Health Care Reform : Screeching to a Halt?

Supporters of health care reform rally outside the office of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Florida Republican. Photo from AP.

Unhappily, the current situation is much more ominous than simply the denial of proper health care. The encouragement of mob violence by the corporations and the blackshirts they are stirring up begins to cast a pall over our daily life.

By Dr. Stephen R. Keister / The Rag Blog / August 11, 2009

Meaningful, caring revision of our health care system has definitely screeched to an unhappy, unforgivable, but not unforeseen halt.

We should note that the cupidity and avarice exhibited by members of a senatorial body can be seen throughout history. When Marcus Titus Cicero announced for election to Consul in the first century BCE he found to his dismay that many members of the Senate, which was the electoral body, had been bribed and were about to support his opposition. Only with hard work, courage, and leadership did Cicero overcome the obstacles and ultimately achieve his supreme imperium.

President Obama was elected largely by progressive visionaries who have supported the concept of universal health care throughout the discussions appropriate to the election and subsequently when he was blathering about the obviously illusionary concept of bipartisanship. Last week the President admonished his dedicated supporters, in essence, to “lay-off’.”

It would seem that Obama, who likes to draw parallels to Abraham Lincoln, has found a new Civil War ideal. We are now in the era of emulating General George McClelland conducting the Peninsular Campaign. McClelland, in 1862, faced inferior forces, inferior equipment, but never took Richmond because of lack of desire and purpose. If he had shown courage Lee might have been defeated then rather than in 1984,

Thus, the progressives who desire something better for our country, the American people, and the status of the nation in the world at large, are hamstrung by a system that is near impossible to overcome. The August 3, New Yorker Magazine makes the following point:

“In other free countries, legislation, social and otherwise, gets made in a fairly straightforward manner. There is an election, in which the voters, having paid attention to the issues for six weeks or so, choose a government. The governing party or coalition then enacts its program, and the voters get a chance to render a verdict on it the next time they go to the polls. Through one or another variation of this process, the people of every other wealthy democracy on earth have obtained for themselves some form of guaranteed health insurance or universal health care.”

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, in an excellent article in the July 2009 Progressive, notes:

”We’ve got fifty million Americans without health care, tens of millions more underinsured, people losing their homes, people losing their life savings, losing a chance for their kids to go to college — all because we have an insurance-based health care system. WE have to take a stand for a not-for-profit health care system. We know these insurance companies make money by not providing health care.”

Yet because of the perfidy of the Congress, and the obfuscation of the executive, which shows a frightening tendency to be on the verge of self immolation, the process appears to be coming to a dead halt. Much can be said of the hypocrisy and avarice of the Senate Finance Committee, whose home districts’ combined resident populations account for less people than reside in the New York City area.

It is interesting to note that the poverty rates are higher and the per-capita incomes are lower in these legislators’ specific districts than in the nation as a whole. Add to this that obstruction in The House can occur in The Commerce Committee which includes seven southern Democrats. Blue Dogs, who are opposed to universal health care. In addition we are currently faced with the greatest program of lies, deceitful advertising, and misinformation that the nation has been subjected to in its history. This propaganda is obvious on talk radio, Fox News, and in the conservative press.

However, much of TV is complicit. CNN, for instance, reports these events as straight news with no effort to point out the well financed forces behind the disinformation. Thankfully MSNBC on weekday evenings has been filling us in on the frightening story behind these disruptions; however, the MSNBC audience consists of only a few million viewers who are already well educated and informed. The intrusion by mobs into town hall meetings presided over by our elected representatives has never been heard of in the history of the republic, yet the story behind it remains largely concealed by the MSM.

Rachael Maddow this past Wednesday revealed the names of the political consultants and big money backers who are selling the crazy, endless conspiracy theories that health care reform is communism, that it is a secret plot to kill grandpa, and that it is a government takeover that is going to mandate abortions and sex-change operations. In some ways these wingnuts have confused the making of a living will with a plot to kill people.

