Three great forces rule the world: stupidity, fear and greed ... Albert Einstein
22 September, 2007
Congress returned from its summer recess at the start of the month greeted by a disturbing survey released from the AARP at the end of August which cites financial security and healthcare as the leading concerns in five key states where four million of its members reside. A resolution to the Iraq war was also considered pertinent but as September unfolded all the fools on the Hill could manage to do is float a disingenuous compromise proposal about the conflict while giving only lip service to the other worries voters have told them they want settled.
The wavering by political representatives of both national parties over how to address the military quagmire doesn't bode well for the citizens they purportedly represent and talk of a centrist solution is an ominous precursor of what to anticipate from them in the months ahead leading to the 2008 elections. Expect more partisan bickering, finger-pointing, pseudo patriotic appeals to the electorate and wasteful disbursement of our Treasury dollars with no significant monetary return to working America.
Covering the circus will be the national propagandists, formerly known the Fourth Estate but whose role in recent years has been to trivialize information vital to our nation's survival. In a remake of their function they've transformed themselves through deregulation into earnings driven entities reporting only news which turns a profit. In the upcoming campaign season the media will play both political establishments against one another in expectation they'll receive an enormous influx of advertising revenue spent by advocates promoting their brand of zealotry.
This allows the industry to disengage from its original purpose of critically analyzing public disputes while adopting a euphemistic corporate friendly mode just as they've done since 1998.
Although economic self-preservation is often cited by the commercial press as the reason for their shift to a compliant design its evolution has meant underrating accurate information the electorate needs to sustain our democracy. In a malleable atmosphere such as this politicians have no incentive to address the most compelling emergencies of our time such as Iraq, mortgage anxiety or the unconscionable negative impact for-profit medicine has had on our daily lives.
All of these unstable situations are inter-related and one can't be solved without finding a satisfactory solution to the other. Following the present course of industry driven dicates, particularly on health care will be far more debilitating to our nation than an external threat of terrorism because it tells Americans its leaders are no longer interested in protecting their welfare. The message it conveys is we've elected corrupt cronies who primarily serve business interests without regard to the untold number of humans in this country pleading daily for a government guaranteed system of comprehensive medical services equitable to their necessities.
While you're initial reaction to the previous statement might be I'm about to read another anti-war, liberal, socialist denouncement of Bush-style capitalism if I continue further, stay with me as I present the case for single payer universal healthcare. Besides, the commercial media would never allow the public to be exposed to the type of rationale I'm about to pose. They're too busy conditioning people to think Hillary is their savior, limiting forum discourse to one minute soundbites and lining up advertisers for the campaign season. That's what the "new age" communication specialists do best.
Going beyond their generalized reporting skills though, people quickly begin to realize how inadequate coverage of the healthcare crisis has been and why the clamoring for a government run system has grown proportionately. It's one thing to report statistics on the number of uninsured and that every candidate has a plan to solve the problem but almost criminal to end the dialogue there without assuring people their demands will be meet through an explicit vision of how it's to be accomplished.
To move past this impasse, I've chosen to acquaint you with the views of Dr. Quentin D. Young M.D., a distinguished leader in public health policy and social justice issues. During his career Dr. Young "has served as a practicing internist in Hyde Park, a Clinical Professor of preventive Medicine at the University of Illinois Medical Center and Senior Attending Physician at Michael Reese Hospital," according to his public profile.
Among his other accomplishments, Dr. Young has served as President of the American Public Health Association, was founder and Chairman of the Chicago based Health & Medicine Policy Research Group a non-profit organization created to advocate for the health care needs of the poor and underserved, National Coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), a Chicago based organization of over 9,000 physicians who support single payer national health insurance, Chairman of the American College of Physicians' Subcommittee on Human Rights and Medical Practice and a member of the Humana-Michael Reese Medical Board as well as the American College of Physicians Health Public Policy Committee.
In a 2004 interview with PRAGmatics, a quarterly journal of research and commentary on social issues based in Chicago Young asserted the tragedy of today's healthcare market instability is people have been misled by private insurance companies to believe its a commodity rather than a right.
"The most evil elements in the health system are the Hospital Insurance Association and the Group Health Association," he stated. "These are the holding companies for the big corporate interests that are taking over. They really don’t care whether it's universal health care as long as they control it and get the money. We’ve had too much of a transfer of power from patients and physicians to giant corporate interests dedicated to the goal of maximizing profits, which accounts for much of the distress in the American health system."
Young further maintains the onset of profit driven medicine has failed American society because the emphasis shift actually sacrifices the quality of patient care for business inefficiency.
"People forget 20 years ago there was no such thing as a for-profit hospital," Young postures. Community needs were provided by a system of "secular or religious entities" who provided
"around the clock emergency services, obstetrical services, specialized services for kids with mental illness or venereal disease. That has been put on the back burner during the growth of for-profit hospitals. One of the most serious consequences has been a significant and dangerous decline of nurses. They are the caring in the health care system, not just a luxury item."
Aside from this harmful effect, Dr. Young cites three other crucial health requirements the current system fails to provide which he believes can only be remedied by a government backed single payer blueprint for everyone.
"One is the absence of a generous, comprehensive drug benefit" which uses "more generic drugs" but requires doctors to not prescribe "unnecessary" medication. "I want to negotiate the lowest price" so the "multi-billion dollar trading and profiting of companies from federal tax revenue-supported research" ends. The savings "could be spent on drugs for far more beneficial purposes" but "it will take patient education" and "peer review."
"The second is mental health." There's an unrealistic "limitation on services" with practically "every contract you have" not to mention "exclusions."
"Possibly the most serious" issue "is the failure to plan for long term care." We're faced with
"a time-line in terms of the seniority of the baby boomers and there’s a major central issue in terms of the nature of our society. Are we going to stockpile all of our old disabled people in institutions at great cost or are we going to find ways to have community and family surround them and make life more decent and foster communitarian reality ?"
For these reasons,Young concludes a universal single payer method should be the foremost priority of our elected leaders and commercial media. He proposes paying for it by eliminating the exhorbitant, wasteful administrative costs of the existing system through strict government oversight. The doctor contends these fees squander "15 to 30 percent" in expenditures annually and just a "one percent" reduction represents "$17 Billion" in "savings." Multiply this figure by 30 and the $510 billion generated makes a federally controlled solution appear to be the most humane way to overcome the ineffectiveness of the free market approach the nation uses now.
The growing perplexity of America's deficient healthcare system cannot be resolved through compromises such as the proposal put forth by Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton last week. Like the man she hopes to replace, her solution is to introduce reform measures incrementally over an indefinite period of time using poor children as bait to win election votes. As with Bush's war strategy, there's no binding assurance anything will change under her leadership other than to stay wedded to the failed insurance industry prescription we have now.
President Bush stated in his surge address to the nation it was necessary to continue in Iraq because their citizens want the same kind of lifestyle enjoyed by Americans. Was he referring to the upper one percent of our country's socio-economic ladder who can afford to pay for health coverage out of their pockets or the middle-class and poor who are seeing it disappear from their lives ? As this benefit vanishes and the credit market collapses spending on a single payer Medicare health plan for all Americans by the government should become the economic stimulus to keep financial markets afloat instead of more money for an endless war the people don't want. It remains to be seen which choice our politicians will make, who their loyalties are to and whether they have the courage to protect the medical welfare of our citizens.