canarypapers

American Health Care Reform: Socialist Plot or Evil Conspiracy? You decide.

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(NOTE: If you want to cut to the chase (thereby skipping my 24-paragraph editorial hooplah, below) simply skip to page 2 of this piece for info and links on the 3 health-care options currently under consideration: the single-payer plan, the public option and the status quo.)

 

 

DrowningWhen you’re drowning, you don’t notice the color of the hand throwing you a rope.

 

Welcome to American health care!

The same band of thieves that brought our economy to our knees has brought our health care system to its knees. The only difference between the banking industry and the health care insurance industry is that, with the right propaganda, the health care industry hopes to buy just a little more time — time enough to shake the last dimes out of our pockets before the damage becomes so catastrophic that, at last, the deluded mobs will click into survival mode and grow color-blind to the hand throwing them a rope.    

Until then, it appears that our health care debate will continue to be poisoned with wild-haired fears about socialist plots, scary black men, Nazi death panels and birth certificate conspiracies.  It appears, too, that Obama fully intends to continue with this quaint notion of forging bipartisanship with the very corporate propagandists and their paid political hacks on Capitol Hill who have been spending millions upon millions to sabotage his adminstration and, by extension, America itself.

Remember all that talk during the campaign about appeasing terrorists?

Who’d a-thunk: Here we are, one year later, and darned if Obama’s not appeasing a small faction of violent extremists, who believe it is their eminent right to deem certain politicians (any, by extension, the majority of Americans who are in favor of health care reform) as being so evil, that anything and everything — up to, and including murder — is a justifiable means to silencing the opposition. It is of some irony that many of these extremists, much like their al Qaeda counterparts, believe that their God has appointed them to this agenda — that He is calling upon them, personally, to bring our country and its leaders down in flames.

This would be the same God who called upon the Puritans to hang witches; the same God who called upon white men to enslave blacks like beasts of burden; the same God who called upon white men to exterminate Native Americans; the same God who called upon the Klan to lynch blacks, Jews and union activists; the same God who, today, is calling on conservatives and the evangelical Right — many of these working under the invisible auspices of the infamous Doug Coe and The Family —  to lynch and  assassinate their political opponents.   

The complicity of the the Republican Party in this is most unholy and undemocratic process is testament to the power of the insurance industry (existing, as it does, in financial partnership with Wall Street, the evangelical Right, the pharmaceutical industry and, yes, the giants in the oil industry). The abject failure of conservative politicians to condemn the violent rhetoric is testament to the power of money: to the millions upon millions of corporate dollars that have been paid into the coffers of Republicans and blue-dog Democrats who — while they may not be among those openly fanning the flames of violence — are merely sitting on their hands, while death threats are being waged against their Democratic colleagues.

 

VIDEO BELOW: Rep. David Scott of Georgia reads the racist hate mail he received in the wake of a town hall meeting on health care reform

 

It all started innocently enough….

Back in August 2008, Obama laid out his vision for the type of health care debate he hoped to pursue under his adminstration:   

I’m going to have all the negotiations around a big table. We’ll have doctors and nurses and hospital administrators. Insurance companies, drug companies — they’ll get a seat at the table, they just won’t be able to buy every chair. But what we will do is, we’ll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies. And so, that approach, I think is what is going to allow people to stay involved in this process.

Had Obama delivered on this promise — handing the reins over to actual health care reformers and the American people they represent, rather than handing the reins over to the giants who serve the insurance and pharmaceutical industries — the tone of today’s health care debate would not have devolved into a mob war, peppered with incendiary rhetoric about socialist plots to kill old people and babies. We wouldn’t be witnessing the faux outrage of paid protesters shouting shoulder-to-shoulder with genuinely terrified (albeit sadly misinformed) people who have been deluded into believing that health care reform is a secret plot to turn America into a facist, socialist state, with Obama conspiring to use health care as the vehicle for a eugenics/euthenasia program. 