The folks behind this despicable crap include such reactionary organizations as Michael Malkin, the Red State Blog, and such vaguely named groups as Freedom Works, American Majority, Americans for Linited Government, and the Sam Adams Alliance. The director of the American Majorities Minnesota office was a regional director for the Bush-Cheney ‘04 campaign; the Kansas office, a former Republican state legislator. The Sam Adams Society is run by a former director of the Illinois State Republican Party. Sam Alliance is headed by a former Dow Chemical Engineer, and Americans for Prosperity is run by Art Pope, a North Carolina millionaire who for years has given millions to The Republican Party.

The common denominator for all is the fact that they are paid quite well — an estimated 1.4 million dollars per day, by the insurance cartel, the pharmaceutical industry, the medical equipment industry — to confuse, misinform, and lie to the uneducated, American public. These corporations will gladly deny the American people the health care that is obtainable in every other country of the industrialized world to maintain their obscene profits, multimillion dollar executive salaries and bonuses, and stockholder dividends.

If you wonder where much of the pharmaceutical industry’s income goes, merely watch TV for an hour or so and you will see that nearly every other commercial is sponsored by a drug company, drug companies that spend approximately 17% of their income on basic research according to Marcella Angel, prior editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.

The opponents of health care reform cite costs. These are the same folks who do not concern themselves with costs relative to foreign military adventures, but feel that it is in some way wrong to spend taxpayer money to help defray the costs of cancer care, child health care, and public health programs for the American taxpayer.

In truth, the program promulgated, and well documented, by The Physicians for a National Health Program would cut national health care costs by approximately 30% and at the same time provide health care for all, with free choice of physician, medical specialist, hospital, nursing home, and pharmacy. Prescription drug prices would be reduced to be commensurate with the prices in Canada or Europe. The concerns of bankruptcy or job loss and insurance would be eliminated. More family physicians would be trained, and yes, they would be better paid than now, and might even make house calls as they do in various European Countries.

The Congress will not even consider such care, since, due to the baksheesh they receive, they are willing to allow the citizen continue with health care rationed by the insurance companies, and dictated to the physicians by insurance company bureaucrats. And the Republican’s keep raising the issue of “tort reform” when indeed malpractice issues cost but a fraction of 1% of total health care spending. Another distraction is malpractice, an issue that must be dealt with but not be used as a silly issue to derail matters of importance.

Unhappily, the current situation is much more ominous than simply the denial of proper health care. The encouragement of mob violence by the corporations and the blackshirts they are stirring up begins to cast a pall over our daily life. Many serious political thinkers believe that we could be facing the Rubicon and if the right wing extremists among us are allowed to cross, that the United States as a democratic nation will be no more.

I would encourage all thinking people to read the Rag Blog article by retired history professor Sherman DeBrosse , entitled “Extremism and Right Wing Populism: The Face of the Republican Party,” as well as Frank Schaeffer’s piece entitled “Right-Wing Turncoat Gives Inside Scoop on Why Conservatives Are Rampaging Town Halls.” I would also recommend Professor DeBrosse’s new book “The New Republican Coalition, Its Rise and Impact,” now available through Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Unfortunately it may be very difficult to sustain support for a health care program provided in the best interest of the American public, since that public seems more likely to be swayed by slogans and propaganda — enhanced by fear — than by reason. The proponents of decent health care have little funding with which to educate the public, as opposed to the billions being spent to mislead.

We must keep trying and hoping, but I trust, as an elderly physician, that if congress is about to pass a bill which is a farce, and a concession to the insurance industry, that the progressive members of The House of Representatives will stand as one and vote “No.” Better to try again in two years for real reform than produce a Frankenstein monster under the guise of “insurance reform.” As long as the insurance industry is in control they will find methods to circumvent and deceive.

As for the thugs that are denying democratic process at the town halls, the true believer cast-offs from the pro-life movement that would appear to sanction assassinations, and the unquestioning gun toters who pervert the historical and grammatical content of The Second Amendment, a thought from Eric Hoffer:

” The effectiveness of a doctrine does not come from its meaning but from its certitude. No doctrine however profound and sublime will be effective unless it is presented as the embodiment of the one and only truth. It must be the one word from which all things are and all things speak. Crude absurdities, trivial nonsense and sublime truths are equally potent in readying people for self sacrifice if they are accepted as the sole, eternal truth.”

[Dr. Stephen R. Keister lives in Erie, PA. He is a retired physician who is active in health care reform.]

