Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

All healthcare is already "government run"

There is perhaps nothing more certain in the world of American politics (or even the whole world, for that matter) than the predictability of Republican talking points.

Anyone who has taken the trouble to dig into and understand the conservative ideology that the modern Republican Party is anchored to can appreciate the extroadinarily ability that ideology's followers have to paint a truly distorted, warped picture of reality... on practically any issue or topic.

In the case of healthcare reform, Republicans have whipped out the bullhorns and gotten busy trying to scare Americans into believing that progressive proposals to put people first by overhauling our healthcare system will actually make things worse. "Government run healthcare will ruin everything," Republicans charge, raising the specter of "government bureaucrats" making decisions about what kind of care Americans would get under a public plan.

Their dishonesty, ironically, is brought to us (bought and paid for in the form of campaign contributions) by the very people who are currently at the helm of our current government-run healthcare system. That's right, government run. As in private government: big insurance companies, big pharmaceutical companies, big HMOs (health maintenance organizations).

These corporations are the cold, uncaring powers-that-be that currently control nearly every aspect of our healthcare system. The reason they're cold and uncaring is simple: they are not accountable to patients nor doctors. They exist to make money for a small number of people - their investors.

Make no mistake, they are are analogous to governments. They are not, in any sense, persons. That the law treats them as such is the result of a serious misinterpretation of the Constitution by our Supreme Court.

The truth is, corporations are governments... bad ones. Undemocratic ones. The kind that make decisions by fiat. The kind that feature bloated bureaucracy, are completely impersonal and unresponsive at times, and incredibly wasteful.

Their modus operandi was brilliantly parodied in the hit Pixar movie The Incredibles, released in 2004. Remember InsuraCare? There are two great scenes in that film, set in InsuraCare's offices, between the protagonist, Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible, and the CEO of the company, Mr. Huph. The scenes beautifully tell the story of the car wreck that is our current healthcare system. The first:
MRS. HOGENSEN: [A customer] Denied? You're denying my claim? I don't understand. I have full coverage.

BOB PARR: I'm sorry, Mrs. Hogensen, but our liability is spelled out in Paragraph 17. It states clearly...

MRS. HOGENSEN: [stammering] I can't pay for this!


BOB PARR: Excuse me. Where were we?

MRS. HOGENSEN: [Sobbing] I'm on a fixed income, and if you can't help me, I don't know what I'll do! [Blows nose loudly]

BOB PARR: [Stands up and suspiciously peers outside of his cubicle] All right, listen closely. I'd like to help you, but I can't. [Hands notepad to Mrs. Hogensen]. I'd like to tell you to take a copy of your policy to Norma Wilcox on... Norma Wilcox, W-I-L-C-O-X. On the third floor. But I can't. I also do not advise you to fill out and file a WS2475 form with our legal department on the second floor. I would not expect someone to get back to you quickly to resolve the matter. I'd like to help, but there's nothing I can do. [Stands up]

MRS. HOGENSEN: Oh, thank you, young man.

BOB PARR: Shhh! [Shouts] I'm sorry, ma'am. I know you're upset! [Whispers] Pretend to be upset.

MRS. HOGENSEN: [Sobbing, departs]

[The CEO, Mr. Huph, walks in to Parr's cubicle with an ugly look on his face]

MR. HUPH: PARR! You authorized payment on the Walker policy!?

BOB PARR: Someone broke into their house, Mr. Huph. Their policy clearly covers...

MR. HUPH: I don't wanna know about their coverage, Bob. Don't tell me about their coverage. Tell me how you're keeping InsuraCare in the black. Tell me how that's possible with you writing checks to every Harry Hardluck and Sally Sobstory that gives you a phone call! [Departs in a huff].

PA SYSTEM (Background) Morning break is over, morning break is over.
And the second scene:
VOICE ON PHONE: [to Bob Parr] Request claim on claim numbers 158183...

[Another call cuts in, it's the CEO's Secretary]

MR. HUPH (Background): Haven't you got him yet!? Where is he!?

SECRETARY: Mr. Huph would like to talk to you in his office.

BOB PARR: [Sighs] Now?


[In Huph's office, moments later]

MR. HUPH: Sit down, Bob. I'm not happy Bob. Not happy. Ask me why.

BOB PARR: [Dejected] Okay, why?

MR. HUPH: Why what? Be specific, Bob.

BOB PARR: Why are you unhappy?

MR. HUPH: Your customers make me unhappy.

BOB PARR: What, you've gotten complaints?

MR. HUPH: Complaints I can handle. What I can't handle is your customers' inexplicable knowledge of InsuraCare's inner workings. They're experts, Bob! Experts! Exploiting every loophole, dodging every obstacle! They're penetrating the bureaucracy!

BOB PARR: Did I do something illegal?

MR. HUPH: [Angrily] No!

BOB PARR: Are you saying we shouldn't help our customers?

