Wednesday, July 29, 2009



By Jack Random

Tom Brokaw: Is health care in America a privilege, a right or a responsibility?
John McCain: I think it’s a responsibility.
Barack Obama: Well I think it should be a right for every American.

Presidential Debate, October 7, 2008.

“Health insurers and drug makers have showered members of the 111th Congress with millions in campaign contributions over the last four years, with a special focus on leaders who will play major roles in shaping health-care legislation, according to a study to be released tomorrow.”

Dan Eggen, Washington Post, March 8, 2009.

The reason we do not have national health care, like the reason we cannot control military spending and the reason we remain dependent on foreign oil, can be summarized in one word: money.

No, it is not the cost of national health care that prevents us from achieving what every other advanced nation has already achieved for there are no objective analyses (as opposed to those paid for by the healthcare industry) that fail to find billions and trillions in savings compounded over the years of implementation.

It is rather the money that is piped into the political system by private corporations with a vested interest in preserving a cash cow that prevents us from achieving this fundamental goal: affordable healthcare for all our citizens.

We have heard the numbers ad infinitum ad nauseam. We hear Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats cynically attempting to transform the healthcare debate into yet another attack on illegal immigrants. It is a strategy as old as the Appalachians and as useful as a three-legged ass: Divide and conquer. We don’t want to pay for them. But we are paying for them. We are paying for them in every crowded emergency room in every public hospital across the nation. As long as medical ethics and the laws of common decency compel doctors and nurses to treat the ill and needy it will always be so. We should want it no other way if for no other reason but that we may find ourselves or our loved ones in the circumstance of need at some time in our lives.

Few among us are so wealthy that we could bear the cost of a major operation or a prolonged illness without generous assistance. It is then when we are most in need that we invariably discover the shortcomings of our healthcare system. Every insurance agency and every corporate care provider has a staff of skilled professionals dedicated to defining the limits of our coverage and protecting the profit margin.

It is only common sense.

We do not need any more statistics or case studies to tell us what we already know. We only need a healthy dose of common sense – the kind our grandparents had before the system pumped them so full of drugs they can hardly think.

Common sense tells us that profit motivated corporations may be good for selling toys and trinkets but they are poorly designed to protect the health of our citizens.

Common sense tells us that when corporations profit from illness and dependency they have no incentive to promote wellness.

Common sense tells us: the larger the pool of coverage, the lower the costs for all. The very concept of health insurance is that those who are well will pay for those who are in need. Insurance companies strive to represent only the healthy. Should you ever have a need you are placed in a separate group (high risk) and rates quickly become impossible to pay.

Common sense tells us denying coverage to those who need it is a practice that has no place in the healthcare profession.

Common sense tells us that when our medical and pharmaceutical industries are in the business of making money, they will sell us drugs and treatments we do not need and deny us remedies that do not pay.

Common sense tells us that an unregulated “free market” health and medical care industry, like the financial institutions before them, will follow the path of greed and avarice until it breaks the bank and the system crashes unless meaningful reform is enacted.

It is unfortunate that our Supreme Court with a corporate bias perhaps unprecedented in history has zealously protected unlimited corporate contributions to political candidates and office holders under the guise of “free speech.” The same court (only the names have changed) that refused to recognize a fundamental right to vote (see Bush V. Gore 2000) has defined monetary contributions as constitutionally protected speech.

Common sense tells us that politicians will serve the hand that feeds them rather than the interests of the people they represent unless public outcry is so overwhelming it threatens their hold on power.

I do not know all the particulars of the Obama healthcare proposal but common sense tells me this: The medical-pharmaceutical-insurance industry and their lackeys in congress would not be fighting so hard to defeat if it was not a meaningful step in the right direction.

One last caveat: The Obama proposal is not National Health Care and that is unfortunate. That is the goal and this reform even if it passes will fall well short. But common sense tells me we have to take the first step before we can take the second.

The first step is what is commonly referred to as the public option. Let Joe the Plumber and all those like him who secretly or openly decry Social Security and Medicare as a socialist conspiracy take the private option and let them pay the price.

Common sense tells me the public option will win.



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