The Rag Blog

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7 Responses to Health Care Reform : Screeching to a Halt?

  1. masterspork says:

    Because it still comes down to were will the money for this come from.

    Like one question that will cause problems is that will elective abortion be covered in the “one payment plan”?

    To be honest the heath care refom was dead the moment they passed that 900 billion spending bill.

  2. Hosea W. McAdoo, Jr, M.D. says:

    To Happy in Nevada,

    As a physician I can answer some of your comments.

    First, as much as big pharma squawks about research, they spend less on research than on advertising or on executive salaries. Also The US government via the NIH funds most grants through the basic research stage.

    How would they retaliate-by going out of business? We cannot be held hostage by corporations. That is one of the parts of fascism.

    When choosing a profession few people would choose a program that in total is from twenty three to twenty nine years in length for income only. That would be the longest delayed gratification in history. Physicians go into medicine because of interest, because jobs are available everywhere, but mostly because of wanting to help. After coming out of education with a few hundred thousand dollars in debt and looking at work weeks of sixty to one hundred hours they feel they have to become business people and make up for the lost years.

    Very few physicians will get out because of money alone; few can do anything else, few would want to. What they hate is dealing with insurance, lawyers, administrators, caring for patients with no funds, no insurance and needing more than they alone can give. With a better system physicians would settle for less. Under Single Payer there would be no write-offs, much reduced overhead cost and much less hassle.

    Physicians can now elect to not see Medicare patients. While some limit the number, most realize they have to see them. Just look at the specialties of geriatrics, oncology or even general internal medicine as they are heavily weighted to Medicare.

    On-line consultations with an unknown physician is so foolhardy I feel no need to refute as it assumes modern diagnosis can be made without a physical exam and no lab or imaging study and assumes all disease can be treated by drugs alone which is absurd.

    The insurance companies will not take this lying down. They will buy more congressmen. Prices will go up more will go uninsured and the US will drop below 37th compared to other developed countries. Finally the people will turn and demand a government that cares for them assuming that the US lasts that long.

    Working from a position of fear is self defeating; it is what Obama is doing with his bipartisan foolishness-just “selling the farm.”

    Dr. Keister, This may be the most important and best in a long series of well written and well considered articles on health care. Keep it up as people like you are all we have.

  3. Anonymous says:

    @masterspork:

    Where will the money come from? Premiums paid to the public plan. Payroll taxes already fund Medicare. That won't change.

    In re: abortion: It's legal, so who are you to determine that it should not be paid for as a necessary medical procedure? Elective abortion is almost never paid for under the current system. Note also that for all their sturm und

  4. masterspork says:

    Except that we just passed a bill for 900 Billion, people keep assuming that the money will be there.

    Also with the abortion, yes it is legal, but not all insurance companies cover it. So if you have a one payment policy where everyone is paying for the policy that is where it become a issue.

  5. Today, the web-site called Healthcare.org (or maybe it was .com), said that Canada sells ONE BILLION dollars worth of medicines to people who live in the USA.

    Also, my doctor told me he’s leaving his practice; too few people have insurance – not enough of a patient-base to continue because he’s paying high premiums for a variety of insurance coverages that are necessary. He said he used to deliver babies as part of his practice, but they raised his annual premium by $27,000/year, and that ‘did him in’.

    Now I’m trying to find a new doctor who will take new patients, and not have to drive 90 miles to Las Vegas for treatment.

    One of the hospitals in Las Vegas just filed bankruptcy, so I think this is going to turn into a long-term night-mare as not only patients, but practicing physicians and clinics/hospitals find it more and more difficult to sustain their business because of their rising costs as well.

    My 3 friends in Canada, have said more and more people from the USA are coming up there for medications and treatment. Now that my one physician who took care of my adrenal problems, has had his compounding pharmacy file bankruptcy, this is going to continue to be a problem for many who DO have health insurance.

    When I worked at Upjohn’s (now owned by Pfizer), they had their own staff doctors and a small clinic right at the corporate offices; we just might see this become a trend to help off-set some of the costs. I could get treated by taking a break from work, and not have to leave the building.

    When I worked at Simpson Paper company, they had one doctor and 3 nurses – again, we got our treatment and medications right at the main office where I worked.

