Is It So Wrong For –Everyone– To Have Health Care?

  The Republicans are trying their damnest to derail what they call “Obamacare” by having the Supreme Court declare certain portions unconstitutional.  It looks like troglodyte Scalia and c. are leaning toward doing just that.  Why not?  They get the finest healthcare in the land.

In the meantime, 50 million Americans have exactly zero health care insurance (that’s 1 in 6).[1]  Physician  Dr. George Lundberg said it best:  “The for-profit American health insurance industry — and many of those not-for-profit lookalikes — is a poster child for the triumph of poorly-regulated and misplaced capitalism in a historically fundamental service profession.”[2]

As a breast cancer survivor, I had approximately eight doctors at the same time.  Every single one of them despised the insurance system.  Here’s a typically insane example:  I needed a year’s worth of infusions of a life-saving drug called Herceptin.  HOWEVER, my insurance would not approve this treatment until it was proved that my white cell count was low.  I was going through chemo, and every single chemo patient’s white cell count drops, no exceptions.  Just a little ploy to put added stress on me.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act broached by Obama has already had a powerful effect.  Allowing young people up to 26 to stay on their parents’ plans has added 2.5 million to the ranks of the insured (at no cost to taxpayers). [3]  The Plan also provides that by 2014, insurers can’t deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.   This is unequivocally A GOOD THING.  If I happen to get cancer again (I’ve already had it twice) and I happen to get laid off (as I was when Washington Mutual melted in its pyroclastic flow), then I don’t have to die in a gutter, whimpering about “The Greatest Country On Earth.”

While documentarian and activist Michael Moore was making Sicko, his expose’ of the healthcare game, he discovered some interesting facts:[4]

  1. There are four times as many health care lobbyists as there are members of Congress.

  2. Canadians live three years longer than we do.

  3. In a study of older Americans and Brits, the Brits had less of almost every major disease. Even the poorest Brit can expect to live longer than the richest American.

  4. A baby born in El Salvador has a better chance of surviving than a baby born in Detroit.

  5. 18,000 Americans will die this year simply because they’re uninsured.

  6. The United States is ranked #37 as a health system by the World Health Organization.

It’s a picture of cheer, isn’t it?  Let’s look at some of the most egregious “denials of service” which have taken place recently:

  1. When 17-year-old college student Jerome Mitchell tested positive for HIV in 2002, his health insurance company retroactively annulled his coverage.  Happily, he was ultimately awarded $10 million.
  2. In 2002, a woman was denied coverage since rape was considered “a pre-existing condition.”  Interesting logic.
  3. In 2009, domestic violence qualified as a pre-existing condition in eight states and the District of Columbia.
  4. In 2008, shortly before Robin Beaton was scheduled to undergo a double mastectomy, her insurance company revoked her policy. Beaton, a breast cancer patient, never disclosed that she’d previously seen a dermatologist for acne, a condition her insurer, Blue Cross, said qualified as a pre-existing condition.   And acne is related to breast cancer because. . .?
  5. In 2007, CIGNA refused to pay for the liver transplant 17-year-old Nataline Sarkisyan because it was “too experimental.”   Due to public pressure, CIGNA reversed its decision but – oops!—too late:  Nataline died the same day.[5]

The state of Arizona and its fascist Governor Brewer has caused the death of two transplant candidates by cutting funds to their Medicaid organ transplant program. [6]  So if you’re an immigrant and need a transplant, please crawl  over the border and die!

On the other side of this issue lies the obscene salaries/benefits of America’s healthcare insurance execs.  Amazingly, THREE OF THEM make the Forbes 2012 List of Top 10 Highest Paid CEOs:

1.       Stephen Hemsley of UnitedHealth Group, whose one-year compensation totaled $48.8 million.

2.       Omicare’s CEO, with $98.3 million

3.       The Grand Daddy of them all, John Hammergren of McKesson Corp, who pulled in $145.3 million for compensation, according to the LA Times.

So can we assume that this business is profitable?  You bet your backless hospital gown it is!   “In the midst of a deep economic recession, America’s health insurance companies increased their profits by 56 percent in 2009, a year that saw 2.7 million people lose their private coverage.”[7]  To celebrate, Blue Cross of CA decided to raise its annual premiums by 39%.[8]  Those guys!

But perhaps the most insidious and distasteful aspect of this whole industry was revealed by the testimony of Linda Peeno before Congress.  Peeno, who had been a high-level Humana and Blue Cross/Shield case worker, confirmed that agents were given BONUSES for denying customers healthcare. Here are her powerful words:  “I contend that ‘managed care,’ as we currently know it, is inherently unethical in its organization and operation. Furthermore, I maintain that we have an industry which can exist only through flagrant ethical violations against individuals and the public.”[9]

So as the GOP tries its best to deny health insurance to as many people as possible; while families are shattered, emotionally and financially, by illnesses they cannot afford to treat; while fat cat for-profit execs luxuriate in the highest salaries in the nation,; our present system, corrupt to the core, continues to grind on.  Would it really be so terrible if every American had affordable health insurance, so we wouldn’t have to cringe in terror every time we were laid off?   Or is this considered as “Socialist” as Emma Goldman hurling a bomb?  Grow up, conservatives.  Let’s not fuck with people’s lives.  Let Capitalism out the back door so that benefits are available for all.

