19 December, 2009

Health care reform or more of the same?

by Jorge Reyes

As of the writing of this entry, the US Senate seems to be on the cusp of passing a wathered-down version of what's been called the health care reform bill. For some this is as much about the same thing without any structural changes to the way we do healthcare business, as it is about big power and money-interests dictating social policy.

What most people don't know yet is what the final bill will look like, its breath and scope, and how it will affect those 30 million men and women without any form of health insurance.

What is true is that diverse special interests have spent lots-- and I mean--lots of money to make sure that whatever Obama signs won't go along ways towards truly restructuring a dysfunctional, highly expensive and bureaucratic system.

Sadly, the health care reform looks more and more like what we have. Cut out is the public option plan, which in effect could have brought cost down by forcing private healthcare providers to compete with the government plan. Instead, what we seem to have is another form of government bail out program which, in effect, forces uninsured people to buy healthcare from private insurers. Think it over, big money interest have done all it could to make sure that a rather reasonable healthcare public option program is off the table in order to make sure that whatever subsidies the government gives to the uninsured goes to them in the long run.

Socialism? Well, in a way it is, but it's a trickle down form of socialism for corporations whose only interest is to maximize profits for their shareholders, those rich fat cats who have spent millions of dollars not only on Republicans, but conservative Democrats.  These are the so-called "corporate Democrats". 

According to the Center for Responsible Politics, a non-partisan group, the private health sector in 2008 gave $90.7 million dollars to Democratic candidates, compared to only $76.6 millions to Republicans. What these numbers mean is that Democrats are as much indebted to special interests as Republicans, if not more now.

No wonder Howard Dean has proposed to kill this bill and start over. As he reasoned, without a major overhaul to the cost of healthcare and without major competition between a government plan and the private sector, you can hardly call this healthcare bill reform.  I don't think that will happen because the 60th vote needed to pass the bill in the Senate will be found in order to show that something was finally done.

Yet, while the fleecing of America is occurring right in front of our very own eyes, the misinformation about what's going on continues to astound me. Talk to the average Joe about Obama, healthcare, the mortgage and financial crisis, and all you get is the usual retort that we're heading down the path of socialism because, as those "teabaggers" aptly testify to, America has been taken over by Big Government, illegal immigrants, and gays. That's it. No one seems to want to scratch at the surface of the undemocratic and systematic destruction of our rights by the blaring stupidities currently pre-packaged by the news media, at all levels.  For those who don't know "the teabaggers" they are a loose coalition of people that have formed in order to protest taxing policies and government spending, making use of confrontation in public meetings. 

All of this is a shame.

The public is less and less informed about what's happening and the capacity to think through issues seems to be diminishing. Our intellect is putrefying. When we don't like something we call it socialism and that's where the conversation ends.  Perhaps there should be socialism for the poor, it exists for the rich anyway. 

Which leads me to this question:  socialism for whom? and what the hell do people mean when they call any social policy they don't like socialism?  Wasn't the government bailout of Wall Street socialism?  Many don't think it is but look at it this way, in 2008 Wall Street made a record-breaking $180 billion dollars in corporate profits, enough to cancel out mortgage foreclosures for all Americans over the next four years.  You didn't see the same bailout to all those homeowners who have lost their homes to foreclosures or at the point of it? 

So on the cusp of a healthcare fiasco, this is where we are: a nation of know-nothings divided along class and ideological lines, but sadly bereft of any intellectual leadership or roadmap on any side of the political spectrum and with no idea where we're headed or what the future looks like.   President Obama, of course, has packed his cabinet with the same rich Wall Street financers who caused the current financial crisis. Not sure how he's going to face the voters who voted for him in 2008, but if he is as honest as he seems to be he should immediately distance himself from them and bring in a new group of advisers.

Make no mistake about it: if it's business as usual we all end up paying for the ever-spiralling and dysfunctional healthcare costs we currently have, and don't fool yourself, it is business as usual.