Had Obama placed the health care debate in a public forum, the word “lynching” would not have made its way out of a congressman’s mouth and into the health care debate.  But the Republicans abrogated their integrity long before this. They lost it the instant they openly wished failure on the Obama Admnistration. They lost it the instant they embraced the ghost of the 1920s era Klan to carry their mantle. In order for bipartisanship to work, both sides have to engage in debate. It doesn’t work when one side is hanging effigies and issuing death threats against the other.    

This is nothing new. The entire history of our country has been one long struggle to forge bipartisanship between the wealthy and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, the Christians and the non-Christians, the violent and their victims. It has only been by sheer force of constitutional law that the noble principles of our Constitution ever held in check the baser nature of our society: slavery, Native American genocide, Black Code, Jim Crow, lynchings, McCarthyism, segregation, racial code…. And, even then, change always occurs too late — if it occurs at all — and only after decades or even centuries of intimidation and violence.  

Change has never, ever — not one single time — occurred through mutual agreement. Think about it.

 

VIDEO: Rachel Maddow interview with former Republican evangelical activist, Frank Schaeffer, on the mob violence being organized by the Republican party and the insurance industry.

 

Perhaps Obama believed that bipartisanship could be forged by appeasing the corporate giants and the politicians whose pockets they line. After all, these people don’t play nice. Obama surely figured that out early-on in his administration. Perhaps he believed it would buy their cooperation if — instead of real health care reform — he offered up a token gesture to the American people: something that constituted a change, of sorts, but would — first and foremost — do no harm to the profit margin of these corporations. Perhaps Obama believed he could buy their peace by silencing the voice of true health care reformers — which was accomplished by giving the bums-rush to the single-payer advocates, as they were ushered away from the ‘big table’ with police escorts. 

This is what happens when you make back-room deals with ruthless people: you give them the reins to power. And they take it.  

By giving the power to these corporations and the politicans they serve, Obama gave them license to hijack health care reform. And in doing so, he robbed ordinary American citizens of their voice in the political process; robbed us of the opportunity to talk, as a nation, about the actual costs — the dollars and cents — of our existing for-profit insurance coverage vs. a single payer plan; robbed us of the opportunity to study the feasibility of  incorporating “Medicare for all”  into our health care stystem — extending this government plan to cover more than just senior citizens, veterans and the disabled.  

He robbed us of the opportunity to discuss the quality of health care in this country as delivered by the for-profit insurance industry vs. single-payer Medicare type coverage; robbed us of the opportunity to learn the facts (as opposed to the fallacies) about health care systems in other developed countries, such as France, which the World Health Organization rated as #1 in health care quality, vs. the #37 slot held by the United States. It’s a safe bet that the rabid protestors carrying angry signs about socialist takeovers would be impotent to explain the health system in France, which enjoys a hybrid system — a mix of private, “for-profit” insurance and government insurance, similar in theory what has been proposed for the United States. 

Americans assume that if it’s in Europe, which France is, that it’s socialized medicine. The French don’t consider their system socialized. In fact, they detest socialized medicine. For the French, that’s the British, that’s the Canadians. It’s not the French system…. The French want pretty much the same thing as Americans: choice and more choice.– historian Paul Dutton at Northern Arizona University, author of Differential Diagnoses: A Comparative History of Health Care Problems and Solutions in the United States and France.

What would have happened, had Americans been presented with a one-paragraph bill, reading something like this?

Americans, you now have the freedom of choice: You may either pay your insurance premiums to a private, for-profit health insurance carrier, or pay your premiums into a government single-payer insurance plan, similar to the plan that has long-been enjoyed by senior citizens and veterans. Or, if you like, you can do both. The private, for-profit insurance industry, being an integral part of  the free market, is free to set their own policies. Should you choose to pay into the government’s single-payer plan, you will be covered from birth to death for all medical care, period, with no co-pays or deductibles. 

