I am very disappointed that our Democrat-controlled Congress can't get its act together enough to pass health care reform. What's going on with these people? Yes, I know Big Pharma and Big Medicine have all the politicians in their grasps, regardless of party affiliation, but when 72% of Americans want a national health care system similar to Medicare for everybody and our "reps" don't listen, what does that say about us as a nation?The Policy That Dare Not Speak Its Name
By Robert KuttnerI'm sure I'm not the only reader who noticed the juxtaposition of two front page stories in Sunday's New York Times dealing with health care. The first article cited a new Times-CBS poll showing that 72 percent of Americans favored a government run health plan comparable to Medicare, which would be available to everyone.
The second reported on a rogue radiologist at a Philadelphia VA hospital who botched 92 prostate procedures.
The right will doubtless go to town on that one, as what we can expect of government-sponsored medicine. I'll have more to say about the VA in a moment, but first let's consider the poll findings.
The poll is relevant because Congress will soon decide whether to include the so-called "public option" in the Obama health reform bill. As drafted by three House leaders and unveiled last Wednesday, the 852-page bill would include a government-sponsored, Medicare-like public plan.
Republicans and the health industry have been kicking and screaming that this is socialistic. But the poll suggests that defenders of the public plan have nothing to fear politically, and that Republicans are in danger of getting on the wrong side of a popular issue.
However, that's only the beginning of the story. The reform package, as drafted by the Obama administration and the House leadership, is dubious legislation even with the inclusion of a public option. Basically, it leaves the two worst aspects of the system intact. First, private insurers will continue to dominate. Second, most people will continue to get their insurance through their employers. Given these two bedrock realities, there is no way that the bill can make serious inroads on cost without cutting back on care. The high cost of the approach is already causing key legislators to back off. The current system wastes huge sums, but because it is so fragmented the money flows to profit opportunities and not to the most cost-effective forms of health care.
So what's the matter with our politicians? Why are the people so far ahead of their elected leaders on this one? One reason, as usual, is money. The combination of the insurance industry, the drug industry, the American Medical Association, the hospital lobby--all of whom oppose Medicare-for-All--represents a huge amount of political spending. It takes a brave politician to face down all of these industries, even though the people are on the side of real reform. The AMA's position is especially shameful, since the professional societies that represent most actual physicians favor national health insurance.
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