Bush Wrongheaded on Health Care
Published on Wednesday, February 1, 2006 by the Madison Capital-Times (Wisconsin)
Bush Wrongheaded on Health Care
by Dave Zweifel

President Bush obviously is not satisfied that his administration has succeeded in confusing the nation's elderly with an impossible-to-understand Medicare prescription drug benefit, now he wants to complicate our already broken health care system to confuse the rest of America.

Bush's State of the Union address last night outlined plans to force Americans to open health savings accounts and opt for insurance plans with high deductibles, meaning, of course, that average folks will wind up personally footing more of their health care costs.

And, of course, the Wall Street brokers and bankers have already lined up at the trough. They stand to make some quick bucks as folks start funneling more money into their "savings" accounts.

The president's plan, which was received warmly by his minions in Congress, is but the latest Band-Aid approach to "fixing" our broken health care system. It seems that every administration has advanced new gimmicks with high-sounding names like managed care, preferred providers, health maintenance organizations yet costs continue out of control and millions and millions more working Americans find themselves without any insurance at all.

What's so confounding is that our health system could be fixed so easily. All the United States needs to do is create a Medicare-modeled system for the entire country covering every man, woman and child. The money we employees and employers already spend on health care would easily cover a national single-payer health plan and make it fair for everyone.

There would be no singling out of "too sick" Americans or denying coverage to someone with a family history of an illness. There would be no premium surcharges on a small, independent employer or confusing fine print over what's covered and what isn't.

But, once again, logic is thrown to the winds for a number of reasons. There are those in high places in the medical fraternity and the national government who firmly believe that a national health care plan is "socialist" and must be avoided even if it would work. Heaven forbid that a great capitalist nation like the United States would kowtow to anything as subversive as socialism government-run programs like Social Security and Medicare, for example.

There's a bigger power, though, than those with philosophical hang-ups. It's the economic clout of the national and international corporations who all have a huge stake in maintaining the status quo the pharmaceuticals, the insurance industry and others who benefit from layers and layers of duplicate services that strangle the current jury-rigged system.

George Bush has reaped millions in contributions from them. They are big players in currying favor from members of Congress with their ample campaign contributions and lavish parties. In other words, they can buy their way in Washington.

Those who favor a simple single-payer plan, on the other hand, don't have the money behind them to get presidents to do them favors during the State of the Union. They only have common sense on their side. Some day even Washington will figure this out.

Dave Zweifel is editor of The Capital Times. E-mail to: dzweifel@madison.com

© 2006 Madison Capital-Times