Obviously, one paragraph wouldn’t suffice, but this would be a workable starting point for plainly stating health care reform, in a nutshell. Regarding the cost for this plan, Obama could take a page from the for-profit insurance industry in the U.S.  Because they have proven, if nothing else, that insuring people can be an obscenely lucrative business. How else could UnitedHealth Group afford to pay a single executive $819,000 per day? That’s a almost $103,000 per hour paid to just one CEO! How else could the insurance industry afford to shell out $1.5 million per-day to wage a campaign to convince Americans that single-payer health care = a facist, socialist plot to take over our country and kill old people and babies?  How else could the insurance industry afford to spend 1 out of every 3 health care dollars on lobbying, PR and executive compensation packages? You think those folks haven’t calculated the net worth of this campaign? More to the point: Does anyone honestly believe that the  insurance industry gives a whit who lives or dies in America?

VIDEO: Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films and sickforprofit.com answers the question, “What does UnitedHealthcare CEO Stephen Hemsley have to lose if Congress passes real healthcare reform this year?” 

 

What the insurance industry does not want us to know is this: Human health is a commodity that generates shareholder profits and billion-dollar executive compensation packages. So long as this is the case, there will always be the built-in incentive to deny medical care — not on the basis of medical advice or science, but by its relationship to the profit margin.

The insurance industry would like us to believe that, under Obama’s plan, health care decisions would be made by government bureaucrats. The insurance industry would like us to believe that it is superior to have our health care decisions made — not by doctors, but by insurance industry executives, armed with actuary tables that tell them exactly who is (and is not) profitable to insure, as well as which diseases and treatments must be denied for the sake of the industry’s profit margin.  

As a disabled American who is insured by a single-payer plan — Medicare, for which I pay a $100 per month premium — I can tell you that no insurance bureaucrat, nor government bureaucrat, has ever stood between me and my doctor, nor dictated which providers I am “allowed” to see, or disallowed any treatment my doctors recommended. 

My point is not to extol the virtues of the Medicare system, nor to entirely demonize the insurance industry, but to suggest that there is absolutely a happy medium to be struck between the debt-plagued Medicare system, which provides efficient and unobtrusive health care, vs. the insurance industry, which  generates billions upon billions in profit by denying care.   

What the lynch-mobbers have yet to understand is their backers (politicians and insurance execs alike) don’t give a whit about the plight of sick people, or about the evils of socialism. The insurance execs funding this propaganda campaign aren’t losing sleep over the idea that health care reform is a secret plot to kill old people and babies (although the insurance industry would have to plead guilty, were they being honest, to the crime of delivering death sentences to people of all ages and walks-of-life). No, what keeps insurance executives awake at night is the elephant in the room:

It is not only possible to insure millions of people without going bankrupt, it is possible — as the insurance company has been proving for decades — to generate obscene profits doing this. It only stands to reason, then, that a well-managed insurance program, such as the single-payer plan, could exist as a break-even proposition, generating neither catastrophic loss or obscene profit.  

France has proven this. To be fair, the system in France is not perfect. They are currently tweaking their system in the response to a $9 billion debt in their health care system. Nine billion dollars is nothing to sneeze at. The U.S. has been spending this much every two weeks in Iraq, and expects to spend this amount every 18 days, after our “troop withdrawal,” for the next five years in Iraq.     

empty chairObama’s folly has been the belief that he could buy peace and cooperation from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries by putting a gag order on the true advocates of health care reform and serving up a 1,000 page bill that is so ambiguous and inscrutable that no will know just how many times the Democrats cried “Uncle!” to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries by the time all is said and done.

Maybe this is America’s destiny — to keep learning the same bitter  lesson over and over: that equality, liberty and fidelity to the spirit of our Constitution can only be realized after a protracted rein of inequality, human suffering and lawlessness. Granted, the lynch mobs represent only a small fraction of Americans, but history proves that it takes a million-fold human lives chained to misery and oppression to offset the power, wealth and influence of just one slave trader, one lynchman, one assassin, one corporate giant, one crooked politician, one Christian warrior gone amok. 

And, even then, the peace is only temporary, for it’s only a matter of time before the torch has been re-ignited, passed on to the next generation. Which is to say that it is a sad state of affairs when the best we can hope for, come September, is not honest bill for health care reform but, rather, that the death threats being issued by the henchmen of the corporate giants will not be realized.

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Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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For more information on the specifics of the 3 health care plans, see page 2 of this article.

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