Laying Down on the Job

Laying Down on the Job
The Santa Monica Easy

Friday, September 4, 2009

Sickening, Isn't It?

Friday, August 29, 2009, I saw a documentary except based on a book titled "Money-Driven Medicine"  on PBS's "Bill Moyers Journal".   What's unique about the information is its point of view.  Most of those interviewed were physicians who spoke about the intrusive, ineffective, harmful damage caused by the for-profit health insurance industry on the relationship between doctor and patient and health care.  They also talked about the unholy alliance between health insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industries.  The documentary will soon be available as a download from Amazon digital. The web site for Money-Driven Medicine suggests in-home screenings of this documentary be shared so groups of people can discuss the information.  We've heard from elected politicians, health insurance lobbyists and the easily frightened.  This documentary lets us hear what practicing physicians have to say, one of whom had a crushing experience of his own when his very young daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. You cannot imagine what happened.  To say the least,  I was shocked by what the physicians had to say.  I thought they'd be universally against Medicare or any form of public option or single-payer health care.

For those who think the public option isn't necessary and all that's needed is a few tweaks and regulations to the health insurance offered by for-profit corporations, consider this: the so-called health insurance industry has had more than 15 years to fix their rotting policies and practices ever since the failure of the Clinton administration to pass single payer insurance.  Have your premiums gone down?  Has your coverage increased for the premium you pay?  Has your co-pay gone down? Have you been able to switch health insurers without penalty for a pre-existing condition?  Is your health insurance portable (you keep your insurance if you move to a different state or change your employment)?  If your answer is a resounding "Yes!" then I know something about you.  You have Medicare or maybe health insurance through the V.A. (veteran's Administration).  Of course you have to be 65 to qualify for Medicare and a military veteran to qualify for V.A. health care benefits -- so many Americans don't qualify.  The rest of the insured know that all the standard expectations of "free market" and competition have not shown up in health insurance premiums, services, benefits or co-pays. Based on history, the health insurance industry has not and will not do ANY thing not required by law except take your money -- and if they are required by law, have historically spent millions of dollars a day lobbying to block or reverse the regulations.  The health insurance industry is no more willing to regulate themselves than the banks.  They are corporations so they cannot be driven by efficient delivery of health care, they must be driven by profits.  I'm not being cynical -- it is the number one priority for any publicly traded corporation.  How in the world could our Congress entrust something as important as the health care of their constituents to administrative entities driven by profit?  Oh yeah.  I remember  With the exception of Senator Ted Kennedy,  campaign contributions trump public advocacy any day.

Given how much almost all Republicans like to badmouth Medicare -- to the extent that some Republicans  (CongresswomanMichele Bachmann, Sen. Judson Hill, Sen. Chip Rogers) recently claimed that Medicare is "unconstitutional" under the 10th Amendment -- I wondered recently, what would happen if the Republicans successfully managed to eliminate Medicare?   Now, I don't think this is a good idea and I'm not trained in this kind of risk assessment so anything I project is only based on watching my relatives reach the age of 65.  The first thing that would surly happen is to leave millions of good folks 65 and older without health insurance.  Hope they have rich family members who can pay for health insurance from the "free market" sector because between pre-existing conditions and life-saving prescription drugs, the newly uninsured will not be able to afford the $1200 or more per month per person they will be charged for health insurance,  medications and co-pays (and that's based on an an extremely healthy 65 year old with no pre-existing condition). Oh, and I hope those relatives can provide a place for their "un-Medicared" relatives to live because there won't be enough money left in their Social Security check to pay for even a tiny place to live, utilities, food and all the medical expenses their new for-profit health insurance will not cover. There goes the Social Security check!  In the first 6 months after the huge number of formerly independent seniors who become dependent on the love and largess of their children, siblings or friends, many of the older elders will be dropped from health insurance altogether. `Cuz that's what health insurance companies do to protect profits.  Then, to paraphrase former President George W. Bush on health care, "There's the emergency room."  

For the untold remaining millions who don't have a family or social network to fall back on after the repeal of Medicare, there will be homelessness and living on the streets to look forward to in their sunset years.  What's to fear?  This is the way the aged elders in many cultures are treated. Some cultures deposit them on an ice floe and shove them off to sea with a one way ticket. Some nomadic cultures sneak away in the night and abandon their sleeping elders as the younger tribe members move on to the next location. We can all devolve back to a Neanderthal existence.  Lovely! It's all very dramatic.  That won't tarnish America's "Shining Light"  beacon image we like to think we have in the world. Except, there's serious money to be made in providing health care for the aging members of our society.  The other thing I suspect will happen is a serious fight by the pharmaceutical companies, health care providers and ancillary insurance companies to prevent Medicare's demise. In the cold light of day, Medicare helps pay the salaries of a lot of physical therapists, doctors, nurses, receptionists, hospice workers, pharmacists and drug company employees, let alone all the other ancillary assistance products like canes, walkers, artificial knees, Titanium hips, incontinence pads and procedures like cataract removal surgery that's   required to assure the best health care is provided to our dearly beloved parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. 

Frankly, I don't see what's so hard to figure out.  Open up Medicare to anyone who can pay the premiums.  Those who want to sign up can, the rest can keep paying for the free-market plans. Oh, the "free market" health insurance providers won't be able to compete?  Too bad.  They've had since Nixon's administration to figure out how to offer affordable health care.  My heart bleeds big flat bed trucks worth of my life savings for you, you blood sucking leeches.  

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