October 9th, 2009

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#104 – Dick Bernard: Health Care Reform. Lurching to a finish line.

Friday, October 9th, 2009

UPDATE OCTOBER 13, 2009:  It is my understanding that yesterday the insurance industry rolled out its really big guns and demanded that Health Care Reform legislation require everyone to buy insurance (thus further enriching the insurance companies which are a big part of the problem to begin with.  This shameless move is presumably motivated by a need – expressed by Wall Street – for even more profits at public (our) expense.  The “rest of the story”, revealed by the authors of the “research”, was that the industry left out crucial information in its release to Congress and the public that refuted its propaganda….

Original, October 9, 2009: At some point, probably sooner than later, the issue of Health Care Reform will finally come to a final vote in the U.S. House and Senate, and the resulting legislation sent to the President for his signature or veto.  All that remains is the exact wording after endless information (and an immense amount of misinformation) dispensed over the last many months.

The legislation we will see will be a significant improvement over what currently exists, but will fall far short of where we should be.  The new bill will probably protect the interests of those who don’t really have our interests at heart, specifically the insurance and for profit-medical sectors, but that will be the best that can be done, for now.

The ultimate goal of the minority political party, I have become convinced, is to pass as bad (for we citizens) a bill as possible so that the majority political party can be blamed for the results, and the President forced to either sign that bill or veto it, and then, however he decides, he and the majority party will be blamed for the less-than-perfect results in the 2010 elections.

Perversely, the ultimate legislative objective for some is failure for “we, the people”: failure which can then be politically exploited.  Intentionally defective public policy makes for great politics…and it’s very good for big business.

Unfortunately, “we, the people”, will get what many of us lobbied for (and against), when we railed against true reform because it was “socialism”**, or worried that it would benefit “illegals”, or would assure abortions*** paid on demand, and on and on and on – based on endless pieces of misinformation (lies) passed on to us from those whose motivation was considerably less than pure.

We will get what we deserve.  One can hope we’ll learn from our mistake, but that is not terribly likely.  “We the people” would rather exclude certain others, than include all.

I have followed this health care reform “debate” very carefully for many months now, and written about it frequently in this blog (beginning with July 24, 2009).  My personal story, from 1963-65, is at #mce_temp_url# (see #1).

Perhaps the best summary comment I’ve seen on the reality of the need for universal health insurance was published in the New York Times on October 4, in Roger Cohen’s column “The Public Imperative”.

In his column, Cohen said this: “I’m grateful to the wise Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic for pointing out that Friedrich Hayek, whose suspicion of the state was visceral, had this to say in [his book] “The Road to Serfdom”.

“Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance – where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks – the case for the states helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong.”

Hayek accepted and endorsed the notion of nationalized health care….

Andrew Sullivan is not a “liberal”.  Friedrich Hayek* most certainly wasn’t.  Hayek is almost a deity among conservative libertarians.

I read the 50th anniversary edition of “Road to Serfdom” six years ago.  Conservative economist (and apparent Hayek disciple) Milton Friedman wrote the introduction to the book.  I had been steered to Hayek’s book by an avowed neo-con friend, got it, and read the volume cover to cover.  As I told my friend, later, Hayek said many things I, as a liberal, could generally agree with.  I high-lited 52 specific sections of Hayek’s reasoning that intrigued me, an anti-war liberal.    (One of the 52 was the above quotation.)  The conversation with my neo-con friend ended….

So, now we’re at the brink of passing as defective a Health Care Reform bill as possible so that it can be used as an election issue in the coming year.  That is how public policy has come to be debated in this country.  As I say,we deserve what we get.

As for me, there’s plenty of reasons why I could say it’s a waste of my time to care much about this issue:  personally, we have excellent health and pharmaceutical insurance (at least at the moment), for ten years we’ve had the best long-term care insurance available (so we’re told), we have the correct cards (Medicare and Medicare supplement) so that we’re not turned away at the door of a clinic or a hospital.  And free flu shots….

On that latter point, I got my flu shot last week.  There was, indeed, no charge.

But how about that illegal who is capable of receiving and communicating that disease which we are all fearing this season?  What about him or her?  In our infinite wisdom, some of us don’t want that illegal to get that flu shot, or even try, or take the precautions necessary to stay well.  “Send them back where they came from” comes the chorus.  But not even that will protect us in this global society of ours.  By choosing who qualifies for health, we’re putting ourselves at risk.

Wherever you are in this debate, think this issue through, and do something constructive.  The key word is constructive.  Refuse to accept the lies about death panels, or getting rid of or damaging Medicare (which is a “socialist” program, by the way), or that reform will trigger a wholesale rush to abortions #mce_temp_url#, or on and on and on….  Health Care Reform is about the future of our society.

Everybody should be covered, automatically, no questions asked.

* * * * *

* Friedrich Hayek, an Austrian who spent most of his adult life in England, wrote “Road to Serfdom” in 1944, during, but nearing the the end of, WWII.  He seems to have been railing primarily against the evils of National Socialism (Nazis) and to a lesser degree Communists, so it is of little surprise to me that currently an attempt is made to tar people like me, as well as Democrats and President Obama, as Nazis, Communists, fascists, allies of Hitler and Stalin, and to tar the concept of “socialism” with the same broad brush….

Ironically, contemporary American Capitalism, in which big business dominates government policy (the Military-Industrial (and Congressional) complex that President Eisenhower so feared as he left office in January 1961 #mce_temp_url#, see section IV ) seems about as close to a parallel of WWII era German and Soviet Union government-business-industry alliance as we have ever seen in this country.  Contemporary American Capitalism is an excellent parallel for the radical socialism Hayek feared.  Capitalism essentially has taken over American socialism and replaced the public good with the primary value of profit.

Here’s what the 50th anniversary edition of “The Road to Serfdom” says about the author:  “F. A. Hayek (1899-1992), recipient of the Medal of Freedom in 1991 and co-winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1974, was a pioneer in monetary theory and the principal proponent of libertarianism in the twentieth century.  He taught at the University of London, the University of Chicago, and the University of Freiburg (Germany).

* *Some of the many kinds of “socialism” we Americans not only accept, but demand:

Social Security

Medicare/Medicaid

State Children’s health Insurance programs

Police, Fire, and Emergency Services

U.S. Postal Service

Roads and Highways

Regulation of Air Travel by FAA

U.S. Railway System

Public subways and metro systems

Public Bus and Lightrail Systems

Rest areas along major highways

Sidewalks

All Government-funded local/state projects

Public Water and Sewer Services

Public and State Universities and Colleges

Public Primary and Secondary Schools

Sesame Street

Publicly Funded anti-Drug Use Education for Children

Public Museums

Libraries

Public parks and Beaches

State and National Parks

Public Zoos

Unemployment Insurance

Municpal Garbage and Recycling Services

Treatment at any Hospital of Clinic that has ever received government funds (virtually all of them)

Medical Service and Medications created or derived from any government grant or research funding (pretty much all of them).

Innovations resulting from government programs like National Aeronautics and Space Administration

The publicly accessible internet.

Any program relating to foodstuffs, meats, produce and Crops: including regulation, research, product safety and the like.

Government buildings like the U.S. Capitol, Smithsonian, that are open to the public

Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson Memorials; Arlington and military cemeteries.

The Grand Canyon and National Parks

All government funds for any military purpose, including all expenditures for war (Defense budget is a huge share – probably over half – of the federal budget)

Without “socialist” programs the U.S. as we know it would collapse.  Public health insurance for all is no more “socialist” than public education or Medicare.

*** – Some personal reflections on abortion.  #mce_temp_url#