Monday, July 20, 2009

Health Care Hullabaloo

Having decided to try my hand at consulting has come with some costs, namely not having enough money at this point to afford health care. I have two cousins who are doctors, so if there were any real emergencies, I at least can ask questions without charge. In that respect, I am much more lucky than the millions of others who do not have health care.

I have long believed that health care should be a right in a country as wealthy and productive as ours.

What has fascinated me most about this health care debate is this "end of days" posturing coming from the right about even the notion of reform. For every person who crows about the prospect of government coming between a patient and his doctor, I could introduce you to real people whose insurance companies do exactly the same thing. How many people have had to abandon their doctors, because the company has changed health care providers, and your doctor is not in the new "network?" Is that not akin to a bureaucrat intervening in a doctor/patient relationship? And because health care is outrageously priced, the notion of simply remaining with your old plan is not economically feasible for the overwhelming majority of Americans.

Regarding costs, I am with the folks who are concerned about the effect reform could have on the country economically. That's what generating real ideas is about, finding potential solutions. I am sure that some right leaning think tank has written position papers on health care that do not maintain the status quo. Bring those forward, and let's see where compromise can be made.

Yet, I find it offensive that this appears, from the right, to be all about politics and political scoring, an effort to bring down the POTUS. William Kristol talks of the notion that the GOP wants health care reform. If that is the case, then where are their ideas, beyond tax cuts? And what's with Senator DeMint looking for BHO's Waterloo? If the legislation is so bad, then shouldn't the GOP be offering genuine solutions? Lord knows BHO has been extending hand after useless hand to bring this lot on board for just about all he's attempted. What he gets in return is rhetoric, and not even good rhetoric.

Let me be fair. I think that the whole of official Washington, regardless of party, has done a genuine disservice to the people who really could use universal health care. There are people who would like nothing more than see BHO proven to be nothing more than a non-U.S. born Manchurian Candidate set to destroy the country, yet they still need quality health care that they aren't currently getting. If these current legislative efforts work, they may continue to hold disdain for BHO, but they will have been helped.

Let me reiterate, health care should be a right in this country, period. There is no reason, no reason whatsoever, that this country, the greatest, should have its citizens going bankrupt just to cover health care costs. The bottom line is that those who are working on this issue (or in the case of the GOP, posturing), will have the best health care available in the country for the rest of their lives. Do they really deserve better than those who elected them?


Scott said...

The infant mortality rate in Cuba is lower than it is in the capital city of the richest country in the world. Go figure.

Free my fear is that once again the pharmaceutical and insurance lobbies are going to buy enough influence to kill reform. And it may well be "blue dog" Democrats that they buy.

My new Congressman here in VA's 5th District is a Democrat. Swept in with the Obama tide, he's the first Democrat to hold the seat in more than a decade. He is the very definition of a "vulnerable" Congressman. Blue in a basically red district.

Within a couple of months of Congressman Perriello taking office, we started seeing a slew of TV and direct mail advertising here in our little area of western Virginia. The ads asked us to "thank Congressman Perriello" for his hard work on health care reform and showed us lots of needy children who now have health coverage do to the Congressman's efforts. Very warm and fuzzy.

BUT...there was some interesting fine print. The ads asking us to "thank Congressman Perriello" were produced and paid for by PhRMA, the lobbying arm of the pharmaceutical industry. These are the folks who most recently fought to deny American's the ability to buy drugs from Canada, and fought to deny Medicare the ability to negotiate the price of drugs it buys in the new Medicare prescription benefit. Their new battle is to mouth slogans about the need for universal care while preventing at all costs a meaningful "public option" in any health care reform.

PhRMA does not spend money to promote good public policy. PhRMA spends money to buy influence.

So...why are these big-money lobbyists hugging my new Democratic Congressman? I wrote to Congressman Perriello and asked him that. As in, YO Congressman...why are these creeps so fond of you? What are they getting for their efforts?

Perriello's media guy wrote back telling me tersely that the Congressman did not solicit or pre-approve the PhARMA ads on his behalf.

So, what's up here? My guess is that 2 years out from an election, PhRMA, by running the "thank Congressman Perriello" is sending a message to this vulnerable Democratic freshman.

The message is--"See what we can do for you if we like you?" And more to the point, "See what we could do for your opponent in two years if we DON'T like you?"

Free if reform fails once again because of big-money influence I may just start to believe the cynics who tell me that my interest in politics is foolish. That the game is rigged beyond hope.

Curious said...

I never have understood what the difference between a government bureaucrat getting between a man and his health care and someone out for profit trying to make a quick buck getting between a man and his health care was.

What I think though is that a more acceptable approach to health care reform would be to drive costs down so that more people could afford them. I've heard stories that hospitals will charge a patient and his insurance company more for 1 Tylenol pill than it would cost the patient to get a whole bottle at his local pharmacy himself. Think then how much more it must cost for more exotic treatments from hospitals. I know that every time I walk into a doctors office, they charge over $100 to my insurance company whether I'm there for an allergy prescription or for him to check out that lump on my left testicle.

Reform and reduce health care costs and just maybe the government won't have to cover everybody because most people could afford to cover themselves and perhaps then the GOP would support a program that doesn't cost almost a $trillion as they say the present proposal will cost.

Scott said...

Curious I don't disagree with you about the need to lower costs, but there is a bit of circular logic going on here. I'd suggest that the only way we CAN lower costs is to make sure all Americans are covered.

The 47 million Americans with no insurance do not go totally without care. They go to emergency rooms of public hospitals when their pain becomes unbearable. So why does an insured patient in that hospital pay twelve bucks for a Tylenol? Because the hospital is passing on the cost of their treatment of the uninsured to the paying customer. A recent report by the Kaiser Foundation suggests that the cost of treatment for the uninsured actually costs the average insured American about $1,700 per year in increased costs and premiums.

AND, that emergency room treatment to the uninsured is often an unnecessary expense in the first place. If a mother could take her diabetic or asthmatic child for regular checkups, that child might not end up in crisis getting ridiculously expensive care at an emergency room.

Universal health care is not only a moral imperative, it's necessary to bring down costs for all of us.

Anonymous said...

I generally agree with you on the substance of the issue. I don't think the Rs will be much help, but you are right that there should be more thoughtful analysis from think tanks etc. However, the lightening schedule that Obama has set out to accomplish cap and trade, financial regulation reform, and health care reform (it will be done by the August recess! Two weeks!) doesn't help. I think he can and should accomplish all of those initiatives and more, but his strategy to rush everything through eliminates the possibility of a thoughtful deliberative process.