Thursday, January 7, 2010

#192 Unhealthy Alliance: Bankers & Health Moguls

And here they were together ... in Raleigh this week. I'm still a bit puzzled about the set-up, PR-wise, but of course these two are not at all strange bedfellows when you think about it. The unconscionable prodigality of Big-Med has been in no way unhelpful with Big-Bank USA's unbridled avarice in pushing this country--individually and collectively--to the brink of BANKruptcy.

The scene Monday at Raleigh's opulent Center for the Performing Arts (?!) was this: The top-billed show was the Annual Economic Forecast Forum, sponsored jointly by the NC Banker's Association and the NC Chamber of Commerce. In the spotlight was Brian Moynihan, newly appointed to replace all-but-disgraced Ken Lewis as CEO of notorious, big-bailout recipient Bank of America. But the opening act for the live and TV audience was a podium-panel discussion about Health-Care Reform, relevance unexplained.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and their video backdrop says it all. Here they were, providers and protectors of our health care system, sitting around discussing and effectively dismissing the vital concerns of millions of Americans, while wall-papered behind them were logos screaming money, money, money. Take a look.

Lanier Cansley, head of the only officially public entity represented, NC Health and Human Services, led off complaining about the length of a 2000 page bill (which really doesn't exist yet in any kind of hard copy), while lamenting on the other side of his mouth that it leaves too many unanswered economic questions! More empty platitudes ensued. Spokeswoman Billie Redmond for Wake-Med, the county hospital system, who we would expect to be more public-consumer oriented, shilled for the Chamber: "There are some very strong unintended consequences to the business community and to its employers that could come from it." The representative from Big-Pharma, Jack Bailey of GlaxoSmithKline, unsurprisingly opposed "the [phantom] bill in its current form" because it does not emphasize wellness and disease prevention enough. What clever misdirection. As if drug companies made money off healthy people.

But I was most impressed by the following piece of brilliantly subversive rhetoric delivered by Dr. William Roper, dean of the Med-School at UNC-Chapel Hill. He and his colleague over at Duke both had "doubts" about "the bill"--everybody conveniently forgetting that the thing is still in process between the House and Senate--but it's Dr. Roper who pulled-off the insidious clincher. You can catch on the video, but I'll highlight it here:
Are we ready ever to have health care in America that is a COMMUNAL ACTIVITY with limits placed that allow us to make better use of dollars so that we can care for everybody? I'm a little worried about that.
He may have had to practice that rather discordant phrase, "communal activity," in front of a mirror to get it just right. Translation: the Public Option is Communism. And good ol' capitalistic "America"--all you Bankers and Chamber-of-Commerce people out there in the audience--will NOT be "ready ever" for such a thing. To "care for everybody" just might not turn a profit.

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