Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Single-Payer Health Care - Can We 'Fight the Power'?

The problem with health care has nothing to do with health care.

The problem is the same problem we have with every issue of importance in this country - corporate money, which equals corporate influence.

Any legislator who wants what's best for the American people instead of what will further enrich the corporations - who have inserted the necessity for a 'profit margin' for people who do not themselves provide health care, but who profit through denying it - is quickly reminded that supporting single-payer health insurance will lead, not only to the loss of campaign money, but to the supporting of the candidacy of an opponent more amenable to the corporate point of view.

Make no mistake, friends - once you reach the hallowed halls of public office, the principles that impelled you to seek that office come smack up against the power structure in Washington. It's easy to make impassioned campaign promises based on your convictions, but not so easy to implement them once you get there. Too much money and power is at stake in the lucrative fields of private insurance, for-profit hospitals and Big Pharma.

Single-Payer is not "government-run medicine". We already have that in the VA system, where the providers work directly for and are paid by the government. Single-Payer is simply having one administrative body that pays health providers. Here's the Wikipedia definition of single-payer:
Single-payer health care is a term used in the United States to describe the payment of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers from a single fund. It differs from typical private health insurance where, through pricing and other measures taken by the insurer, the level of risks carried by multiple insurance pools as well as the coverage can vary and the pricing has to be varied according to the contribution of risk added to the pool. It is often mentioned as one way to deliver universal health care. The administrator of the fund could be the government but it could also be a publicly owned agency regulated by law.
Here's more about single-payer from Physicians for a National Health Program.

Insurance works by pooling risk. The larger the pool, the less each participant has to pay. But private, for-profit insurance companies game the system and boost their profits by excluding those who actually need medical care from their pools. Having a 'pre-existing condition' automatically disqualifies you from most private insurers. The result is that most Americans - even comfortably middle-class Americans - are one major illness away from bankruptcy.

This is absolutely criminal. Physicians for a National Health Program's tagline is "Health Care is a Human Right", and I believe that. Not only is it a human right, but it is beneficial for our country to have a healthy populace. The money saved by people being able to have access to preventive care, and comprehensive care when they need it would be staggering. If you are able to catch an illness such as cancer by a regular screening and early detection, instead of in a late stage which requires millions of dollars in treatment - do the math! If you are able to be treated by a doctor when you need it instead of ending up with a $100,000 emergency room bill because you don't have insurance - do the math! If you are able to get stay healthy, you won't be spreading disease to other healthy people. And don't forget about productivity; healthy people contribute a lot more to the economy than sick people - do the math!

But, unfortunately, these benefits conflict with insurance companies' needs. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with profit - except when it comes at the expense of peoples' lives. And health care is life-and-death. There are plenty of areas in which private insurance works - automobiles, homes, electronic gadgets - things that you choose to have, not that you have to have. The insurance industry is so large, wealthy and influential that they have managed to keep single-payer out of the national healthcare dialogue. They can be expected to do nothing else - they are fighting for their very survival. But the death of a corporation is not the same as the death of a human being. Corporations can come back to life.

So how can we fight this power?

By knowledge. By information. By numbers. By communication. By determination in the face of overwhelming odds against us. The more we talk about it, look into it for ourselves, and not just take the word of those who have a vested interest in the status quo, the more power we have.

The impact that Twitter has had upon the Iranian situation tells us that communication can change things. No, Twitter did not single-handedly transform public opinion - but it made a difference. And enough 'differences' add up - not immediately, but cumulatively. We're seeing it happen - not as fast as we'd like, but it's happening.

I'm going to a Nationwide Health Outreach meeting this Saturday in Van Nuys, sponsored by PDLA and other local progressive groups. We need to make enough noise that our elected representatives cannot ignore our voices. Since we can't funnel cash like the big boys, we have to give our representatives enough carrot and stick so that they are able to say, "I have to vote for single payer - my constituents will kick me out if I don't."

Like FDR before him, Obama said "Make me do it."


jurassicpork said...

Here are my thoughts on the subject.

My answer? No, we can't because we're locked out of the process the minute our ballot disappears. We don't write the legislation. We can only vote in those who author and vote on it.

We really ought to pay attention to who contributes to our candidates. When clowns like Max Baucus vacuum in millions from Big Pharma, HMO's and the insurance companies, you think he's going to derail his own gravy train by pissing off his biggest campaign contributors by authoring legislation that'll cut into their bottom line?

Alicia Morgan said...

You're right - the dough is ladled out to Dems and Repubs alike, and it's the corporate money that is closing off the single-payer option. And your point about your ex is well-taken. People don't hear the truth about single-payer, certainly not from the corporate media. That's why we need to get as much info and noise about single payer as possible, because the job of taking on the insurance and pharma interests is truly Aegean.

Comrade Kevin said...

An excellent post, and very informative.

I myself have realized, as you pointed out, that with my pre-existing condition (bipolar) that most insurance plans will either refuse coverage, require a 12 month waiting period, or demand proof that I've been treated by another insurance provider. Which I can do, of course, due to Medicaid, but imagine the people with nothing! They are totally screwed.

PhysioProf said...

Excellent post, Alicia!