Who’s Driving This Thing?

October 4, 2013

The congressional stalemate and federal government shutdown could -- and would -- never be tolerated in healthcare.

As of this writing, the federal government is in “shutdown” status – whatever that means. It certainly doesn’t seem to have muted the frequency, volume, or vehemence of utterances from various talking heads in our national leadership.

I suppose their ongoing chatter would be a potential sign of progress, except they seem to keep on repeating themselves. In neuro/psych, such behavior is often recognized as pathological (look up “perseveration,” if you’re so inclined). In politics, depending on whether your favored party is doing it, this might also be termed “staying the course” or “sticking to your guns.” It might also inspire comparison to a stubborn mule or spoiled child.

Part of the game is to claim that the other guys started the impasse and, thus, imply that it is their responsibility to end it. Now, I might have missed a few rounds, but the most recent one I heard was the President accusing the Republicans of being unwilling to negotiate. This shortly followed the President announcing that he would be willing to negotiate only after the opposition gave him what he wanted without getting anything in return (an interesting usage of the word “negotiate”), which came days after he’d said that he refused to negotiate at all.

Before that, Republicanss had played brinksmanship with budgetary issues in the name of weakening the administration’s signature healthcare omnibus, which originally had been pushed through by a Democratic supermajority which felt no need to negotiate with the Republican minority on the matter. A motivated individual could probably trace the “he did it first” argument back to the first instance of cave-wall paintings (some Luddite surely decried them as graffiti).

It’s kind of funny that the current hubbub centers on our healthcare system, wherein such behavior would (rightly) not be tolerated for a second. Just imagine your typical ER doc, ordering a quadruple-phase full-body CT with a history of “R/O pain.” The radiologist, raising objections to the (lack of) history, protocol, or half a dozen other factors refuses to do the study as is. The ER doc stamps his feet and insists that it proceed. The standoff continues until the patient dies or gets disgusted and signs out “against medical advice.”

Which, come to think of it, would decrease costs…maybe D.C. is on to something, after all.