Freethought San Marcos: A column
by LAMAR W. HANKINS
It’s nothing new when politicians spin, lie, distort, and deceive about public issues. And the partisan divide in Washington is becoming as vast as outer space. Unfortunately, it is not limited to differences between Democrats and Republicans. The Blue Dog Democrats are behaving no differently than are the Republicans about the efforts to reform our health insurance system. The partisan divide seems to be between those politicians who are still capable of putting concern for the people ahead of obeisance to the corporations and those who cannot.
Once again, this past week, Texas senator and National Republican Senatorial Committee chief John Cornyn has railed against the “high cost of the Democrats’ Health Care Proposals” while putting forward no plans that have a chance of reforming the wasteful system that provides often mediocre health care to about two-thirds of our population. The other one-third have either no health care insurance or have such poor plans that they are dangerously underinsured.
What Cornyn omitted from his complaints about the cost of the Senate Democrats’ plan is that the Congressional Budget Office analysis of the plan omitted some cost savings that will bring the cost for ten years under the $900 billion figure acceptable to President Obama, which will make the plan revenue neutral; that is, it will not increase the deficit.
Sen. Cornyn has never complained about the deficit-increasing, off-budget, and exorbitant expenditures for the unnecessary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which will soon cost the taxpayers $3 trillion. When it comes to controlling the world for the benefit of the corporations, he and most other national politicians are willing to spend almost any amount of money. They are financed by the corporations from the oil, armaments, financial, and insurance sectors of our economy.
Nor has Cornyn ever complained about the cost of first-class health insurance coverage, if it is for him and others in his echelon of society. He and his family enjoy the most robust of health insurance plans through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, along with actual government medical care provided by two federal hospitals in the Washington, DC, area and the Office of the Attending Physician, which caters exclusively to our 535 representatives and senators in a convenient location between the senate and house chambers, staffed by Navy doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and health care technicians.
Cornyn’s selective view of the facts is not his only sin. His distortions, too, know no bounds. This past week he sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius blaming her department for the shortage of the swine flu vaccine in Texas. What he conveniently overlooked is that the fault for the shortage in Texas belongs to Republican Governor Rick Perry, who refused to request enough vaccine. When it was announced that some high-risk prisoners in Texas’ prison system would receive the vaccine before some civilians, the ignorant and shortsighted among us complained so loudly that the state rescinded those plans.
Apparently, many Texans don’t realize that flu epidemics will spread more rapidly in closed environments such as prisons. Being sentenced to prison does not place prisoners in some alternate universe where moral principles do not apply. High-risk individuals, wherever they may be, should have equal access to flu vaccines. The state of Texas has a legal duty and its citizens have a moral duty to assure that prisoners receive adequate health care, including vaccine for the flu. Prisoners, whatever their offense, do not lose their humanity when they are convicted and sent to prison.
It is also in the self-interest of all Texans to prevent epidemics from occurring. The more than 38,000 prison employees can easily spread the flu outside the confines of the institutions, as can family members of prisoners and others who visit at the prisons.
Of course, Sen. Cornyn uses the inadequate production and distribution of vaccine in Texas to argue that if the government “cannot run existing public health programs competently, (it) should (not) be trusted with even more responsibility–such as running a new government health plan.” This is a false analogy in two ways. First, the private sector manufactures the flu vaccine. It could not meet the demand for the swine flu vaccine this year. Second, neither the Senate nor the House proposals for reforming the health insurance system will result in a government-run health plan. These proposals will provide a small number of the uninsured with health insurance through a system similar to Medicare, at best. While Medicare needs improvement in several areas, it has proved itself over more than forty years to be more efficient than almost all private health insurance policies.
But Sen. Cornyn did not stop with these distortions. He went on to claim that “The so-called ‘public option’ is nothing more than a Trojan horse that will ultimately result in government-run health care. This partisan proposal will also raise premiums on those with private insurance, raise taxes on the middle class, and cut Medicare benefits for seniors.”
If someone has proposed that the federal government run health care, I haven’t heard about it. Britain does this very successfully, but not even democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has called for a socialized medical system in the United States. This is another of Sen. Cornyn’s famous red herrings.
Sen. Cornyn provides no evidence for his claims that the Senate health insurance reform bill will increase premiums on those of us who have private insurance, raise taxes on the middle class (there are proposals for taxing those with incomes over $500,000–an income level far above middle-class incomes), or will reduce benefits for those on Medicare (the AARP says that the proposals will not adversely affect Medicare recipients).
The facts are that nearly 50 million Americans can’t afford health insurance at all, but Sen. Cornyn cares not one whit about these people or about the 45,000 Americans who will die during the next twelve months because they can’t afford health insurance. In 2000, my brother was one of these people. He died from a treatable condition at age 50 solely because he could not afford health insurance and could not get adequate medical care that would have prevented his condition or ameliorated it once it developed.