    Let’s hope more companies will look to putting doctors and nurses ‘on staff’; this could ease some of the load for the working people.

  6. dospesentas says:

    Masterspork has the mojo; he points out a major impedement: How does a society deep in debt and borrowing to stay afloat afford an entitlement that encompasses 1/6 of their economy?

    To our Radiologist Friend: Let’s not get carried away with your stereotyping. I understand you have an agenda but let’s be real. People enter the medical field for a number of reasons and practice their profession for varying periods. (I just had a Dr. retire on me after 45 years – and going strong!) Certainly drug companies spend a lot on advertising – to drive us all crazy with people sitting in stupid bathtubs!

    Happy (again) poses a good question that raises a key issue: Tort Reform. Not to pile on but, John Edwards made tens of millions suing health care providers focusing on cerebal palsy. His efforts contributed to a rise in questionable Caesarean sections performed to avoid liability.

    I also like Happy’s analogy about websites being overwhelmed with demand. This should be a paramount concern regarding a free-for-all healthcare system, that doesn’t place controls on pre-existing conditions.

    It’s issues like these that need concrete answers – not more hyperbole and partisan squabbling (on BOTH sides).

  7. Alan L. Maki says:

    Extreme right-wing populism takes hold when there is no progressive alternative to the status quo.

    Barack Obama and the Democrats have not brought forward a solid progressive agenda for change; quite to the contrary Obama and the Democrats are pushing Wall Street’s very thorougly reactionary agenda— which includes their so-called health care reforms— aimed at making the working class pay for the problems Wall Street coupon clippers created.

    Under these circumstances, if liberals, progressives and the left do not bring forward a real progressive agenda for the American people and the working class to organize around and fight for, a vacuum is created that will be filled… and this vacuum is being filled by the right-wing pretending to have a populist agenda which in reality is pretty much the same agenda Barack
    Obama and his Wall Street crowd are pushing.

    It is good that doctors are involved in health care reform; however, it is now becoming very clear that most doctors are motivated to support “reforms” to health care only to the extent that they will be making more; thus the doctors are pushing an agenda of increased fees for their services while the Tea Baggers are pushing an agenda of “fee for service.”

    In many ways the advocates of single-payer universal health care have set themselves up for anti-communist attack by the Tea Baggers because most single-payer advocates have been very quick to point out— trying to maintain “credibility” with Democrats and Republicans— that single-payer is not socialized health care.

    These single-payer advocates do not do this for the purpose of making the distinction between the single-payer and socialized health care system merely for explaining the differences bewteen the two because they never honestly explain what socialized health care is.

    In fact, to solve the health care mess and get those without health care at present the kind of health care they are entitled to is going to require a combination of single-payer and a massive expansion of the public health care sector in this country typical of VA, the Indian Health Service and the National Health Service— which are among the best socialized health care systems in the world.

    It is because of many years of anti-communism in this country that many single-payer advocates shy away from discussing the need for a role for socialized health care; but, many doctors see pushing the insurance companies out of the picture as an opportunity to move in and push that they receive higher fees for their services— especially with Medicare where the present proposals of Barack Obama and the Democrats provide for as much as a 250 billion dollar increase in fees paid to doctors… this is not acceptable to the American people and they resent this being done… further adding fuel to the fire of hate started by the Tea Baggers.

    Also, seldom being mentioned is the need to slash the military budget and end these dirty imperialist wars for oil and regional domination by the United States; this alone would more than pay for real health care reform that needs to include single-payer together with a much expanded public health care sector… our demands, goals and objectives for health care reforms— as liberals, progressives and the left— should be for: no-fee/no premium, comprehensive and all-inclusive universal health care from pre-natal to grave; publicly funded, publicly administered AND PUBLICLY DELIVERED.

    To the extent that we shy away from the need of socialized health care a vacuum is created that the right-wing will move into and make no mistake; Barack Obama with his Wall Street agenda is part of the right-wing in this country… something liberals, progressives and the left don’t seem to want to discuss or acknowledge… Wall Street never has and never will bring forward anything progressive— not least of which is the candidate it backs for president who happens to be Barack Obama.

    Alan L. Maki

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