Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
August 26, 2009
Well, it looks like health care reform may fail.
It’s hard to get a clear message through all the noise, but it is looking that way.
If health care reform fails, it will make some people very happy.
It will make some people very rich.
And it will make some people very dead.
Who will be happy? Republicans, of course.
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Will they be happy because America has been saved from the scourge of adequate health care for everyone?
Of course not. They will be happy because they will have won a major political battle and, they believe, crippled the Obama administration.
Who will get rich? Insurance executives, of course.
In case you didn’t know, the CEOs of the big health insurance companies make staggering amounts of money – almost as much as … gee, Rush Limbaugh.
To give just a few quick examples (from a website run by the American Medical Association): Cigna Health Insurance Chair and CEO H. Edward Hanway made $25.8 million in 2007; Coventry Health Care President and CEO Dale Wolf made $14.8 million in 2007; Humana President and CEO Mike McCallister made $10.3 million in 2007.
And, in case the principals of the much-beloved free market have escaped your attention, they made that kind of money because their companies made money. (And, just as Las Vegas casinos don’t get rich by paying money to winners, health insurance companies don’t make money by paying medical bills.)
And, finally, who winds up dead?
An awful lot of people.
People without health insurance who can’t afford the care they need. (And that’s not even beginning to talk about the people who go bankrupt because they can’t pay their health care bills.)
The people screaming against health care reform love to rant about how health care will be “rationed” if the government takes over.
But here’s a sad truth: Health care is already rationed.
No country can afford to give everyone all the care they want.
That’s a simple fact.
Some countries, with various forms of universal health care, make those decisions based on what works and whether people will benefit. (Should you spend tens of thousands of dollars on a hip replacement for a 95-year-old with terminal lung cancer? Maybe. Maybe not. It’s a valid point for discussion.)
Here in the United States, we ration health care by simply denying millions of people any real care at all.
Some people get everything. Some people get nothing.
Is that really the kind of country we want to be? (No need to answer that question. For many people, that is exactly the kind of country they want us to be. Obviously. Because that is the country we are. Damn it.)
I don’t mind the rich getting everything. I do mind the poor getting kicked to the curb and left to die.
But here is a really sad thing: Many of the people who will wind up dead will be the same people who are now raging against the health care reforms that might save them.
Over the years, the Republican Party has managed to recruit swarms of citizens who consistently vote against their own best interests.
A decade ago, millions of people who were scraping to get by, living paycheck to paycheck, voted for politicians who openly promised massive tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.
Were those voters fooled? Maybe. Were they fools? Perhaps. Did they somehow believe the “American Dream” that promised that someday they too would be millionaires? I think they did.
Whatever the reason, they voted against their own interests.
And now, once again, they are raging against something they really ought to want – something they almost certainly need: health insurance that will pay the bills when they get sick.
Does anyone really believe that people marching around carrying posters that say Obama is Hitler are actually people who are winning in the game of life?
Do you think that people with the intelligence and education to succeed in this modern world are really capable of believing that America’s first black president is a Nazi?
Let’s be clear, there are plenty of intelligent people who are perfectly capable of claiming that Obama is Hitler. They say it, but they don’t believe it for an instant. They say it because they know that there are many thousands of easily misled dupes who will believe them. Dupes who will show up at rallies and town hall meetings carrying posters of Obama with a Hitler mustache, screaming slogans and scaring cowardly politicians.
And what are we fighting about? What is that Nazi Obama trying to do?
We are fighting about an attempt to make sure everyone has health insurance. An attempt to make sure that no one is denied insurance because they have a “pre-existing condition” – which is to say, no one is denied health insurance just because they might get sick. An attempt to create at least one insurance plan that does not involve paying millions of dollars to people because of their skill at not paying insurance claims.
Do I think doctors should make a lot of money? Hell yes.
Do I think insurance executives should make a lot of money? Hell, I don’t really care. But they shouldn’t make that money by condemning others to death.
OK. Time and space are short, so here’s the bottom line: It is a disgrace that this great nation cannot commit to providing a basic level of affordable health care to all its citizens.
Blame Obama if you want. Blame racists if you want. Blame greedy health insurance executives if you want.
Then go look in the mirror and blame yourself.
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