What's All This Then?

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Still on Blog sabbatical but I’m making time today to note that it’s that time of the year again - a time when despite having the sinking feeling that the world is going to hell in a hand basket and that we’ll never ever be able to recapture what we fondly remember as "the good old days" - along comes an annual ritual to jerk us out of our stupor and remind us that - as I’ve observed here many times - plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose - the more things change, the more they stay the same. And our rescuer from the doldrums is of course (Fanfare) spiraling gas prices!!! Can indignant proclamations from our elected officials be far behind? And threats of hearings? The good old days are still with us.

But this spring season we have a double whammy to remind us that there are more things than death and taxes that are permanent in our otherwise changing world. Health Care Reform. I have to capitalize each word to emphasize the importance of this perennial reminder of things that never change. Of course we have a new twist this year. The foxes gathered with the reformers with promises of better times ahead for the hen house occupants.

According to the president, we now have promises from the healthcare industry that will save TRILLIONS of healthcare costs over the next decade. It sounds impressive but I have a hard time understanding how those trillions are going to affect my medical costs for the rest of this year or next year or the year after. From what I can gather from the promised largesse of the American medical industry, there might be a slow down in the growth of medical costs. Not any reduction in costs - just a slow down in cost increases. So a life sustaining medication that’s costing - say - two bucks a pill this year - might only cost $2.85 next year instead of $3.00. And multiply that sort of reduction a few million times and we arrive at those trillions in cost "savings." We’ve heard this sort of thing before and it’s mathematical hokum.

So is the other item of health care news that was "breaking" even as representatives of the health care industry were assuring the president that their cooperation would obviate the need for any drastic action - such as a single payer insurance program. Representatives of the Chicken Littles of America Association were warning that thanks to the recession, Medicare would run out of money by 2017 instead of one of the other, later, multiple estimates of the Medicare year of disaster - leaving millions of seniors scrambling for ways to pay for their doctor visits, hospital stays and the medications that are keeping them alive. So much for the wonderful "single payer" idea. No wonder the health care moguls are cooperating with the president. Having the best interest of the American populace at heart, they want to make sure that this impending disaster won’t affect a greater number of Americans than those already on Social Security and relying on Medicare as their primary source of medical insurance. Except for a third item of news that really isn’t "news" in the sense of something new and different because it’s been known for years - and that is the billions of dollars of profit earned annually by the HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY!!

Look at any "top ten" list of profitable industries and you’ll find healthcare represented more than any other industry or industry group - with healthcare insurance companies close to the top of the list. Billions of dollars are being poured into the business of healthcare and keeping it "healthy" as an industry - and those billions don’t come from harvesting the fruit grown on Money Tree Farms.. They come out of the pockets of Americans and from contributions of American employers - and huge amounts of it are retained or distributed as PROFITS.

I have to hope - I want to believe - that despite the rosy picture painted by Mr. Obama - he doesn’t for a moment buy this sudden change of heart by the enemies of change and that what he is really doing is following the ancient admonition of keeping his friends close and his enemies closer and that he is "playing" them at the moment when they think they are playing him. I think that the president knows without question that the only kind of "reform" that would make sense would be for the billions collected by the money making machines known as medical insurance companies to be diverted to a version of Medicare that would provide healthcare coverage to every American. An insurance program that would cover care in and out of the hospital - including medications for a reasonable co-payment. Just like the hated Canadian and British National Insurance programs that Canadians and Brits wouldn’t give up for the keys to Fort Knox - despite a recently launched despicable anti single payer television campaign featuring purported British patients claiming that they were denied live saving procedures by National Health Plan authorities. . I’ve only seen it once but I’m going to find out who’s behind it and who the "patients" are and the truth of their denial of needed care.

The money’s available in the United States to provide the same kind universal care that’s enjoyed by Canadians and Europeans who don’t have to worry about going bankrupt if they are hit with a serious illness and don’t have to choose between a needed medication and food for the week. .The money’s there. It’s just going to the wrong places. Like to Blue Cross and Blue Shield and to the dozens of insurance companies selling healthcare policies. Like into the pocket of Aetna’s Ronal Williams and poor old Ed Hanway - who had to take a cut down to $11.4 million in 2008 because Cigna’s stock price and profits were down for the year.

We have the most convoluted healthcare system of any 21st century industrial country - where the ability to receive healthcare is dependent on one’s ability to pay for it. And please don’t come back at me with nonsense about emergency rooms This argument about the best way to provide healthcare to all Americans is about money - the profits that insurance and pharmaceutical companies make on the backs of sick and injured people and that they’re not about to give up. The president can make all the announcements he wants to about the "progress’ that’s being made and how wonderful it is that the same group of interests that have been fighting the very hint of single payer coverage for years are now "cooperating" with him - but nothing is going to change unless he - or some president sends a National Healthcare proposal to Congress and the elected members of that body resist the influence of healthcare industry money and start putting the interest of their constituents ahead of their obeisance to the money that feeds their campaign coffers and keeps them in office.

It’ll come one day but don’t hold your breath. And don’t be fooled by that meeting at the White House the other day and how the president described it.