hearts and minds

August 13, 2007

Big Bucks Talk and Health Care Walks, part II

“It never ceases to amaze me, the amount of energy that can go into a project just to avoid doing the right thing… But follow the money and you’ll find why the politicians don’t like it.”
Jack Lohman, retired Wisconsin business owner and author.

The proven fact that single-payer comprehensive universal health care costs LESS than does our current method of administering and managing health care carries an important and unsettling implication. Those who oppose single-payer universal health care cannot claim they do so on the grounds that we can’t afford it. Politicians and media pundits who imply or state that are either inexcusably ignorant (and they should be tossed out of the responsible job they have), or they are simply lying (and should be imprisoned for fraud).

The unvarnished truth is that those who oppose single-payer universal are (for reasons of their own) willing to PAY MORE for a system that
1. Puts American business and workers at a competitive disadvantage,
2. Provides worsening health care outcomes for Americans,
3. Establishes a class-based health care system, rather than one based on medical treatment appropriate for the condition, and
4. Countenances so much unnecessary, untreated physical and emotional suffering and sorrow, and contributes to half of all personal bankruptcies.

The time has finally come. The Healthy Wisconsin initiative is an important reform that would provide universal health care to Wisconsin residents that is at least as good as the health care we now provide to elected officials. And it would cut the total cost of health care in Wisconsin well over one billion dollars annually.

Passed last summer by the state Senate, it is supported by 2 out of 3 likely voters, with only 1 out of 5 opposed. A wide majority of both Wisconsin Republicans and Wisconsin Democrats support this proposal, and 3 out of every 4 Independents also support it. A Lake Research Partners survey in June 2007 (margin of error reportedly under 5%) shows that most Wisconsin voters, by far, say rising health care cost is their top economic concern. Twice as many say rising health care cost is their top economic concern, as are worried about higher taxes. This priority crosses all demographic groups.

Yet the opportunity for humane, cost saving, universal health care may slip away. Why? Will some knee-jerk hidebound ideology or some hoary economic theory get in the way? Nah. The reason is money; lots of money; and not just anybody’s money, either.

The money that threatens to rule the day (and again pits the Wisconsin Assembly leaders against a measure strongly favored by a huge majority of Wisconsin citizens) is not the well over a billion dollars that the bill would save Wisconsin employers and citizens right off the bat. It’s not the reductions in personal suffering and catastrophic financial losses that would be prevented, either.

The tail that’s wagging the dog is the tens of millions of dollars in “campaign contributions” provided by certain corporate entities with a vested “special interest” in this grassroots effort to repair our health care system. Why do “merely” tens of millions of skid-greasing dollars outweigh the more than a billion per year in taxpayer savings? Simple, Bunkie. The billion plus dollars in health insurance costs it would save are just your dollars. The relatively smaller millions of dollars, however, go to the coffers of the major political parties and the election campaign war chests of “our” representatives in Madison who have been elected to make important decisions like this. According to just released studies by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, tens of millions of dollars have been “contributed” since 1999 to campaigns for the state legislature and governor, by major special interest groups who either oppose or endorse health care reform in Wisconsin. Here’s how those “gifts” line up.

For every single dollar contributed to politicians by citizen and labor groups who support universal health care reform, seven dollars are contributed by powerful, well-heeled interests that oppose it. We all know that “special interests” (overwhelmingly corporations) provide lots of cash to the two major parties and to incumbent elected officials. Assembly Republicans have been blocking Healthy Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign revealed that two-thirds of all special interest contributions to the Assembly Republicans came from declared opponents of the real health care reform everyday people and employers and family farms need. Democratic Governor Doyle also has not supported the state Senate reform plan. Almost half of Doyle’s special interest money came from corporate opponents of single payer comprehensive universal health care.

What do you think of politicians who are provided comprehensive family health insurance coverage by taxpayers, and then turn around and tell lies about the problem, and the solution to our health care crisis, in order to keep the money rolling in from opponents of needed reform?

With the way things are done now, politicians fear special interests way more than they respect the people. That is an embarrassment and a shame on us and on democracy.

