Friday, July 10, 2009
BADLY MISTAKEN PRIORITIES
Shown here are a number of players key to the solving of our national health care problem. Some, like Senator Ted Kennedy, President Barack Obama, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, are strong advocates of a universal plan which would cover all citizens through the creation of a government-run, "public option" system (similar to Medicare or the VA) to compete with private insurers; some, like Senators John Cornyn and Mitch McConnell, and Minority Leader John Boehner, are adamantly opposed to any government involvement whatsoever; and some, like Senators Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, and Evan Bayh, are caught in-between, not wishing to offend the large pharmaceutical and medival/industrial complex corporations or their constituents, seeing merit in both sides of the argument(or at least saying they do). Though a finished bill has not hit either chamber, lines are already being drawn in the sand without any floor discussion having even taken place yet. It reveals a lot about the mindset and priorities major legislators have.
Proponents of a public option plan point out that most individuals can no longer afford health care on their own, that nearly 50 million citizens have no health insurance, and that the unchecked rising costs of health care are bankrupting businesses and dragging the economy down. They further contend that coverage for health care should be a universal birthright and not a privilege for only those who can afford it. I, my own physicians, and the majority of voters (72% in a recent nationwide poll) support this view. My own physicians have even told me that Medicare and VA health care, being government-run, are working just fine. My elderly father adds a hearty voice of support for how his medical needs have been met through the VA, and even Republican Senator John McCain has praised the VA. Members of Congress and federal employees receive superb "government-run" health care, and I have yet to hear of a single one of them declining it due to the supposed inferiority some claim "government-run" systems have!
Those "caught in the middle" are, in large part, members of Congress who have received huge donations over the years from insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Nearly all are what is termed "blue dog" Democrats (i.e. Democrats who represent more conservative, traditionally Republican areas or states, who were elected last time with slim majorities). These politicians want to hang onto their seats and fear their support for a public option may cause insurance companies, pharma houses, and some of their constituents to turn against them and donate heavily to their next opponents. It would appear on the face of it that these "caught in the middle" types have a severe case of mistaken allegiance and obligation. As representatives and senators whose paycheck comes from taxpayers, their primary concern should be that ALL of their constituents receive good health care, not just some, and that their constituents' employers and businesses not be put out of business due to unsustainable health care costs! Again, their primary job is to look out for the well being of their constituents, not for their own careers or the well being of corporate campaign donors.
Opponents of a public option, overwhelmingly conservative Republicans, want no government involvement or public option at all. They claim that, if given a choice, almost all Americans would choose a public option. Well, if that's the case, then why aren't they doing what most voters want and supporting a public option. Isn't that what they were elected to do, to do what the public wants? Evidently they don't see it that way. They fear that a public option will put private insurers out of business and/or deprive them of profit. Ahhhh---so PROFIT is the priority! They believe that profiteering middlemen like insurance companies should be able to make money off of people's illness and treatment. They believe that it is perfectly fine for insurance company boards of directors to pay themselves millions of dollars each in salaries and benefits while excluding people from coverage, effectively dictating drug dosages and hospital stay lengths, and even refusing to pay for certain treatments ordered by physicians, thereby depriving patients of proper medical treatment. This is all done to ensure enough profit for these greedy middlemen. Public option opponents apparently also see no problem with pharmaceutical and medical supply companies constantly raising their prices at will, well above the rate of inflation. Obviously, these conservatives believe that healthy medical/industrial complex profits are far more important than the health or economic well being of those multi-millions of consumers who are footing the bill in the name of excessive profit.
Public option opponents love to tell scare stories of how health care will diminish, the ability to choose one's own doctor will disappear, and how much more we'll spend on health care if a public option is adopted. I say that is nonsense. I've said it before and I'll say it again: those living in countries with government-run programs are NOT dropping in the streets from neglect, their death rates are NOT dramatically rising, nor is disease running rampant due to the fact that the government is administering their health care. Opponents also love to raise the frightening specter of the government coming between consumers and their doctors. The implication is that government bureaucracy will create a lot of unnecessary paperwork and interfere with a doctor's ability to treat patients. I say this, too, is nonsense. If anything today's private insurers are far more bureaucratic and are creating far more paperwork than these conservatives are letting on. We are jumping through far more hoops and paying far, far more of a bill under the profit-malignant private system we have today than we did 40 or 50 years ago!
I would just as soon take the ridiculously excessive profit and unnecessary privilege out of health care altogether by adopting a public option. If you, too, are fed up with ever-rising drug costs, filthy-rich private insurance executives padding their wallets at your expense while determining whether or not you'll be covered by them, and then dictating from their corporate offices afar just how long you need to be in the hospital or what tests and treatments you can or cannot have, then do as I have just done: WRITE YOUR GOVERNORS, REPRESENTATIVES, AND SENATORS AND LET THEM KNOW IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS YOU WANT A PUBLIC OPTION FOR HEALTH CARE IN THIS COUNTRY! Tell them you want UNIVERSAL COVERAGE! Tell them you want AN END TO CONSTANTLY RISING DRUG PRICES! Tell them you want AN END TO PROFITING OFF HUMAN DISEASE AND MISERY! Let them know you MEAN BUSINESS, and will do EVERYTHING YOU CAN TO UNSEAT THEM if they don't follow through on this!
Those who are placing a priority on the profit and wealth of businesses and an elite few over the well being of all, or who are placing their own well being before ours, are each guilty of setting badly mistaken priorities. It is up to us to let them know we will not accept this, and to get them back on track. So let them know, and do it today! There is no neutral ground on the issue of universal health care. Silence is complicity.
LATE BREAKING NEWS! In today's (7/13/09) "Crooks and Liars" blog, there is a piece dealing with Progressive Change for health care reform wherein you can vote on which Senators to target for TV ads about their weak or non-support for a public option. DO IT!