Saturday, August 01, 2009

Filling the Emptiness of August

August begins today and it seems that everyone and everything that’s able to, is going on hiatus. Even if they can’t go anywhere, people are finally using their vacation days. Shrinks all over Manhattan are packing late into the night. And Congress is heading out of Washington next week faster than you can say “campaign fund raising.” Even President Obama will soon join his Mrs. and the girls, who are currently staying at Caroline Kennedy’s in Martha’s Vineyard (or so I hear).

But for many of us, life will go on as usual – and for all of us, health care reform is still hanging in the balance. Earlier this evening, the news reported that a few improvements were made to the battered 1,000-page bill before it was kicked out of committee today. That’s good to hear, but I’m relieved that this process will be forced to slow down for a month, because nobody, including the President, appears to have read this tome in its entirety – and who can blame them? With the bill in its current verbose form, our elected leaders are being asked to vote on poorly and confusingly-written fine print, rather than on an inspiring proposal of sweeping concepts, clear intentions, specific policy parameters, and freedom from extraneous, unrelated crap.

The writer/editor in me is confident that this could (and should) be about 100 pages prefaced by a well-worded, ten-page executive summary, a document that any Rep. or Sen. could read at poolside anywhere in the world. Instead, they’re going back home (or wherever) with only whichever party line they’re tied to wrapped around their heads. And not for nothing: I have so had it up to here with the fractured, bickering Democrats; will they please stop trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

I’m hoping (forgive me for my naivety) that all of them (on both teams) will fill at least some of the emptiness of August with generous, big-picture contemplation of what health care reform really means: ensuring that all 300+ million Americans have ready access to quality and need-specific medical treatment, care that they can either afford or will receive free of charge.

Among the things I’d like them to consider is that the United States is the only country in the world where health care is a profit-making enterprise – a great big fat profit-making enterprise for health insurance and pharmaceutical companies; medical equipment manufacturers and retailers; hospitals, clinics, doctors, and home health care agencies – a major money-maker for everybody except patients and employers.

The Republicans/Conservatives and their fellow travelers have very successfully convinced a lot of Americans that any government health plan would be an administrative disaster and a shortcut to socialism, thanks to their many-multi-million dollar smear campaign, aided (it shames me to say) by their p.r. and advertising minions – the same message that warns we’ll be forced to give up the doctors we have and like, the coverage we have and are satisfied with, and that medical decisions will be made by government bureaucrats instead of patients and their doctors.

If this weren’t such a serious issue, their propoganda would crack me up, but it’s very serious and their campaign is working. It’s working because nobody is even suggesting that health care should not be a profit-driven business. Americans are generally ignorant about the health care programs in other countries and they've simply bought into lies about their rules, options, procedures and effectiveness. And of course, my favorite lie: that the patient/doctor relationship will be sullied – when in fact, for most people, there are no meaningful patient/doctor relationships, and care decisions are made by insurance companies, not doctors or patients. Indeed, denying legitimate, necessary care is often standard operating procedure, even to the point of causing the death of patients, because keeping people healthy costs insurance companies too much, which angers their stockholders.

The anti-reform advocates never point out that Medicare, for all its high cost and inefficiency, is still run substantially more effectively and much more cheaply than private companies. Ditto for the Veterans Administration’s medical services, which are eons away from any sort of medical utopia – but both offer more bang for the buck than the profit makers.

I also fervently hope that all Americans, whether they’re luxuriating in the emptiness of August, or are so busy, worried, tired, and heat-frazzled that they feel they just can’t cope with this awesome, cumbersome problem, will find the time and strength to do a little research as well as contact their Reps. and Sens. and tell them what you need, what you want, and what you expect of them if they expect your vote in 2010 (or any other time).

You may also wish to contact President Obama and let him know what you think and how you feel. As I’ve said before on this blog, I think he’s overly concerned with trying to garner bipartisan support, too willing to compromise on the health care plan (in the quest for that support) and too eager to get something passed because he believes something is better than nothing. I disagree. I say a new but weak/confusing plan is worse than the status quo. The health care industrial complex is out to get Obama and he should use the power he has to fight back hard. The man who says Lincoln is his hero should know that you can’t please all of the people all of the time – so don’t even try; just do the right, progressive, all-encompassing, full-throated thing: craft and get the Democrat-dominated Congress and Senate to pass nationalized, non-profit health care.

For your information and convenience, click on and read one or more of the following from PBS programs: program transcripts and special online articles about health care from Bill Moyers Journal, particularly the interview with Aetna’s former VP of Communications, Wendell Potter. A Frontline report on health insurance companies dropping customers who dare to file claims. Health Care Crisis, an online site and TV program of facts and resources. A report on health care from the news program Now. And program information plus online extras from these programs, too: Remaking American Medicine, Second Opinion, and Who Cares: Chronic Illness in America.

I couldn’t copy the link to the full text of the bill (my browser’s too old…), but you can find it at; just search for Health Care Bill HR3200. Also, here’s the site for a fairly cogent short summary of same: Real Clear Politics.

If you’re sick of bad health care in America, make use of August by making lots of noise!

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