August 14, 2009

Socialized Medicine? I Wish!

A majority of the American people support single payer healthcare, according to any number of polls. People want a better system and truly universal coverage. Yet Congress has refused to seriously talk about it. Why? I can only surmise that the insurance and pharmaceutical lobby is too powerful to allow that option. By that I mean that their money is corrupting the political process because the Democrats and Republicans alike are in their pocket. It is clear that the desire of a few mega-corporations to make huge profits overrules the need for all Americans to receive the health care they need.

Now it appears that even the small reforms that are left on the table are in danger because of disruptive behavior of right wing zealots. That just shows that compromise is no way to win this battle. Obama could rally millions behind him with real enthusiasm if he would advocate for Single Payer, the only meaningful reform. Instead he is losing momentum, as his plan gets weaker by the minute.

I am wondering why I should support a plan that accomplishes so little, other than insuring that we won’t have another chance at real change for decades, maybe not in my lifetime. On the other hand it really galls me that right wingers can torpedo any reform with intimidation tactics. I can guarantee you that if the left acted like that, the billy clubs would be out, the tear gas would be flying and people would be hauled off to jail, before they could say “corporate death panels”.

Make no mistake, everything the right wing is saying, untruthfully, about this plan is actually just what the insurance companies are doing now in the name of profits. Care is rationed in two ways. People who cannot afford insurance are denied care until they are in a life threatening situation and then they are relegated to a 2nd class system. Faceless insurance company bureaucrats deny care, often arbitrarily in order to save money. Anybody who has tried to argue with an insurance company knows that sinking feeling of being unable to break through the red tape to find somebody who is willing to listen and able to rectify an error. Anybody who has tried to read the small type in their policy and keep up with the ever changing restrictions on what care you can get will also understand. Socialized medicine? I wish it were true. What we have now is anti-social medicine.

Meanwhile budget cuts are decimating the government programs that we do have. Medicaid and state programs can’t meet the need. The political system is geared towards those with money, so programs to help the poor, however well meaning, tend to get cut when times get tough. Of course that is when they are needed most. And that is when the government starts acting like private insurance, restricting who can be on the program and how much they will pay providers.

Medicare is in better shape because it covers everybody over 65 and thus has a good political base of support. However it has been weakened in the last few years by bringing in private insurance companies, who take the “good risks” and leave the rest. The refusal to negotiate prices makes it impossible to control costs.

Isn’t it appalling that people are being forced into bankruptcy and losing their homes because they get sick? Even with insurance. Our current system is upside down. It will pay for the small stuff, but if you get seriously ill, the “insurance” leaves many with bills they cannot hope to pay for the percentage that the policy doesn’t cover. In the meantime, just paying the premiums is beyond reach for many.

Healthcare in the US is a scandal that should not be tolerated. By any measure of health, the US is in worse shape that any other industrialized country, and worse than some in the third world. And for that level of care, we pay more than any other country. The only people who benefit from this system are a few executives and shareholders of a few giant corporations, whose only interest is making money off of suffering people.

Congressman Norm Dicks just wrote me a letter pointing out that, “there are more than 46 million Americans who have no health insurance coverage at all, and another 14,000 who are losing coverage every day during the current economic crisis. The other discouraging aspect of this growing problem is the enormous amount of money that is spent on health care in our country - almost twice as much per capita than any other industrialized nation.’ These are truly alarming numbers. It is alarming that knowing these facts, Congress is looking like it won’t do anything that is going to solve the problem.

Physicians for a National Health Program FAQs

Demonstrators Disrupt Health Care Forums (AP 8/8/09)

Are Liberal Netroots Groups Helping Obama Fail? (Truthout 7/30/09)

Obama gives powerful drug lobby a seat at healthcare table (LA Times 8/4/09)

The Incredible Shrinking Health Care Reform (Norman Solomon 8/5/09)

1 comment:

Marketing Brillo said...

Another brilliant post. Medicare -- everybody's favorite insurance program (at least when they turn 65) -- is socialism at its best. Most of Europe practices "compassionate socialism," while Americans recoil at the mere word. To this day, Joe McCarthy's ghost walks the halls of Congress, scaring the heck out of us. It's time for somebody besides Bernie Sanders to tell it like it is.