Thursday, October 15, 2009

Health care? Who needs it?

Wearing a black dress,
300 pound man tries
to steal rum and cola.

Health care? Who needs it? The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that does not offer universal health care to its citizens. We have some 47 million people without health care. Some 47,000 people a year die as a result of having no health care. Thousands upon thousands of American citizens, even though hard-working and diligent about paying for their health care go bankrupt each year because of some medical problem they cannot afford. Even those who are completely paid up on their premiums often find they can be denied health care because of some “pre-existing condition.” People often are forced to stay at jobs they would prefer to leave because they fear they will lose their health care. It is also possible to learn that after years of paying for health care you might find that your benefits have been used up. The price we pay for health care rises at something like four or five times faster than wages. No one doubts the Insurance Companies are abusing their near monopoly on health care and taking advantage of our existing “health care system.” There is no doubt that our existing system is unsustainable and will bankrupt the nation if allowed to continue as is. The Insurance giants are making obscene profits from the illnesses and deaths of our citizens because their bottom line is profit rather than proper medical care. What makes this worse is that Insurance Companies need not be involved in health care in the first place as they basically do nothing except shuffle paperwork and try to find ways not to pay whenever possible. These are the basic facts of the case, not merely my opinion. Put at its most cynical, they make their money by capitalizing on human misery, illness, and death.

Given the facts of the situation, you might think that those elected to represent the people would be concerned enough to act quickly, thoughtfully, and seriously, to do something about this shameful situation. But when you realize this situation has endured for at least sixty years, and resisted all attempts at reform, you know they have done nothing and it appears they are poised to do nothing once again. Instead of serious debate about health care we have heard mostly nonsense about Obama’s plan really being designed to kill old people, women with breast cancer, the handicapped, even Republicans. Or we are told this is a plot for the government to take over health care (presumably from a caring private insurance system that is so dysfunctional it smells). Similarly, we hear the same pathetic cry opponents have used for years, socialism (run for your lives). And of course we are told we can’t afford health care (we can afford two ongoing unnecessary “wars,” a ridiculously expensive and completely failed “war on drugs,” and a military/industrial/political complex that is so overpriced, wasteful, and in large part useless, that it takes up half of our national budget and is more expensive than all other nations expenditures on defense put together). We are also told that we might have to raise taxes somewhat to pay for it (health care is apparently not worth paying for).

What makes this so unutterably tragic is that it need not be. We could easily have a single-payer system that is known to be more efficient, less expensive, and entirely workable (as virtually all other nations have such a system). But our government, from the President on down, did not even allow a single-payer system a seat at the table. It was not even considered. Having deep-sixed the best system we could have had, they are now squabbling over whether or not there should be a “public option” which would compete with the private companies. The House says yes, the Senate says no. They are trying to reconcile the two different plans. If they fail I guess that would mean there would be, once again, no health care reform. Or, perhaps what is worse, they will agree on some ridiculous compromise that will give the impression of change but still just allow the Insurance Companies to continue robbing us blind, perhaps even worse than before. We could, of course, simply expand medicare to cover all in a simple single-payer format, but Republicans, and probably some Democrats would be totally opposed (even though medicare works pretty well and Taiwan, that just passed a universal system, based it on our medicare program… what do those Chinese know about anything). Remember Republicans fought desperately against medicare at the time it was passed, just as they fought against social security, and virtually anything else designed to help ordinary citizens. Thus Obama’s ambitious plan to reform health care has devolved into fighting over things that really have nothing to do with health care per se. That is, should the Insurance Companies continue to benefit from their obscene profits or should our citizens actually receive adequate health care at last. Or, are we to become a socialist country or remain the marvelous capitalist paradise that has brought us to where we are today? Should the government be involved in health care at all, or should it be left to the private for-profit sector? Should profit be allowed at all when it comes to health care (it would be so much cheaper without it). Is health care a basic human right? It seems Congress is willing to talk about anything other than meaningful and desperately needed health care reform.
Why is this so? We know perfectly well why it is. The Insurance Companies, Pharmaceuticals, and other opponents have so much money they have bought our Congress (maybe even our President). Our government no longer is in the business of acting for the common good, meeting the needs of its citizens, doing the right thing, but is, rather, acting in the best interests of their corporate masters. But there are some things that are too important to be left to the private sector: health care, energy, and water, certainly, but also prisons, schools, communications and such. Government is not the problem, or certainly doesn’t have to be, the real problem at the moment can be traced back to our nitwit former President, Saint Ronnie, and his merry band of Republican outlaws who have privatized everything but common sense, and even that seems to be in great danger.

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

In living species, larger penguins tend to live in colder climates whereas smaller ones live in more temperate zones.

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