October, 2009

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The Verdict's In

by Thomas G. Vincent

Interested readers are invited to check out Tom's blog "Single Doubt"

The jury is in… and the verdict ain’t pretty.

Barack Obama’s speech to Congress on September 10, 2009 leave’s little doubt of who is truly in charge in Washington D.C. It’s embarrassing as a citizen of the richest and most powerful nation on earth to watch my president bend over and nuzzle his nostrils deep into the corporate butt crack of the health insurance industry. But that is exactly what has occurred. A simple Firefox search of the text of Obama’s speech reveals that he mentioned the word’s “insurance” or “insure” 72 times. The words “public option” showed up 3 times. “Single Payer?” Only once. ( and even that was a derogatory slam against Canada’s system.)

Obama has eaten up the corporate mantra that “health insurance” equals “health care” He has not only taken the bait, he has swallowed the hook, the line, the sinker, and the bobber. Consider the following:

The plan I’m announcing tonight would meet three basic goals:

* It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance.

* It will provide insurance to those who don’t.

* It will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government.

I count only one reference to health “care” in this statement. Even then it is not referenced as a moral goal but as a part of an equation of costs. But even the lone nod towards providing health care for all Americans makes no sense because:

“Under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance – just as most states require you to carry auto insurance.”

Thus under the “Obama plan,” (read insurance company plan), the principle method of providing healthcare coverage for people who currently don’t have any is apparently to simply require that they BUY private insurance. As the average cost of a family health insurance policy in this country now exceeds $13,000.00 a year. This means that with the stroke of a pen, the white House would be making it mandatory that families would be forced to give 13,000 bucks a year to a health insurance industry that already makes tens of billions of dollars in profits every year. If I was an insurance company CEO, I’d be slobbering on my lobster bib at the thought the government will make it law that individuals will have to buy my product.

If you think this is too much of a hardship for you, fear not. Under the Obama plan the government will also be creating “…a new insurance exchange – a marketplace where individuals and small businesses will be able to shop for health insurance at competitive prices.”

And how are they going to ensure competitive prices? The details are conveniently absent from the speech. (They haven’t been written yet) But you can bet that altruistic insurance corporations are just going to be fighting each other to voluntarily offer low cost insurance to a slew of poor folks with previous medical conditions and no jobs. (Snark Intended)

If you still can’t afford the “low cost” insurance, will the government then step in and help? Sure. Under the Obama plan the poor and indigent are going to be offered tax credits! Tax Credits??? Shades of Marie Antoinette. They want health care? Let them have tax credits? Presumably the poor will then be able to take the money they “save” on their taxes and buy private insurance. There’s just one problem. If you have no money, you don’t pay income taxes. So tax credits don’t do you any good.

And finally, in a stunning display of alacrity, the above mentioned “reforms” won’t even take place for four years… so that we can “do it right.” Four years for the insurance companies to continue abusing us like a Catholic choir boys and then the government will make it mandatory that we bend over and take it in the shorts some more.

And in the mean time? What happens to those folks who can’t find insurance today because of a pre-existing condition? The government “… will immediately offer low-cost coverage that will protect you against financial ruin if you become seriously ill.” Low cost coverage? How generous! Say you get into an accident with a drunk driver. Your car’s totaled, your back’s broken, you’ll never walk again. Your health insurance tells you they’re dropping you like a hot rock because of gall stones you didn’t even know you had. You owe $75,000.00 to the hospital. You can’t work. You can’t pay your mortgage The bank repossesses your house and you’re out on the street. And now the government has the gall to offer you tax credits and to offer to sell you “low cost coverage?”

Perhaps the most insulting portion of this speech is not what it covers but what it omits entirely: Medical and drug costs. If I go into a hospital for a major accident or illness, it is not insurance or lack of insurance that will wipe me out. It is the cost of medicine and drugs that will send me into bankruptcy. Merely requiring all of us to buy private insurance will not keep any of us out of the poor house if the drug companies are allowed to rake in unlimited and un-regulated profits. Any mention of “health care reform” (or even health insurance reform) that doesn’t address the cost of medicine and hospital stays is as useless as a three legged stool with only two legs.

Health care in this country is a critical issue. It is critical from a moral, an ethical and an economic standpoint. President Bush gleefully led the elephants of health insurance and big Pharma as they trampled and defecated all over us. Now, with his capitulatory stance on “reform,” it appears Obama is going to do little more than follow behind those same smelly elephants with a sack and a shovel.