MR. HUPH: The law requires that I answer no!

BOB PARR: We're supposed to help people.

MR. HUPH: [Yelling] We're supposed to help OUR PEOPLE! Starting with our stockholders, Bob. Who's helping them out, huh?
Those two scenes summarize pretty much everything that's wrong with American healthcare today. Profit is prioritized over people. Making money is more important than providing care. Lives are needlessly being lost, yes, lost because of the stupid, arcane, greed-driven system we've got now.

All run by massive corporations private governments that are totally unaccountable to patients, their families, and their doctors.

The government of the United States of America, in contrast, is a public government, of, by, and for the people of this great nation. It is a government that we have control over and a voice in. It exists to do what we ourselves cannot do in our seperate and individual capacities, as Abraham Lincoln once said.

This country was founded upon life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those noble words are found in the Declaration of Independence, and they are the principles that the best of America has always represented.

Life is not possible without access to quality healthcare. Neither is liberty, since the freedom to do virtually anything disappears when an American is unable to work or support their family due to a crippling illness.

Pursuit of happiness? Yeah, forget that one too.

The well being of our people depends on access to quality healthcare. It is vital. That is why healthcare must - must! - be a right and not merely a privilege for a wealthy few. The system we have today is unfair, un-American, and undemocratic. Ultimately, it needs to be abolished.

The President and progressive Democrats in Congress have called for the creation of a public plan that would cover millions of Americans who do not have health insurance a lifeline. The public plan will not not forcibly eliminate the private governments that have, literally, a death grip on healthcare today. Its creation will simply release their chokehold on all of us.

And it is a chokehold. The White House estimates that in our state alone:
  • Roughly 4 million people in Washington get health insurance on the job, where family premiums average $13,216, about the annual earning of a full-time minimum wage job.
  • Since 2000 alone, average family premiums have increased by one hundred and three percent in Washington.
  • Household budgets are strained by high costs: sxiteen percent of middle-income Washington families spend more than ten percent of their income on health care.
  • High costs block access to care: twelve percent of people in Washington report not visiting a doctor due to high costs.
  • Washington businesses and families shoulder a hidden health tax of roughly $1,300 per year on premiums as a direct result of subsidizing the costs of the uninsured.
Along with the creation of a public plan, the President has proposed a set of new regulations that will attempt to keep insurance companies honest, with the public plan itself providing the ultimate check and balance. Those Americans who like the health coverage they get today from private governments won't have to do anything. The President has explicitly promised their coverage won't change.

The next time you hear a Republican babbling out the evils of "government-run healthcare" just remember this: All healthcare is already government run. We can either choose to entrust our lives to a bunch of wealthy executives clad in suits, a la Mr. Huph, or we can take matters into our own hands and create a public plan that leverages our common wealth to provide opportunity to Americans who have been locked out and left behind. Please, let your representative and Senators know: We can't wait any longer for a public plan. Inaction is killing us... literally.


Blogger Les Carpenter III said...

Your description of the conservative movement and it's predictabilty is right on the mark, if you are describing the liberal, progressive, socialist/Marxist circles you obviously run in.

If you knew the mind of a "true conservative", not your garden variety far right kooks in the Republican party you may have a different take on the real conservatism in American. But obviously you don't have the time for that. You would rather lump all conservative's into your neat, and incorrect assessment of what a conservative is and be done with it.

As an independent true conservative, with no party affiliation, I will say your comments apply to some who call themselves conservatives. They also apply to many who call themselves progressive. As a conservatyive I respect your right to your viewpoints, I will defend your right to hold them, and I will listen to your comments no matter how foolish I make think they are.

I admire activists in the progressive movement that believe they are right and wish to change our country for the better. I also admire the conservative activists that believes they are right and wish to change the country for the better. Both ave a right, indeed an obligation to do so.

What I do not respect about many in the progressive movement is their feeling that they KNOW WHAT IS BEST AND RIGHT FOR EVERYONE. This is simply not true as no one knows better than the individual what is right and in their best interest. That needs a qualifier, it assumes they are rational and have the ability to use logic and employ reason.

The difference between you and a "true conservative" like myself rests in the vision we each have in the proper role of government, the market, and the judiciary. We can agree we are miles apart but we should not stop discussing all the alternatives to resolving mutual problems. And perhaps a bit more civility and fewer personal attacks might help as well.

I was once a liberal, saw the error of my way's and for the past 30 years have been a proud and true conservative. I hold my head high as do millions of other conservatives in America. We know in our rational minds that you're movement will never, can never beat us. We shall prevail in the arena of words and in the use of logic, and reason. What you and your movement fail to realize is this; America is basically always been and continues to be conservative at it core. When you progressive stretch the rubber band far enough, till it almost breaks, you will face the wrath of the True American Patriots.

Good Luck to You,

Les Carpenter III
Rational Nation USA

August 6, 2009 5:02 AM  

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