One-third of the adults in Sen. Cornyn’s own state of Texas have no health insurance. Two-thirds of all personal bankruptcies are caused by medical bills that people cannot afford to pay. And Sen. Cornyn continues to ignore these real-life needs of his own constituents, not to mention the millions of other families around the country who have either no health insurance or insufficient coverage.
I am not pleased about many aspects of health insurance reform that I have become aware of, mostly because the proposals try too hard to protect the medical-hospital-pharmaceutical-insurance establishment and not enough to protect the public.
When Sen. Cornyn and his cohorts cease their distortions, lies, and deceptions about health insurance proposals now before the Congress, and demonstrate by their actions some concern for those among us who cannot afford health insurance and cannot afford adequate coverage, his opinions might be worth considering. In the meantime, his partisan malfeasance in office will continue to augment his public reputation for dishonesty and dishonor.
© Freethought San Marcos, Lamar W. HankinsEmail | Print
Part of the House plan involves mandatory coverage. What is your defense of this part of the plan? Where in the Constitution is the federal government granted the authority to force anyone to carry health insurance?
Secondly, you stated “If someone has proposed that the federal government run health care, I haven’t heard about it.” Would a single-payer plan be considered as federal government run health care in your eyes?
Thirdly, you stated “The facts are that nearly 50 million Americans can’t afford health insurance at all,” Could you cite this ‘fact’ please? Where did you get this information?
Response to Shane Scribner:
1. I don’t support mandatory health insurance, as I have said before. And as time goes on and we learn more about the House and Senate plans, there will be other parts that I won’t like and I will say so.
2. Canada has a single-payer plan. The government doesn’t run health care. It collects the money in premiums and pays the providers, who are private providers just like we have in the US. The government doesn’t run health care – it is the conduit for health care payments.
3. The information on the number of uninsured Americans is easy to find from credible sources:
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 47 million Americans were without health insurance in 2008, their latest data available.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, using the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) estimated that nearly 54 million Americans under the age of 65 were uninsured in the first-half of 2007.
A recent study from the Urban Institute shows that based on the effects of the recession alone (not job loss), it is projected that nearly seven (7) million Americans will lose their health insurance coverage between 2008 and 2010. Urban Institute researchers estimate that if unemployment reaches 10 percent, another six (6) million Americans will lose their health insurance coverage. Taking these numbers together, it is conceivable that by next year, 57 to 60 million Americans will be uninsured. The Urban Institute estimates that under a worse case scenario, 66 million Americans will be uninsured by 2019.
A Families USA report from March 2009 says that nearly 90 million people spent a portion of either 2007 or 2008 without health coverage.
I’ll address these numerically.
1. Good to hear. You, like most American’s, are against mandatory coverage. But is that provision in the plan enough to force you to abandon it entirely? It should be, as such a blatant violation of the US Constitution should never be acceptable, regardless of the intent.
2. With all due respect, your assessment of Canada’s health care system is a misrepresentation. Provincial and territorial governments are responsible for management, organization, and delivery of health services for their residents. The government’s role is clearly articulated in the Canada Health Act (CHA). Give it a Google to gain a better understanding of the role of the government in Canada’s plan. Claiming it is only a ‘conduit’ for payments is grossly understating the role the government plays in regulating every aspect of health insurance and health care services in Canada. After you read the CHA, I would ask you again, “Would a single-payer plan be considered as federal government run health care in your eyes?”
3. Let’s take a closer look at your figure, because even Obama has backed away, far away, from the figure of 47 million uninsured Americans.
Claim: 47,000,000 “Uninsured Americans”
of those: 9,487,000 non citizens
and 37,513,000 uninsured citizens
Of uninsured citizens(37,513,000):
– 8,300,000 make between $50,000 and $74,999 per year
– 8,740,000 make more than $75,000 a year.
– 20,473,000 uninsured citizens making less that $50,000 a year
– 9,212,850 45 percent of uninsured people will be uninsured for less than four months
In conclusion, only 11,260,150 or 3.75% of the population of the US are uninsured NOT by choice and will be uninsured for a sustained period of time.
My sources for these figures:
The National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation
Kaiser Family Foundation
So, Lamar, I have another question for you. If we have such a problem with uninsured people in America, why does the Obama/Pelosi/Reid plan wait until 2012-2013 to begin coverage?
Canada does have federal standards and I am aware that the provicial governments manage the payments systems, but in Canada government doesn’t “deliver” health care as you say, except through a few small direct government health care programs, such as for native populations, just as we have in the US. I believe that the only way to get quality health care in the US is through a single-payer plan. We have too many states with varying interests and capabilities to handle such a system, though i am open to considering some variations to a national single-payer system as long as there are clear standards that must be met by every state. I don’t think state-run systems would be cost-effective, however. We know from our own Medicare program that single-payer can work in the US. People living in Mississippi or Texas should not get less quality care than those living in California on Vermont.
