Throwing Another Two Cents in on the Health Care Reform Debate

August 29, 2009


The news has been full of coverage concerning the health care reform debate. Now with the passing of Sen. Ted Kennedy, we see clips of a young Ted giving speeches calling for health care reform, stating that the availability of universal health care for every American should be a right rather than a privelege. The clips date back 30 years and put the current debate in a sobering context. Many have fought for reform for a long time, in great depth ever since the profit-gleaning shift in the insurance business that occurred during Richard Nixon’s presidency. An excellent clip from Michael Moore’s documentary “Sicko” plays a recording of Nixon approvingly admiring a move to “great financial profit for private investors as a result of a new system of health care” (to paraphrase). So, it’s been a long time coming and it’s still not here.

So we see this continuous coverage. An excellent summation of what’ s happened, what is currently happening and what will likely occur at the end of this strain of the debate is laid out in the most recent issue of Rolling Stone. “Sick and Wrong: How Washington is screwing up health care reform and why it may take a revolt to fix it,” by Matt Taibbi is a comprehensive, stomach churning and head shaking look at the mess we find ourselves in today.

Granted, Taibbi makes Moore look look understated and unbiased. Taibbi writes in an almost Hunter S. Thompson-like gonzo, over-the-top and expletive laden vitiriol concerning social issues. Yet he nails every pressing point that gets swept under the rug on the mainstream television and radio. Tellingly, he lists that the so-called “Gang of Six,” the “bi-partisan” group of senators that are supposedly working towards a compromise on this issue all received major donations from the health sector in amounts ranging from $600,000 to a whopping $2,034,000 for Sen. Grassley, a leading Republican senator in the “gang.”  Do we really expect that such major donations don’t entail a “favor for a favor?” Each member of the gang has financially backed reasons for keeping the current system in place. Insurance companies make large profits under the current system, as do private investors and Wall Street bankers. Senators are untouched since they already have their own “public option” through the government simply by being senators. The only people that suffer under the current system are everyone else that have no, little or untrustworthy coverage.

Taibbi points out, like everyone else with clear reasoning in this debate including the 41 witnesses recently barred from testifying in a government review in favor of a universal plan, that the only option that is likely to work and make sense is one with a public option.  A public option will give everyone who is unable to purchase coverage in the current market and affordable means to do so. A public option will force the insurance companies to bring down their astronomical rates in order to be more competitive with the public option. Any universal plan without a public option will not do much of anything to sovle the current problems. In fact, any plan that passes without a public option as a “watered down” version of universal health care will simply leave the openents currently screaming “Socialism!” feeling vindicated and have them shouting “I told you so.”  If such a disaster occurs this country may never have a chance to pass a real and valid universal plan again. The major complaints voiced by senators in regards to the public option concern the existence and profits of the insurance companies. Taibbi quotes Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as saying that “private insurance companies will not be able to compete with a government option” and Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson as complaining that the public option will “win the game.”

So how have the opponents of the public option and of health care reform in general succeeded in what looks to be excising the public option from any possibly passing act?  By complaining– loudly, threateningly and accusatorily in hostile, misinformed and sensationalistic ways. Those on the other side share the blame by not addressing these loud and incorrect complaints fully. An excellent feature article in the Sunday, August 23rd edition of the Louisville Courier Journal compared the current struggle for health care reform to the many reform struggles faced by President Franklin D. Roosevelt over a half century ago. The difference now? FDR spoke out over the radio in a series of “fireside chats” to address the loud and false shouts of “fascism!” “socialism!” “communism!” and “total government control!”  that were hostilely being thrown at his administration. He decried the simple and shallow labels and fully explained that his reforms were in continuing with the American legacy of progress, reform and steady work to make this country a place where all have an equal chance and in which we can truly grow as a nation and as a people. Obama thus far has played it too safe in taking on his opponents in this issues. Now is the time to act, for there may not be an opportunity like this again.


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