Rules are fine as long as you look at them as guidelines and steering paths. Having these businesses sit on the sidelines while this gets fixed defies common sense.

We need to put our principles over our rules if we are to live in a common sense world. When a whole town came out to a town meeting to support these small-business people because they are giving back to Camden and the mountain they love, what is the problem? If the problem is the "rules," then town leadership needs to simply fix the rules and help them comply and move forward. Leadership should mean one thing and one thing only: doing the right thing.

I know it's simplistic, but maybe that's what's missing. Perhaps that's the key ingredient to common sense politics. In the business world the acronym of KISS means "keep it simple stupid" -- in other words, simple is better.