Opponents of Health Reform: Stupid, Greedy or Just Gullible?

The right is very stupid, or very greedy, or very gullible on the issue of health care.


Clearly, for executives of insurance companies, greed is the predominant factor. Small-business owners (and many large ones) who oppose universal health care with a public option are simply stupid, since our current system of providing health insurance for workers through the private sector costs them far more than their competitors in other countries, and put us at a competitive disadvatage.

And the ordinary Joe and Jane the Plumber who rail against socialism and death panels and so forth and so on simply are extremely gullible. Otherwise, they would know that one of the the leading causes of individual bankruptcies are the massive expenses of a family medical crisis, and many of those people had insurance.

We are told the United States the best health care system in the world. Yet we spend 20 percent or more on administrative costs, when most other developed countries spend less than half that. (Heck, in Taiwan they have a single-payer system in which the administrative costs are 2 percent; and those so-called inept Canadians with their "socialist" system spend 6 percent.)

We don't have universal coverage. We often have long waits to see specialists, when people in other countries often can see a specialist within the same day. The scare tactic that health care is "rationed" in many other developed countries with universal health care coverage is simply a myth:

In France and Japan ... patients can go to any doctor, any hospital, any traditional healer. There are no U.S.-style limits such as "in-network" lists of doctors or "pre-authorization" for surgery. You pick any doctor, you get treatment -- and insurance has to pay.

The truth is that if there is any rationing going on, it's already happening here in America. And it is the insurance-company bureaucrats who are making the decisions to deny coverage to protect their companies' profits:

When an insurance company denies coverage because of a pre-existing condition, it is rationing health care. When it "rescinds" coverage -- telling a client with a serious, expensive medical issue that it is canceling his or her policy -- it is rationing health care. When an insurance company refuses to pay for a particular procedure or medicine, it is rationing health care. When uninsured people are turned away from hospitals and doctors' offices, health care is being rationed. (And if anybody thinks that doesn't happen, remember those long lines in Los Angeles when doctors offered free care to the uninsured. That was a lot of suppressed demand for health care that people could not acquire through other means.)

Our health insurance premiums outpace the cost of inflation and wage growth and are expected to double by 2020. And that's with companies that do their darnedest to not cover major medical conditions by excluding people with pre-existing conditions (a somewhat broadly defined term) or the ugly process of rescission, and where small businesses often see dramatic rises in their insurance costs from year to year.

And not just by insurance companies, but by states too cheap to fully fund their Medicaid mandates, thus condemning many people to death if the procedure they need is not covered:

The truth is, health care is already rationed in the States -- by individuals struggling to afford even basic cover, by companies negotiating (or refusing) benefits, by government agencies trying to balance budgets. For many years, I lived in a state where the legislature ranked and rated, by price, procedures people on aid could receive and refused to cover anything deemed too expensive.
Even if, as the papers frequently reported, it meant letting adorable little children die. But since it is America, you can shop around. Just across the border in a different state, the legislature decreed that pre-existing conditions could not be excluded or made the subject of increased charges under insurance plans, leading me and many others to migrate a few miles to get a better deal.

And did you know that 1 in 4 families in America affected by a family member's cancer condition are delayed needed treatment due to cost barriers? Or that in the last year one-third of cancer patients in being treated in America cut pills or skipped doses of their medications? That one-quarter delayed a recommended cancer screening, and one-fifth did not fill a prescription? The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network does.

I wonder why more Americans don't know these facts. Why doesn't our wonderful liberal media report the truth about how lousy our health care is compared to the rest of the developed world? Why do they give more media attention to people spreading known lies about health care reform proposals than they do to informing us of the massive media effort of health insurance companies to make sure those lies get spread?

Those are all rhetorical questions by the way.

And what is the conservative solution to our health care mess? Cutting more taxes and eliminating regulations on insurance companies and getting rid of the parts of our system that are already "socialized" (such as the VA system and Medicare for people over 65).

How many people outside of the folks who religiously watch FOX News sincerely believe that is the way to go? And they call progressive demands for a public option to increase competition in the health care field and keep the insurance companies honest "socialism"? I call their solution a prescription for mass murder by spreadsheet (to steal a phrase from nyceve).

The wealthy would continue to get the care they need. The rest of us would pay for health care that was literally a con, because as soon as we really needed it, the "fine print" in our unregulated insurance policies (assuming we had a policy) would find an exclusion that would allow our insurer to (sadly, of course) deny us the life-saving medical treatment for which we and our loved ones thought we had paid.

But what about all the stifling of innovation that "socialized medicine" (i.e., universal health care coverage) would cause? Isn't America better off with our system because it rewards medical innovation, despite the fact that not everyone can take advantage of these innovations?

Isn't our incredibly expensive and inefficient private system necessary in order to promote life-saving technologies that other countries simply cannot match? Well, not exactly:

The United States is home to groundbreaking medical research, but so are other countries with much lower cost structures. Any American who has had a hip or knee replacement is standing on French innovation. Deep-brain stimulation to treat depression is a Canadian breakthrough. Many of the wonder drugs promoted endlessly on American television, including Viagra, come from British, Swiss or Japanese labs.

The real question is why anyone still buys this propaganda about "socialized medicine" and "death panels" and "rationing" when we already have the worst, most-expensive health care system in the developed world. Maybe P.T. Barnum was right: There really is a sucker born every minute, and most of them seem to come out of the womb chanting:

USA! USA! USA!

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close
alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.