When the cure is worse than the disease

AS required by the FY 2021 budget law, CHCC has submitted a report on “universal health insurance in the CNMI.” It has 29 pages, but it can be summarized by the last sentence of its first paragraph:

“More than ever, local health care capacities must be strengthened, but this requires financing.”

If you needed to know more,  go straight to the report’s last paragraph: 

“The cost of health care in the CNMI is exorbitant relative to levels of disposable income, poverty, and the cost of living, among other factors.  Therefore, the CNMI ought to consider locally funded premium support for individuals who are living on low incomes but are not eligible for Medicaid.  The CNMI may want to consider a sliding scale of premium support based on income, and might also want to consider requiring a larger employer share for employer sponsored plans covering low wage workers.”

In short: government subsidies for low-income individuals likely to be funded by higher taxes/fees; and additional costs for employers who may also end up paying higher taxes/fees.

Happily for the rest of us who are familiar with arithmetic, these and similar policy decisions have to be made democratically. Members of the public, through their elected representatives, will have a say. There will be public hearings and public discussions. And every voter would want to know who among their elected officials are in favor of imposing higher taxes/fees on the public while also making it harder (because more expensive) for small-business employers to hire workers.

“Health care is a right,” says a lawmaker. But that’s just one opinion in an ongoing, never-ending contentious debate. Other equally thoughtful folks say that “wishes are not rights” — that health care is a good or service that must be produced, and someone has to pay for it. As a consultant neurosurgeon from Scotland would put it, “It is difficult to see how any provision of benefits can be termed a human right…when to meet such a requirement would impose an intolerable burden on others.”

Health care, to be sure, is a top priority. We want better health care, and we want more people to have more access to more medical goods and services. But we also want to be able to afford all that, and that’s why we prefer sensible policies to punitive measures.

Aim high Class of 2021 

IT is likely that despite all the bad news you may have heard or read the past year or two, you still believe that things are actually not that bad, and are likely to get better. You’re probably right. Don’t believe the naysayers. If you know your history — and you should know it — the naysayers’ batting average is close to zero.

To be sure, the world will always have problems,  many of which have existed  way before your parents’ or even grandparents’ time, and many will likely persist hundreds of years from now. (“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly.” That was written by a Roman emperor about 2,000 years ago.) Soon, in any case, you will realize what many smart people have known long ago: “A problem without a solution isn’t a problem, it’s simply a fact.”

Meantime, be what you want to be. Anyone can say that to a high school or college graduate anywhere in the world. But if you’re born in this American Commonwealth, “be what you want to be” is not pep talk. It’s a statement of fact.

Of course, it’s still up to you. You can choose. So choose wisely. Choose hope, ambition, patience, persistence, respect, gratitude, compassion.

We’re proud of you, and we’re pretty sure that like the previous graduates, you will soon make us even prouder.


Zaldy Dandan is the recipient of the Best Editorial Writer Award of the Society of Professional Journalists, and the CNMI Humanities Award for Outstanding Contributions to Journalism. His three books are available on amazon.com

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