(For previous posts on the issue of health care, see here.)
The late Walter Cronkite said, “America’s health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.” And he was right. It is a rotten structure that has continued purely on the basis of its ability to fool people using smoke and mirrors into thinking it is better than it is. But the structure is so bad that the façade is crumbling and the need for reform cannot be hidden anymore.
As the health care reform debate gathers steam, those who benefit greatly from the current system (drug and health insurance companies, hospitals, and doctors) by making large amounts of money while delivering less than adequate care, and the members of Congress whom they effectively bribe to protect their interests, and the mainstream media which is always obsequious in advancing the interests of the business and political elite, are going flat out to preserve as much of their interests by either lying or fear-mongering or creating confusion. As all the various plans are debated, with their details, it is important to keep clear what the issues are, and the next series of posts will try to do that.
These are the lies and distortion that are spread by the health industry:
- The US currently has the best health care system in the world.
- The private sector is better than the government at providing everything, including health care.
- Single payer or socialized systems are massive, complicated, expensive, bureaucratic nightmares that will not provide timely and quality health care.
- There is no freedom of choice under single payer or socialized medicine.
- The people in those countries that have single-payer health care systems (which is practically every other developed country and many developing countries) have terrible care and the people in those countries envy what we have in the US.
Expect to hear lots of frightening stories about how terrible single payer and socialized medicine is (although exactly how those plans work will be rarely explained and comparative statistics will rarely be produced) and how strange and confusing it will be for everyone. Expect to hear a lot of anecdotes about the long wait times that the people in those systems encounter. If you want to get the facts about single payer to counter this propaganda, see this FAQ page prepared by the group Physicians for A National Health Program (PNHP).
During all these discussions, the key question that will be avoided at all costs is what value the private health insurance industry adds to the health system. This is because the answer is zero. It is actually more accurate to say it is negative, because these companies are parasites, existing purely to take money out of the system in the form of high bureaucratic costs and profits. Currently the amount of money that is siphoned off by them is estimated at 30% of the total health care budget, far higher than the overhead costs in single payer systems.
All these special interests will try and avoid even mentioning the phrase ‘single payer’ and refuse to even consider it as one of the options. In fact it is only because advocates have loudly demanded that it be included, to the extent of even disrupting meetings and hearings and getting themselves arrested, that it has had any mention at all.
The only alternative that will be deemed to be even worth discussing is something called a ‘public option’. Every effort will be made to make even this clumsy and cumbersome, so as to make the present system look good in comparison and thus preserve the profits of the health industry and confuse the public that this is how single-payer or socialized medicine works.
Last month, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich described how ‘Big Pharma’ (the large drug companies) is planning to kill even this limited public option, let alone single payer.
I’ve poked around Washington today, talking with friends on the Hill who confirm the worst: Big Pharma and Big Insurance are gaining ground in their campaign to kill the public option in the emerging health care bill.
You know why, of course. They don’t want a public option that would compete with private insurers and use its bargaining power to negotiate better rates with drug companies. They argue that would be unfair. Unfair? Unfair to give more people better health care at lower cost? To Pharma and Insurance, “unfair” is anything that undermines their profits.
So they’re pulling out all the stops — pushing Democrats and a handful of so-called “moderate” Republicans who say they’re in favor of a public option to support legislation that would include it in name only. One of their proposals is to break up the public option into small pieces under multiple regional third-party administrators that would have little or no bargaining leverage. A second is to give the public option to the states where Big Pharma and Big Insurance can easily buy off legislators and officials, as they’ve been doing for years. A third is bind the public plan to the same rules private insurers have already wangled, thereby making it impossible for the public plan to put competitive pressure on the insurers.
But Big Pharma is just one player opposing any meaningful reform. Allied with it are all the other parasites getting rich off the misery of sick people, and their allies and sycophants and enablers in Congress and the media.
Next in the series: Combating the health industry propaganda.
POST SCRIPT: Walter Cronkite
In the wake of the death last week of legendary newsman Walter Cronkite, the current media has rightly eulogized him as representing some of the best elements of journalism. In a terrific essay, Glenn Greenwald notes how the media praise people like Cronkite and David Halberstam after they die, and bask in their reflected glory, while carefully avoiding adopting the very practices that made them exceptional journalists.
The essay is too good to excerpt. You should really read the whole thing.