By Scott Rasmussen
The debate in Washington this week was allegedly about the president's health care law, but it quickly became all about Sen. Ted Cruz. The Texas Republican objected to the law by speaking on the Senate floor for 21 straight hours. The effort made him a hero to some, a fool to others, and it ultimately had no legislative impact.
Along the way, millions of political junkies cheered for or against Cruz, while reporters enjoyed commenting on the spectacle. Hardly anyone in the political world seemed to realize how the entire process confirmed the worst suspicions mainstream Americans have about politics as usual. Rather than solving problems, such procedural fights are seen in the real world as an irrelevant and unpleasant distraction.
But that could also be said of just about the entire debate over the president's health care law.
To begin with, the law has little to do with health care. It's only about insurance for medical care. Democratic politicians believe (or hope) the law will make medical insurance work better and at lower costs. Republican politicians expect it to be a train wreck.
Regardless of which side you believe, health care is more about lifestyle choices than medical insurance. People who eat better and exercise regularly are healthier and will live longer than those who don't. Non-smokers will have better health than smokers. People who engage in reckless behaviors will have more accidents than those who don't.
Medical care is, of course, vital to just about everyone at some point in their lives. It plays a key support role in the health care process. There are times when nothing else will meet the needs of the moment. But most spending on medical care isn't for those things. It is simply paying for mistakes we've made along the way. A real debate about health care would focus less on medical insurance and more on encouraging people to make healthier lifestyle choices.
A real debate over health care would also focus more on the future than on the past.
In that future, health care won't look anything like it does today. Private sector solutions ranging from fitness and nutrition programs to apps are already helping people make better lifestyle choices.
Technology is also changing the way medicine will be practiced. Every morning, I get up, prick my finger and put a drop of blood on a meter to measure my blood sugar. Ever since I started doing that, I started eating better and my health improved.
In five or 10 years or so, just about everyone will periodically prick their finger and drop the blood into a smartphone app that transmits it automatically to the doctor. Office visits will be reduced and much medical care will simply involve the clerical work of looking for readings that are out of whack. The simple act of monitoring our vitals regularly will improve the health of our nation by informing people of their status.
That's just one of many changes in store as computers are also preparing to play a major role in diagnosing patients and determining care.
These changes are almost upon us and require a fundamental rethinking about the way doctors are paid, prescriptions are written and more. Nothing in the president's health care law addresses these changes.
As a result, the president's health care law will soon become largely irrelevant.