Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The howling has started (health care reform)

Hear that howling sound in the distance?

It's the sound of entrenched interests realizing we may actually see some healthcare reforms come down the pike. The usual suspects: the Republicans and their friends in the immense healthcare insurance industry are making most of the noise.

The noise is still faint and distant but it will get louder, much louder, as the debate warms up. Cries of Socialism, fraud, rationing of care and third hand horror stories about places where universal healthcare is the norm will abound. Bogus grassroots organizations, bank-rolled by huge corporations will miraculously spring up. Tons of postage will be spent sending out handsome glossy color mailings.

Of course the Libertarians are squawking since they don't want to pay for anything, even though when push comes to shove none of them ever seems to turn down any of the government's supposed largess.

You'll hear things like:

Government healthcare will create a huge bloated bureaucracy

Fact: in 2006, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had a $573 Billion budget. In addition to Medicare and Medicaid, HHS handled numerous other federal programs, all of which were handled by 67,000 employees. The latest available Economic Census (2002) showed the Healthcare Insurance industry had income of $356 Billion, and over 450,000 employees. Now which looks more bloated to you? Private industry had almost 8 times as many personnel to support a third less budget. Add to that the fact that payroll in private healthcare consumed almost $23 billion. That bloat is overhead that doesn't pay the doctor bills.

State run healthcare in other countries is a failure

You'll be seeing endless emails forwarded about the horrors of "Socialized Medicine" in Canada or the UK, with links to stuff like this article about Katie Brickell, the woman dying of cervical cancer because Britain's National Health Service supposedly "rationed" care. What they leave out is the facts. My son's experience as International student in Canada has been nothing but positive. He's had need of medical services several times and never experienced long waits--and he's a US citizen. I, on the other hand, have had insanely long waits trying to get in to see a new doctor here in the US. Two months is not uncommon. Next time you see one of these horror stories forwarded a couple hundred times, try and get some facts that can be verified. Snopes is a good place to start.

Healthcare will be rationed

Uh, no. Some things may not be paid for, which doesn't prevent you from paying for them yourself. That's not rationing. Your private health insurer is doing this to you right now. Or hadn't you noticed?

I won't be able to choose my own doctor

Medicare Part B, which is an existing government-run health insurance program, has doctor participation between 77% - 96%, depending on where you live. Your private health insurer probably offers you less "in-network" doctors right now. Or hadn't you noticed?

This is socialized medicine!

...and your point is?

One anti-reform campaign we are already seeing is that of "Conservatives for Patients' Rights," (CPR) the brainchild of Rick Scott, the multimillionaire former CEO of the Columbia/HCA healthcare company. Scott, a lawyer with no formal medical training, was forced out of his position as a result of an FBI fraud investigation that to a record $1.7 billion fine and guilty plea against Columbia/HCA for Medicare fraud (thanks as always to Sourcewatch.org).

CPR has engaged the services of CRC Public Relations, who masterminded the infamous "Swiftboat" attacks against John Kerry during the 2004 election against George W. Bush. They are now engaged in a fear-mongering campaign against the notion of healthcare reform.

"I believe that free-market principles will solve our health-care problems," says Scott.

Oh really? Like it has so far?

The man needs to get back on his medication.

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