If you will give me your specific source or sources for the conclusion that only 11.2 million people are uninsured NOT by choice, I will review the data, but I don’t have time to research your assertion. I could spend fulltime for the next month trying to figure out how you reached that conclusion.
One indisputable fact about the uninsured is that many are uninsured because of pre-existing conditions. The health insurance industry will not insure these people for any amount of money.
Another indisputable fact is that it costs about nine times more to administer the private health insurance industry’s plans than it does to administer Medicare.
Your figures showing that about 10 million uninsured are not citizens neglects to mention that over 40% of this population are in the US legally and are entitled to equal treatment under our laws.
Your final question:
If we have such a problem with uninsured people in America, why does the Obama/Pelosi/Reid plan wait until 2012-2013 to begin coverage?
Answer: There are several answers to this question. One is that I don’t find the Obama/Pelosi/Reid plan adequate in many respects. Delaying implementation to 2012 or beyond only assures that
45,000 more people will die each year because they don’t have health insurance (it took less than a year to implement Medicare after it was passed, and this was before powerful computers existed). Why some politicians will not do right by American citizens has always puzzled me. They are the ones to whom you should address this question.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 4, 2009
From Congressman Dennis Kucinich
The Insurance Companies are the Problem not the Solution
WASHINGTON – November 4 – Following a statement on the Floor of the House of Representative, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today made the following statement about the House health care plan:
“Before we celebrate the new health care legislation, keep in mind that the American people will be required by law to buy private insurance and that they will pay a penalty if they don’t.
“That insurance companies will be subsidized by the government.
“That insurance companies have had double digit increases in premiums in the past four years.
“That we are locking in a for profit structure.
“This is the result of a health care debate of which the flawed premise is that health care reform can not happen without the cooperation of the insurance companies, which make money by not providing health care.
“The truth is that reform can not happen with them. The insurance companies are the problem not the solution. This legislation, no matter how well intended, will likely not be able to deliver, cost too much and be another bail out for big business at the expense of the American people.”
What say you to this breaking news regarding the House plan.
WASHINGTON – You’re afraid your cancer is back, and a health insurance company just turned you down.
Under the health care bills in Congress, you could apply for coverage through a new high-risk pool that President Barack Obama promises would immediately start serving patients with pre-existing medical problems.
Wait a second. Read the fine print. You may have to be uninsured for six months to qualify.
“If you are a cancer patient and have cancer now, you can’t wait six months to go into a plan because your condition can go from bad to death,” said Stephen Finan, a policy expert with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. He called the waiting period in the Senate bill “unacceptable.”
As I said above in response to your last question, I don’t find the Obama/Pelosi/Reid plan adequate in many respects. This is just another example. I will be writing about others in future columns.
I look forward to reading all your objections to this horrible bill.
Horrible bill? The plan released in the last couple of days by the Republicans makes the Dem plan look like gold (which it isn’t).
By the time the senate finishes messing with the bill it will either have the good of it removed or it will fail to pass.
I agree with Lamar that a single payer plan is by far the best idea.
Single payer does NOT mean government run healthcare.
The current system of healthcare/insurance in America is about the very worst we could dream up. It is driving our country, individuals, and families, into bankruptcy and leaving so many in misery.
So many individuals and companies who can barely afford health insurance today will soon find it totally unaffordable if the system remains as is.
The effect on the deficit by a reformed system will be peanuts compared with the deficit damage done by Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy. And those tax cuts didn’t buy health insurance for anyone.
Not to mention what we’ve spent in Iraq.
Charlie, here are four questions asked by John Stossel that I am eager to hear someone answer:
) How can the government subsidize the purchase of medical services without driving up prices? Econ 101 teaches — without controversy — that when demand goes up, if other things remain equal, price goes up. The politicians want to have their cake and eat it, too.
2) How can the government promise lower medical costs without restricting choices? Medicare already does that. Once the planners’ mandatory insurance pushes prices to new heights, they must put even tougher limits on what we may buy — or their budget will be even deeper in the red than it already is. As economist Thomas Sowell points out, government cannot really reduce costs. All it can do is disguise and shift costs (through taxation) and refuse to pay for some services (rationing).
3) How does government “create choice” by imposing uniformity on insurers? Uniformity limits choice. Under House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bill and the Senate versions, government would dictate to all insurers what their “minimum” coverage policy must include. Truly basic high-deductible, low-cost catastrophic policies tailored to individual needs would be forbidden.
4) How does it “create choice” by making insurance companies compete against a privileged government-sponsored program? The so-called government option, let’s call it Fannie Med, would have implicit government backing and therefore little market discipline. The resulting environment of conformity and government power is not what I mean by choice and competition. Rep. Barney Frank is at least honest enough to say that the public option will bring us a government monopoly.