Still Waiting for Health Care

The House of Representatives debate on the health insurance "reform" is
over with the Democrats failing the people and the Republicans
disgracing themselves as having left their minds back in the third
grade (with apologies to third graders).

Democrats were determined to pass any bill with a nice sounding name,
such as "The Affordable Health Care for America Act". Single payer,
full Medicare for all was never on the table even though a majority of
citizens, physicians and nurses support that far more efficient, free
choice of health care professionals, system.

There are no effective cost containment or prevention measures in the
bill. The public option is so weak it will be a receptacle for the
sickest of patients among the meager number of people who qualify for
its coverage. There are no provisions to reduce the number of people
(100,000) who die annually from medical malpractice in hospitals.

Nor is there a major program to reduce the tens of billions of dollars
that is stolen yearly out of Medicare from criminals inside and outside
the medical profession.

The cover story in the November issue of the AARP Bulletin
is on the elaborate but detectable schemes to swindle Medicare with
phantom services, phony rentals of equipment, stolen Medicare numbers
and the like. The author, Jay Weaver, writes: "So lucrative, and so
low-risk, the FBI reports, that a number of cocaine dealers in Florida
and California have switched from illicit drugs to Medicare fraud."

Although more money is finally going for prosecutions, there is nowhere
near enough for this corporate crime wave. Medicare's office of
Inspector General asserts that every dollar of law enforcement will
save $17 of theft.

Computerized billing fraud and abuse takes anywhere from $250 billion
to double that estimate by the General Accounting Office. (The GAO said
ten percent of health care expenditures are going down the drain.) The
reason why the estimates cover such a broad range, according to
Professor Malcolm Sparrow of Harvard University, is that there are
inadequate resources to document the huge hemorrhaging of the nation's
health care budget and come up with better data.

Apart from the impoverishment of the debate, there is the actual doing
of harm. The bill, if enacted, doesn't take effect until after the
presidential elections in 2013, mostly to let the drug and health
insurance industries adjust, though they can scarcely believe their
good fortune at being delivered all those profitable customers paid for
by taxpayers with scarcely any price restraints.

The Journal of Public Health has just published a
peer-reviewed study by Harvard physicians-researchers that estimates
45,000 Americans lose their lives yearly because they cannot afford
health insurance to receive diagnosis and treatment. Strange how cool
the House is to giving these fatalities a four year pass.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a leading single payer advocate,
voted against this legislation for many reasons, most notably the
Obama-driven omission of his amendment to clear the way legally for
states to pass their own single payer laws. Several states, such as
Pennsylvania, are in the process of moving legislation in this
direction, but are concerned that the health insurers will claim
federal pre-emption.

The victims of medical malpractice - estimated by the Institute of
Medicine and the Harvard School of Public Health to be about 100,000
deaths a year - escaped having to overcome more hurdles before they
have their full day in court. Helping to beat back the Republicans, who
define "medical malpractice reform" as letting the negligent
perpetrators get away with their lethal consequences, was Congressman
Bruce Braley (D-IA).

Rising on the House floor he delivered a factual plea for patient
safety. Hardly had he started to speak with Republicans started
shouting "trial lawyer, trial lawyer" referring to his previous
profession of representing wrongfully injured people before local
juries in Iowa. This rare display of shouting by opponents was
punctuated by one of their unleashed members rushing down the aisle
shouting "You'll pay for this."

During this overall debate on the bill, Republicans stood up one by
one, as prevaricatory dittoheads, to often scream and howl (like
coyotes) that this is "a government takeover of one sixth of the
economy," "would destroy the economy," "put 5.5 million people out of
work," "destroy the doctor-patient relationship," "be a steamroller of
socialism," "force millions of seniors to lose their current health
coverage" (meaning, Medicare?) and, in a passionate appeal to the
Almighty, Congressman John Fleming (R-LA) declared "God help us as the
government takes over your day-to-day life."

Never mind that this bill is just an expansion, however misdirected, of
government health insurance designed to increase corporate profits and
increase the corporate grip over the day-to-day decisions regarding
who, when and how people get their health care or get their bills paid.

To top off the madness, Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), an ever maturing
political hermaphrodite, reneged on his assurance to Senate Majority
Leader Harry Reid and imperiously announced on Fox News Sunday that "if
the public option plan is in there, as a matter of conscience, I will
not allow this bill to come to a final vote."

For media-centric Joe, his motto seems to be "L'Senat c'est moi."

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