=====

Advertisements

Laissez Faire Capitalism: Except When It’s Not

Tom Tomorrow

In this heated season of GOP primaries, we hear, ad nauseum, about the virtues of “small government”, Adam Smith’s “invisible hand of the market”, and the almost holy power of “laissez faire economics”, which, in French, basically means “get the hell out.”  As in:  corporations are entirely capable of being self-regulating, both financially and ethically, and they don’t need no stinkin’ Feds looking over their shoulders.  For more elucidation on this sweet Fairy Tale, please see anything written by Ayn Rand.

What have been the results of deregulation in the past?  Let’s start with a familiar name – Leland Stanford – an infamous member of the Big Four (aka, “The Octopus”) which held a stranglehold on the nation’s transportation with their unabashed monopoly, The Southern Pacific Railroad.  It certainly gave Mr. Stanford enough money to endow a nice university in his name. And to earn the sobriquet “Robber Baron.”

Now onto the airlines.  You could say that prior to deregulation in 1978, fares were kept artificially high and the Friendly Skies loved it.  But what has happened since?  Nine major carriers have declared bankruptcy or are no more (including United, Delta, Braniff, American, Pan Am, Continental, and TWA).  The level of service has sunk beneath appalling – no food, baggage fees, potential carry on fees, seats that could barely hold a Hobbit, flight attendants who go postal due to increased layoffs and higher workloads.  Even pilots are having episodes mid-flight, and safety standards have inched down the inflatable slides.

Anyone remember Alaska Flight #261, which crashed into the Pacific because the jackscrew wasn’t properly greased?  I personally spent a fun-filled twelve hours in the Honolulu Airport (at least they had hula dancers) because my plane needed a new battery.  I didn’t realize it was like your car, where the AAA shows up with jumper cables.  Personally, I’d pay the higher pre-reg fares to get:  1) A decent meal (Alaska used to serve baked salmon!) 2) The peace of mind that some semblance of maintenance has taken place 3) A flight crew not collectively on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Microsoft’s tech version of “laissez faire” was certainly unique.  Bill Gates, before his later, humbler period, was a hyper-aggressive bastard who either bought his competition or put them out of business.  Anyone remember Netscape?  At one point, they had the browser market sewn up.  Then Bill came along, bundling IE Explorer with Windows (which was at one time on 90% of desktops), and Netscape now occupies that place where FoxPro, Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect gently sleep.  Of course, billg. and crony steveb. attained that market share by forcing PC makers to bundle their machines with Windows, or else.  Clinton’s DOJ brought this to the fore, and Microsoft was saved from breakup by the reign of King George W. Still, they must now abide by what are frequently known as rules.

Let’s look at the precursor to this Great Recession, one brought about by exactly the same factors:  deregulation, massive fraud, and greed.  In the 80’s, it was decided by the Wise Powers in Congress that Savings & Loans could now make risky real estate loans without undue supervision.  Why, they could even lend money to themselves!  This brought about the failure of 747 S&L’s.  Total cost of bailout?  A mere 87.9 billion. [1]  Those involved in one of the biggest financial scandals in US history?[2]  A certain Neil Bush (yes, from those Bushes) whose fraud was so great that he was forever barred from the banking industry; a Senator John McCain (one of the “Keating Five”), and a certain astronaut/Senator named John Glenn.  You will be happy to know, though, that the average sentence for those S&L execs who went to jail was 1/5th that of the average bank robber.[3]  Here’s another foreign phrase which should always appear next to laissez faire:  Caveat Emptor (“Let The Buyer Beware”).

Which brings us to these Modern Times.  Was it really just 2001 when Enron finally imploded?  Doesn’t that scandal seem almost quaint in the wake of 2008?  Due to greed, corruption, stupidity, and greed, the US economy tanked due to the implosion of the real estate market, subprime lending, and Wall Street’s unfailing knack for creating something (to be securitized) out of nothing.  The result?  Then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson going on bended knee before Congress, begging for a $700 billion bailout of “too big to fail” companies.  You may have heard of some of them:  Wells Fargo, B of A, CityBank, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, AIG, AMEX, Discover.

Oh yeah – GM and Chrysler.  Now, in the harsh land of Capitalism where workers can be decapitated – uh, downsized – by the thousands, to increase profits and offshoring, the Feds suddenly felt sorry for the automakers (they are after all, people), and kept them from closing their massive doors.  In the theoretical realm of laissez faire, their failure would have happened (Hey, they couldn’t compete, they stayed too long with SUVS, boo hoo).  Exactly the rhetoric that the Newts and Mitts spout every day.  However, in the real world, the results would have been disastrous:  thousands more losing their jobs; the death of two great American icons; the death of a U.S. city; stowaways in allied industries going down with the ship, no more Camaros, ever.  This simply could not be.

TARP put to the lie forever laissez faire as a consistent economic policy.  America will not let Coke go out – nor Disney, GM and Chrysler.  Who would sponsor the next Olympics?  The funny part is the attitude of the bailed-out execs themselves:  they are all for hands-off  government when it comes to things like safety and profits.  But the moment they risk going under, they accept corporate welfare with more eagerness than Ismay stepping into that lifeboat.  And unlike actual welfare recipients, they aren’t required to work for it.  In fact, the more they mismanage their business, the more cash (and bonuses) they’re awarded. Talk about failing upward.

====