We have a clear choice. Some would rather actually pay more for a health care system that screens people out, and rations and prioritizes care based not on medical need but on fate and the ability to pay. Others prefer one that costs less, produces better health outcomes as well as a stronger economy, and provides comprehensive health care to all. Which side are YOU on?

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7 Comments »

  1. “With the way things are done now, politicians fear special interests way more than they respect the people. That is an embarrassment and a shame on us and on democracy.”

    Excellent point, because it highlights how degraded our political system is. Politicians have to curry favor from special interests because they donate huge sums of money that is needed to run expensive 30-second TV ads that rely on fear and manipulation to attract voters.

    To do the bidding of the health insurance lobbyists, politicians like House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio employ arguments like “Dragging people out of private health insurance to put them into a government-run program is ‘Hillary care’ come back”. (Note the clever tactic of linking health care reform with many Americans’ irrational and sexist dislike of Sen. Hillary Clinton)

    Speaking of the irrational fear of national health care, Michael Moore has a very wise analogy comparing the fire departments to health care. Here’s a quote from an interview on Democracy Now!:

    “Socialized medicine. Ooh, socialized. Bad. Really? Isn’t that what our police departments are? Socialized? Run by the government. Free service. Do you think anybody would ever ask if the fire department should have to post a profit? You know? Seriously. Would we allow a fire department to every time they get a call for a house fire, when they arrive at the house determine whether or not this is going to affect the fire department’s bottom line. We wouldn’t allow that, would we? When someone is wheeled into a hospital, that question should never be asked. That is an immoral question amongst a – in a humane society to ask that question, where is the profit here? How will it affect our bottom line? How do we make money off this sick person?”

    Sources:
    The (Offspring of) Motherhood Bill”, New York Times Editorial, July 30, 2007
    “Ahead of ‘Sicko’ Release, Michael Moore Brings Health Care Campaign to California State Assembly, Democracy Now! interview with Amy Goodman

    Comment by Tim R — August 13, 2007 @ 2:24 pm | Reply

  2. Bravo! Well done! A clear message that single payer health insurance is the way to provide quality, affordable and universal health care. I can’t wait to read the responding letters to the editor.

    Comment by Dorothy B — August 20, 2007 @ 2:16 pm | Reply

  3. (I) agree with most of the above; however, adding another 14% tax on an already over-taxed state doesn’t make sense. Giving people the opportunity to buy very low cost health insurance via a government controlled insurance agency makes more sense and avoids the excess profits of the insurance companies and the over-charges of the medical industry.

    Comment by Louis S, MD — August 30, 2007 @ 8:32 am | Reply

  4. The author responds:

    Dr. S., I believe I have corresponded with you before on the exact subject of your comment. I disagree with your contention that voluntary low cost catastrophic insurance, (with accompanying necessarily high deductibles and co-pays) administered by the government would solve the health care crisis. And I believe it would not serve the interests of justice, or of public health and preventive medicine, nor would it help medical professionals comply with the spirit of their calling and the Hippocratic Oath.

    May I suggest you read my brief essay (opened with a quotation from another medical doctor who has demonstrated impeccable judgment) titled, “Paying for Health Care – But Not Getting It“, which is also on this “Hearts and Minds” web site?

    Comment by clydewinter — September 1, 2007 @ 10:50 am | Reply

  5. See also the “Bare Essentials of the Health Care Crisis Prescription”, linked to the author’s name, below.

    Pingback by clyde winter — January 8, 2008 @ 1:40 am | Reply

  6. […] Next column, we’ll follow that money, and we’ll see what people think about our health care crisis. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)The Biggest Elephant in the StateHealth Care Crisis Pt3, Single-payer reform as an immediate demandWorld’s Best Medical Care?Fed Chief Addresses Health Care and Its Costs – NYTimes.com […]

    Pingback by Big Bucks Talk and Health Care Walks, part I « hearts and minds — July 12, 2008 @ 5:45 pm | Reply

  7. i agree with single payer health care…good work

    Comment by assisted living — August 29, 2008 @ 9:41 pm | Reply


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