Friday, July 24, 2009

#133 Health-Care--"What shall it profit a man ... ?"

Today in my adopted hometown of Raleigh NC, the Chamber Of Commerce hosted what were called "industry experts"--Pharmaceuticals and Insurance--to present their views on Health Care Reform. They met at the Sheraton on Hanover Square, a tall-building business center, across from the Bank of America, where picketers from the State Employees Association held up signs lettered, "Honk 4 Better Health Care" and "Public Option Now." They needn't have worried: the representatives from Big-Med affirmed the need for controlling the costs of Health Care and making it more available to more people, or so it was reported afterwards. They said the best way to do that was with a SINGLE-PAYER system.

Just kidding about that last part. No, the best way to fix the system, the "experts" said, is through the system we got. For-profit, private insurance, not public option. And the "business leaders" in attendance agreed. I'm just shocked. Isn't the Chamber a non-profit organization? (It is, actually, for tax purposes.) Well, the poor picketers didn't have a chance, and seemed to know it. One sad-faced lady, cowed maybe by the cathedrals of free enterprise surrounding the Square, said this to a reporter: "We're just trying to plant a seed, you know ... it's hard to change people ... they're gonna do what they have a mind to, I guess."

Big-Med is in the business of making big money. And the benign "cost cutting" that the so-called experts promised would inevitably involve more "money-making." Here's the deadly reductio ad absurdum: The people "entrusted" to provide health care coverage are the same people making money by denying it. By simple definition, it can be no other way. The equations are these: a profit-driven health insurance industry is not going to insure people who can't pay. Likewise, those who can't pay enough will be under-insured. And even for those who think they've paid enough, the company will find ways to diminish or deny their claims. It's politely called "recision" (L. re + caedere = to cut)--and the companies spend millions paying folk to come up with new wrinkles on how to "cut-back" and cancel existing policies.

Big-Med spends millions elsewhere, as well. Who's blocking Public Option? Congressional Republicans and "Blue Dog" Democrats paid off directly or indirectly by Drug and Insurance companies. Surprise. First of all, the lobbyists. According to a July 6th WashPost analysis, the largest insurers, hospitals, and medical groups have hired some 350 former government staff members and retired members of congress to influence their old bosses and colleagues on health-care (non) reform. Among them, two Dicks named Armey and Gephardt.

Direct payments, too. According to another WP article just this week, Big-Med gave nearly $170 million to congressmen in 2007-08, and the money keeps flowing to, in particular, those federal lawmakers on key committees who can pull strings on the health-care debate. For example, Charles Grassley, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has received $2 million from health and insurance sectors (since 2003), and you know he will be an "Obama-care" obstructionist on principle alone. But since the Democrats took over in 2006, the majority of Big-Med money has shifted (very shiftily indeed) to moderate key Democrats, like House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel, who's received $1.6 million over the last two years. Can we resist calling these folk foxes in the hen-house of health-care reform?

Biggest fox: Democrat Max Baucus, Chairman of the Senate Finance Commitee. He has received over $3 million from such corporate contributors as New York Life, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Schering-Plough, and Merck. And while he purports to be an advocate of reform, he throws up specious roadblocks like private/public "co-ops" whenever he can. Little wonder. He's been bought off.

Next Wednesday in my adopted hometown of Raleigh NC, Broughton High School Auditorium will host President Obama hisownself ... and his health-care plan. "Town Hall" style. Could there be any starker contrast with the Chamber of Commerce meeting above, in almost every way? The Blogman is hoping he'll rise above the profit motive, and get down to moral imperatives.

What shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Mark 8:36


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