Monday, August 24, 2009

Health Care: A Commodity, or a Right?

The hysteria of the capitalist class is one of the best entertainment options available in these waning days of American empire. Consider the League of American Voters' warnings about "Obamacare," which includes a TV ad crafted by Dick Morris. You remember Dick Morris. He's the former Jesse Helms adviser that won Bill Clinton's heart and operated as the presidential pimp. The horny duo spent many pleasant days indulging their lust at public expense while the Clinton administration "deregulated" the economy, so the financial sector could do what it does best: bankrupt the country.

Although he may have given up prostitutes, Morris is still screwing the country. A sample of the claims made by the League of American Voters appears below in quotes.

"So, without your consent, you very easily could lose your insurer and your doctor."

Lots of people are losing their insurers and their doctors right now. That's because private HMOs reserve the right to dismiss costly customers when their medical needs cut into the bottom line. They prefer healthy profits and sick people, not the other way around.

"Great doctors probably will not want to get the very low rates the government will pay private doctors who are part of the new government system."

Why should a public option require that doctors be paid "very low rates?" The only reason the government will likely pay low rates is because private corporations insist on that. They don't want the competition from a high-quality public option, and insist that it be worse than the worst of the HMOs, so they won't be driven out of business. But they deserve to be driven out of business. Health care isn't a commodity, it's a right.

"The truth is that Obamacare would (assign?) almost 50 million new patients to government care."

Tens of millions of patients currently have NO health care under the privatized system. Obama's plan could make things worse, or better, but aiming to insure the uninsured is not in itself evidence of a step backwards. Every other industrial country except the U.S. has a national insurance program that makes health care a right, not a commodity. Incidentally, U.S. soldiers receive government medical care. Is that a liberal plot to force feed them communism? Obviously not. If government care is good enough for the military it's good enough for everyone.

"This means that faceless bureaucrats will decide the type and quality of your care."

Bureaucrats have faces. It's really hard to get any kind of job if you don't have a face, even in the government sector.

Having said that, however, it should be pointed out that HMOs are loaded with bureaucrats, that's why administrative costs are much higher under them than under Medicare.

"It is a very dangerous thing to give your life and well-being over to government bureaucrats!"

It's hard to quarrel with this. National security bureaucrats are killing thousands with endless wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Colombia etc. Why allow them to ration wars according to spurious notions of public need? Make them turn a profit or get out of business!

"Imagine if you or a loved one is older than 80 years and critically needs heart surgery. Instead of getting the heart procedure, you or that loved one could be informed that you are simply too old. "

People are often too old to stand a reasonable chance of being able to endure heavy anaesthesia, and surgery is often ruled out for that reason. Does that mean your doctor or insurance company is trying to kill you? Of course not. In any case, whether one is under private HMOs or government care, such decisions have to be made. There is nothing to be gained by getting hysterical about it, and there is no reason to suppose that the quality of decision making has to be lower under a government plan than under a private sector plan. The one thing we do know is that under the private sector, profit, not health, is the superordinate goal. If it is profitable to an HMO to keep grandma alive, they'll be interested in doing that. If not, her life may depend on the conscience of an insurance agent, who is paid not to have a conscience.

[Postscript: Ezekiel Emmanuel, the brother of White House chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, has written that older Americans should be a lower priority for health care spending. (See "Obama's Mistakes In Health Care Reform" published by Counterpunch, September 7, 2009) Objections to this kind of remark are understandable. To the extent that government-sponsored health care pits one sector of the population against others, it is not universal care, and should be opposed. However, a misguided government health care plan hardly proves that government sponsored health care is unworkable per se.]

"These committee members will set guidelines with which faceless bureaucrats will make decisions about you and your healthcare."

Is that worse than having faceless private insurance agents make decisions about you and your healthcare, guided only by what is profitable for them and their companies? That's the situation presently. If you have a car crash and are lingering near death someone has to decide if it is financially worthwhile to save your life. If you are uninsured, you stand a much better than average chance of being declared unfit to live. If everyone were insured under a single payer plan, which unfortunately Obama doesn't favor, letting someone die for financial reasons would be much less likely.

"The Obama plan will cost more than $1 trillion in new federal outlays, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office."

If true, that's a good reason to support a single-payer plan, which would not require new outlays, and would actually save money.

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