11 March 2010

Health Care : Social Darwinism and Stupak Obstructionism

Cartoon from caglecatoons.com.

Overcoming political agendas:
Will health care reform happen
And what will it look like?

By Dr. Stephen R. Keister / The Rag Blog / March 11, 2010

It appears that Congress will pass some kind of health care legislation, be it well conceived and useful or, more likely, bogus and politically driven. It is sad that in a seemingly advanced society such as ours there is such lack of direction and focus -- and commitment to human concerns.

And it is sad that our health care debate has been used by zealots like Rep. Bart Stupak to advance their political agendas. Those who would seem to believe that the only life worth preserving is that of a fertilized ovum (with total disregard for those children who are dying of disease, malnutrition, and poverty in the United States, as well as those thousands being killed abroad in needless wars).

The Republicans have clearly dug in and are content to say “no” to any meaningful health care reform. They have passed their slogans on to the misinformed, ill-informed, or purely misguided tea baggers who somehow equate a public health policy that addresses the obscene profits of the private insurance cartel with "socialism.”

The folks at the financial top of the social order are conning the populace into believing that social Darwinism is to their advantage and not solely structured to the benefit of the wealthiest 1% of Americans, leaving the table droppings for the rest of us. With the aid of Faux News and other outlets of corporate propaganda, these greedy few at the top are also convincing the naive among us that there is no such thing as global warming, while our children and grandchildren stand to inherit an environmental disaster.

The only way we can obtain decent health care in this country is through a government supervised system like Medicare. (Note that Medicare Advantage is not a government program.) Philadelphia based journalist, Dave Lindorff wrote about his experience with the health care system in Switzerland as he was treated for a head injury.

In Switzerland, everybody buys a basic health insurance plan, and the Swiss insurance companies are barred from making a profit. The insurance firms can offer highly profitable supplemental plans that cover amenities like private rooms, but they must offer the basic plans at competitive rates.

Patients can choose their own doctors and hospitals, and do not go through medical "gate-keepers" to get treatment. They do not have co-pays for treatment, but the total deductible outlay per person ranges from 300-2,500 Swiss Franks per year (about $275-$2,300), depending on the plan chosen by the enrollee.Nowhere in the present health care debate in the United States has such a concept been seriously discussed.

Uwe E. Reinhart, an economics professor at Princeton, provides an extensive review of how health insurance is delivered in other countries in a The New York Times article titled "How The World Balances Health Care Risk."

Congress must place the health care industry under the antitrust laws and enact a formula for controlling prices levied on the policy holder, as well as guaranteeing the insured that they will be free to purchase insurance at a reasonable price, with no exceptions for "pre-existing conditions," and that no one will not be capriciously dropped from coverage should they develop a severe or ongoing illness.

And we must remember that nonprofit companies such as Blue Cross/Blue Shield are “non-profit” by legal definition only. These are tax-exempt businesses that differ from the major for-profit companies only in that they do not have stockholders and "profit" is listed on their balance sheets as "surplus.” Their executives, as is the case with the regular insurance companies, can receive multimillion dollar salaries covered by the dividends that the public pays to receive health care and hospital benefits.

The other obstacle facing passage of a bill through reconciliation is Representative Stupak, whose background with "The Family" and the C Street connection has been discussed extensively by Rachel Maddow. It seems that Representative Stupak has been a C Street boarder, at a ridiculously low rent. Jeff Sharlet has addressed this in some detail in his book The Family.

Rachel Maddow pointed out that Mr. Stupak has recently moved out of the house on C Street, that he has never been accused of any amorous misconduct, and that he denies being a member of the quasi-Christian organization known as The Family. Mr. Stupak however vows to derail a health care bill if it doesn’t include his anti-abortion language; he apparently feels that the long standing Hyde Amendment, which forbids paying for abortion with any government funding is inadequate.

Jessica Arons writes in The Nation,
The amendment that Bart Stupak sponsored, which is currently part of the House bill, does bar so-called indirect funding. It forbids insurers from selling plans that include abortion coverage to people who receive help from the government in paying for premiums -- a restriction that would apply to approximately 85% of customers in the new health insurance exchange and thus virtually eliminate abortion from the exchange.

Money in Stupak's world is "fungible," meaning whatever money the government gives you frees up private money to use on something else. So every dollar the government pays toward your health insurance premiums allows you and your insurer to spend private funds in that plan that might not otherwise have had on abortion. To Stupak, that subsidization is the equivalent of a direct payment.”
Do we allow the religious beliefs of Mr. Stupak and his followers to stand in the way of decent health care in the United State? Where is their shame? Where is their concern for the human condition? Let them debate this issue in some other venue, where the lives of so many already living human beings are not at stake.

The executives from America's health care industry are gathering in Washington at The Ritz Carlton Hotel in a last ditch effort to stay Congress from acting in the interests pf the American people. They have been met with massive demonstrations organized by Health Care For America Now and allied group. We wish that the mainstream media would give this confrontation the exposure it deserves. The MSM seems to dote on the tea party types -- the crowd that is underwritten by Judson Phillips, Mark Skoda, Dick Armey , Steve Forbes, Tim Phillips, and the Koch family foundation.

Congress must come together in the interests of the people and act with courage and without delay -- just as it must with the Employee Free Choice Act, the bank regulation legislation, the student loan bill, and legislation to preserve our planet.

Health care in the United States need not rank 26th among Western nations. We must provide decent health care now -- and we must strengthen Medicare, provide funding for training and decent compensation for our primary care physicians, our internists (with special attention to the non-invasive subspecialists), our family doctors, our pediatricians, dermatologists, endocrinologists, rheumatologists, and neurologists.

The physicians and nurses must have more input in this health care debate; their role must not be ignored. Remember, your Congressman does not treat your children's measles or your father’s heart attack.

[Dr. Stephen R. Keister, a regular contributor to The Rag Blog, lives in Erie, PA. He is a retired physician who is active in health care reform.]

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