Troubling health care policies need fixing


The health insurance and pharmaceutical cartel, in cahoots with their conservative cronies in congress and the media, are using scare tactics, half-truths and bald-faced untruths in their full-court press to stymie health care reform.

In recent weeks these parasitic profiteers and their well compensated shills have poisoned the well of public discourse with a vile and pernicious strain of paranoia that simultaneously disgusts and mystifies.

For example: Did you know the Democrats want to kill your grandmother? They are setting up “death panels” to determine who lives and who dies, who receives medical care in advanced age and who gets used as biodegradable fertilizer. At least that’s what former Republican Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin thinks. Or perhaps I should say that’s what she “says” – it would border on journalistic malpractice to assert with any certitude that she is capable of “thinking.”

Point of fact: There is nothing resembling euthanasia in the health reform legislation currently being discussed in Congress. Not even close. The euthanasia hysteria seems to emanate from a provision that appropriates government funding for voluntary “end-of-life” counseling for those who wish to formulate a plan with their doctor regarding a living will. Even Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, Ga., is incredulous about these asinine charges.

“How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that [euthanasia] is nuts,” said Isakson.

Is it too much to ask to debate the facts instead of straw men and red herrings? Health reform is a complicated issue that requires a substantive discussion replete with factuality not fear-mongering.

The U.S. spends 16 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on health care costs—much more than any other nation.  Health insurance premiums have increased 120 percent since just 1999 and have risen four times faster than wages and at twice the rate of inflation. Is the exorbitant cost of health care in the U.S. because we have the best system in the world? Not exactly.

According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. health system ranks No. 37—just ahead of Slovenia. The more likely cause of high health care costs is due to American health insurance companies spending 20 cents of every dollar on advertising, administrative costs and shareholder profits. The industry has spent $1.4 million per day fighting against health reform this year. Pocket change, really, considering the 400 percent increase in profits it has enjoyed since the beginning of this decade.

More than 60 percent of bankruptcies and roughly 50 percent of foreclosures are caused by medical bills. Nearly 50 million Americans have no insurance and an additional 25 million citizens are underinsured—meaning their insurance wouldn’t mean diddly-squat if they ever actually got sick.

If you believe President Obama is moving too quickly on health reform, consider this: President Theodore Roosevelt first campaigned for national health insurance back in 1912. Since TR’s failed attempt to ride the Bull Moose back to the White House, serious pushes for some form of public insurance have reappeared sporadically, only to be shut down by the same omnipotent special interest groups now attempting to thwart reform.

A public option would inject competition into an industry that has become almost completely monopolized. The competition a public option would create would in turn drive down premium costs and force private insurers to offer better care, or risk losing customers to Uncle Sam. Contrary to the corporate spin, a public plan would create more choice, not limit it.

It is obvious to any sentient observer that our health care system is broken. A robust public option would not be a panacea, but it would be a step in the right direction.