Wealthy Frenchman

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Health Care Terror


These days terrorism is the first refuge of scoundrels. So when British authorities announced that a ring of Muslim doctors working for the National Health Service was behind the recent failed bomb plot, we should have known what was coming.

“National healthcare: Breeding ground for terror?” read the on-screen headline, as the Fox News host Neil Cavuto and the commentator Jerry Bowyer solemnly discussed how universal health care promotes terrorism.

While this was crass even by the standards of Bush-era political discourse, Fox was following in a long tradition. For more than 60 years, the medical-industrial complex and its political allies have used scare tactics to prevent America from following its conscience and making access to health care a right for all its citizens.

I say conscience, because the health care issue is, most of all, about morality.

That’s what we learn from the overwhelming response to Michael Moore’s “Sicko.” Health care reformers should, by all means, address the anxieties of middle-class Americans, their growing and justified fear of finding themselves uninsured or having their insurers deny coverage when they need it most. But reformers shouldn’t focus only on self-interest. They should also appeal to Americans’ sense of decency and humanity.

What outrages people who see “Sicko” is the sheer cruelty and injustice of the American health care system — sick people who can’t pay their hospital bills literally dumped on the sidewalk, a child who dies because an emergency room that isn’t a participant in her mother’s health plan won’t treat her, hard-working Americans driven into humiliating poverty by medical bills.

“Sicko” is a powerful call to action — but don’t count the defenders of the status quo out. History shows that they’re very good at fending off reform by finding new ways to scare us.

These scare tactics have often included over-the-top claims about the dangers of government insurance. “Sicko” plays part of a recording Ronald Reagan once made for the American Medical Association, warning that a proposed program of health insurance for the elderly — the program now known as Medicare — would lead to totalitarianism.

Right now, by the way, Medicare — which did enormous good, without leading to a dictatorship — is being undermined by privatization.

Mainly, though, the big-money interests with a stake in the present system want you to believe that universal health care would lead to a crushing tax burden and lousy medical care.

Now, every wealthy country except the United States already has some form of universal care. Citizens of these countries pay extra taxes as a result — but they make up for that through savings on insurance premiums and out-of-pocket medical costs. The overall cost of health care in countries with universal coverage is much lower than it is here.

Meanwhile, every available indicator says that in terms of quality, access to needed care and health outcomes, the U.S. health care system does worse, not better, than other advanced countries — even Britain, which spends only about 40 percent as much per person as we do.

Yes, Canadians wait longer than insured Americans for elective surgery. But over all, the average Canadian’s access to health care is as good as that of the average insured American — and much better than that of uninsured Americans, many of whom never receive needed care at all.

And the French manage to provide arguably the best health care in the world, without significant waiting lists of any kind. There’s a scene in “Sicko” in which expatriate Americans in Paris praise the French system. According to the hard data they’re not romanticizing. It really is that good.

All of which raises the question Mr. Moore asks at the beginning of “Sicko”: who are we?

“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.” So declared F.D.R. in 1937, in words that apply perfectly to health care today. This isn’t one of those cases where we face painful tradeoffs — here, doing the right thing is also cost-efficient. Universal health care would save thousands of American lives each year, while actually saving money.

So this is a test. The only things standing in the way of universal health care are the fear-mongering and influence-buying of interest groups. If we can’t overcome those forces here, there’s not much hope for America’s future.


At 11:49 AM, Blogger Murdoch said...

One little detail -- There aren't many industries providing jobs in the USA nowadays. Arms and Insurance are among the biggest. Medicare makes do with a very small bureaucracy. Get a reasonable, practical health insurance system and you put a lot of people out of work. Include parachutes for those being dumped?

At 12:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The real reason we are having a hard time getting a National Health care program here in our country is because the Insurance lobbiests in Congress who pay under the table to get what they want. Mr Bush was paid highly by them,and he signed their bill when he was shortly elected...or selected which ever one you care to agree with.
As long as we have these lobbiests pushing their way in with big bucks our leaders can be bought.

Its all about big corporations willing to pay at any cost to have their bills passed, or to make sure those bills are not passed if it would effect them negatively .

We need to all stick together and make sure our voices are heard loud and clearly. There is no need for our citizens to be put out on the street.There is no reason our citizens should be home ill, because they have no insurance to see a doctor or get medical attention ....the same kind of attention that others with a good health insurance can afford. These are usually the extreme rich like Mr Cheney.

How can anyone put a price on another persons life...if he should live or die, or if he should suffer more then another because he is not protected by a good health care insurance?
Who is above another in this world?
We all bleed...we all suffer and we all will certainly die. Just that some will go home to rest much earlier then another and meet their maker.
You can be sure the good Lord will ask you what you have done while in your physical body on earth. Of course He already knows...just will want to hear the truth from you.
I for one do not want this on my conscience...would you? Denying another needed health care when it is in your being to help another fellowman? Many will be held accountable in that day for their selfishness towards others. Lord have mercy.
We have turned into a nation that is not caring for their own....but can go off to war in another country on the pretense of helping people. Instead , thousands more die all the time over there .
How ludicris is this? We The People sit back and let one person dictate to us and to the world.No one will stand up for what is right or what is wrong. This we so desperatly need to do and the sooner the better for us all.

At 6:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Murdoch said...
One little detail -- There aren't many industries providing jobs in the USA nowadays. Arms and Insurance are among the biggest. Medicare makes do with a very small bureaucracy. Get a reasonable, practical health insurance system and you put a lot of people out of work. Include parachutes for those being dumped?

With 47 million Americans being completely without health insurance now, it would only stand to reason that a "practical health insurance system" would put more people TO work than out of work. The addition of 47 million people to any marketplace would be a major boom. Many more people would be needed to fill the jobs of caring for these people in all aspects of medical care.


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