Monday, August 17, 2009

By Health Care Reform, Dems Mean Not Reforming Health Care

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post are reporting today that the White House is considering jettisoning the "public option" from its health care reform package due to pressure from anti-reform lobbyists, known in these parts as contract killers.

Though talented op-ed writer and president of the USA Barack Obama has previously stated he would veto any bill that came across his desk that didn't include a robust public plan, he seems to be walking away from that commitment now. According to the Post,

"[T]wo top administration officials signaled Sunday that the White House may be willing to jettison a controversial government-run insurance plan favored by liberals."

And, according to the Times,

"The White House, facing increasing skepticism over President Obama’s call for a public insurance plan to compete with the private sector, signaled Sunday that it was willing to compromise and would consider a proposal for a nonprofit health cooperative being developed in the Senate."

The "public option" was never an ideal plan, but the fact that the insurance companies so opposed it was reason alone to believe it was a step in the right direction.

These two reports from today are horrible signs. Once the smoke signals have been sent out that it's on the chopping block, that's all she wrote, at least this time around. It's difficult to imagine the White House regaining control of the debate in the next few weeks enough to bring the public option back to life.

So, where does this leave progressives? Matt Taibbi is gloomy, Paul Krugman is desperately attempting to clarify the terms of the debate, Nader is as unreasonable--suggesting Medicare for all--as ever, and Allison Kilkenny is skeptical that the WH can provide the country with a coherent message of reform. Nate Silver sees some cause for hope down the road.

The main issue, I believe, is ignorance. Health industry lobbyists, with the implicit help of the mainstream media, have confused and disoriented the citizenry to such an extent that honest debate is really not possible in this country. If we want any hope of passing health care reform in this country, then every report on the issue should contain at least the following facts.

Number 1, from the WHO:
"The U. S. health system spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country but ranks 37 out of 191 countries according to its performance."

Number 2, from CBS/New York Times:
"A clear majority of Americans -- 72 percent -- support a government-sponsored health care plan to compete with private insurers, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds."

Number 3:
"Americans are more dissatisfied than citizens of other nations with their basic health care even while paying more of their own money for treatment, a five-nation survey released Thursday notes."

Only if we constantly remind the public how awful our system is will we be able to marshal enough progressive support to withstand the propaganda campaign that the for-profit health industry is waging and will continue to wage.

On a final note, it is--and always has been--absurd to think that any amount of concessions will bring the Republicans on board with real reform, or that including Insurance and Pharmaceutical companies in the process will result in anything other than furthering the status quo. These parties do not operate in good faith, and will fight to the death to continue to make money off of the sick. They are businesses, and to expect them to operate as anything else, especially charities for christssake, is naive and destructive.


jessica said...


this piece echoes some of my greatest fears about this whole debacle. i already see many patients at my clinic switching to name brand pharmaceuticals because there is a local program that provides "savings." the most tragically affected simply do not understand the situation and unfortunately, most of us here blogging and ranting in cyberspace are preaching to the choir (myself included...can't stop posting links and commenting on every reform outlet i see). in addition to actually writing and calling our reps, we need to help mobilize and educate the poor, working class, uninsured, under-insured and the young. john, raise hell out there on the east coast, and when the "mad as hell doctors" come protest on the white house lawn, i hope you can be there to spread your wisdom and carry my frustrations. i'll be here in oregon, telling patients i can't find anyone to pay for their chemo, insulin and triple bypasses.

Unkie J said...

Those points are constantly raised and blithely dismissed by highly compensated "pundits" with really great health care. The media culpability in empowering politician/lobbyists lies as a credible point of view and their lazy acceptance that people's health may be a "luxury" this country can't afford at this time borders on racketeering. Quick, call Chief Wiggum, the jerks in the TV Box and the insurance companies are robbing me! Summon the FBI prosecutor. We might have a credible case.

There are too few interviews with actual sick people camped at health fairs with real emergency problems they can't afford to have treated and too many interviews with self deluded clueless "patriots" fueled by firearm viagra and totalitarian fantasy fears, whose only malady is the Stockholm Syndrome, a condition they'd reflexively deny because "I dunno, sounds vaguely European".

In the media's defense, who wants to talk to a bunch of weak kneed poor sick people who should just suck it up and forget about that job related hernia when you can talk to some jackass with an automatic rifle?