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