Saturday, November 14, 2009

Toxic Xmas Tree Trimmings

Will Rogers, Oklahoma Cherokee cowboy humorist, social commentator, vaudeville comedian, and movie actor, always said he avoided Washington, D.C., because he did not want to compete with the professional clowns. “All I know is what I read in the papers,” Will Rogers would say as he twirled his lariat. Congress is still congenitally incapable of resisting loading down the legislative Christmas tree with toxic shiny ornaments, bling for its paramours and cash contributors. No idea is of such high merit or national need so urgent that the U.S. Congress can not find a way to pass a toxic waste dump of legislation in its name. Remember the U.S.A. Patriot Act? The creation of the Department of Homeland Security? The Wall Street and bank bailouts? Now comes Health Care Reform. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill so toxic that popular left-leaning Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio, voted against it, because it is worse than the status quo.

Says Rep. Kucinich:

We have been led to believe that we must make our health care choices only within the current structure of a predatory, for-profit insurance system which makes money not providing health care. We cannot fault the insurance companies for being what they are…. When health insurance companies deny care or raise premiums, co-pays and deductibles they are simply trying to make a profit. That is our system. Clearly, the insurance companies are the problem, not the solution. But….the government is requiring at least 21 million Americans to buy private health insurance from the very industry that causes costs to be so high, which will result in at least $70 billion in new annual revenue, much of which is coming from taxpayers.

By incurring only a new requirement to cover pre-existing conditions, a weakened public option, and a few other important but limited concessions, the health insurance companies are getting quite a deal. The 'robust public option' which would have offered a modicum of competition to a monopolistic industry was whittled down from an initial potential enrollment of 129 million Americans to 6 million. This health care bill continues the redistribution of wealth to Wall Street at the expense of America's manufacturing and service economies which suffer from costs other countries do not have to bear, especially the cost of health care. America continues to stand out among all industrialized nations for its privatized health care system. As a result, we are less competitive in steel, automotive, aerospace and shipping while other countries subsidize their exports in these areas through socializing the cost of health care.

Dr. Marcia Angell of the Harvard Medical School offered this simple and elegant idea in The Huffington Post:

Drop the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 55. This should be an expansion of traditional Medicare, not a new program. Gradually, over several years, drop the age decade by decade, until everyone is covered by Medicare. Costs: Obviously, this would increase Medicare costs, but it would help decrease costs to the health system as a whole, because Medicare is so much more efficient (overhead of about 3% vs. 20% for private insurance). And it's a better program, because it ensures that everyone has access to a uniform package of benefits.

Is there a white Christmas snowball’s chance in hell Congress might stumble on such a solution? Do we or do we not have the best Congress money can buy?

Copyright 2009 by William C. Cotter

1 comment:

Tina said...

Well written, Bill. Not sure how it will all turn out. As a politician of the past said, "making laws is like making sausage -- you really don't want to know what goes into it."


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