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Posts Tagged ‘health

A Hole in the Universe

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There is a gaping hole in our scheme for “universal” healthcare, and Ezra Klein was good enough to mention it, albiet offhandedly.

As President Obama thundered during his speech, so-called “illegal” immigrants will under no circumstances benefit from his proposed health plan. Representative Wilson got his 15 minutes by shouting “You Lie!”, but unfortunately this is a rare example of verisimilitude from our commander-in-cool. Klein and others have noted that the proposed scheme will require proof of documentation in order to participate in the “health insurance marketplace”, effectively barring anyone who doesn’t have their papers in order.

Senator Conrad has since promised that undocumented residents will be able to purchase insurance, but cannot receive subsidies. He does not mention, however, that documentation will still be requested upon application in the current scheme, which would effectively bar anyone unwilling to disclose their status (read: everyone). So it amounts to the same thing – a cruel exclusion of “illegals” not only from subsidized health care, but indeed, any health coverage whatsoever.

One often hears the “moral hazard” argument applied to this situation. If illegal immigrants are allowed free healthcare, the argument runs, the only effect will be to exacerbate the immigration problem. Such reasoning assumes the only reason Mexicans and Central Americans begin the often deadly road to America is to take advantage of our “freedoms”. If that be the case, however, the end of the traveller’s dangerous journey must come as an utter disappointment.

They arrive as second-class citizens, and so they remain, barred even from minimum wage employment, under the constant threat of deportation, possessing no true rights of which to speak. Most barely eke out a living picking vegetables or doing dangerous construction for criminal wages, sending all but the most essential money back to their impoverished families.

Very, very few commentators in our mainstream discourse will dare to mention the real root of our so-called “immigration problem.” The North America Free Trade Agreement (or NAFTA) allows the US to dump its subsidized grain surpluses on Mexico (in the name of “free trade), undercutting their traditional farmers and driving them out of business. In the years since NAFTA’s inception (in 1994) the wave of dispossessed villages and out-of-business farmers has flown north, in search of some sort of livelihood.

Our economic policies drove these villagers to risk their lives to become second-class American citizens. And while the prospect of “free healthcare to illegals” seems difficult to swallow, the economic calamities wrought upon them (largely by our hand), should be doubly so.

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Written by pavanvan

September 14, 2009 at 3:04 am

Virulent Protests against “Big Government”

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Rally in Washington. Photo Courtesy of The Huffington Post

Rally in Washington. Photo courtesy of The Huffington Post

This is truly surreal, and lends a new tone of absurdism to what is turning out to be a thoroughly scurrilous health care “debate”.

Not that protests against “out-of-control spending” (as the AP worded it) are absurd in themselves. Indeed, it seems clear that the Obama deficit presents a mortal danger to our long-term economic health. But with the 2001 tax cuts to the rich still in effect, the trillions printed for the benefit of our financial industry, and the tear-inducing costs of our overseas adventures, the idea that uninsured citizens with preventative care could ignite such fury seems exceedingly bizarre. Particularly as the currently debated scheme would leave insurance industry profits largely intact.

The fury, at least, seems real enough. The newspapers report  thousands of citizens descending upon Washington from all across our considerable landmass, toting signs with instructive messages such as “ObamaCare Makes Me Sick”.  Nearly every article begins with the profile of a protester who took a train, two buses, and hitchhiked to attend the event. It’s hard to believe such furor has been raised only by the prospect of expanded healthcare – something else is clearly at play.

The Washington Post gives us a hint:

Jeff Mapps, 29, a stagehand and labor union member from South Philadelphia, left home about 6 a.m. to come to the protest. He said he hadn’t been involved in previous Tea Party demonstrations, but he watches Fox News host Glenn Beck “all the time” and he wanted to be a part of something he thinks will be historic. Beck has been drumming up support for the march.

Glenn Beck, as you may know, is a verminous talking head at Fox News, formerly at CNN. A “conservative” thoroughly opposed to ‘big government’, he nonetheless cheered loudly for every bit of Bush-era deficit spending, from the Iraq War to the TARP bailout.

And again:

Like countless others at the rally, Joan Wright, 78 of Ocean Pines, Md., sounded angry. “I’m not taking this crap anymore,” said Wright, who came by bus to Washington with 150 like-minded residents of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. “I don’t like the health-care [plan]. I don’t like the czars. And I don’t like the elitists telling us what we should do or eat.”

So it would appear the issue is not truly with the idea of “big government”, but merely this government.

As far as one can tell, much of this event was organized by a collection of “conservative” political action groups, including FreedomWorks, and the Tea Party Campaign. Their agenda seems entirely corporatist in nature. Anyone truly worried about the deficit would protest against our overseas engagements or the terrifying actions of our Federal Reserve. Instead, they have chosen this particular manifestation of “big government” to oppose – the very same one that promises to drive down insurance industry costs.

Our sponsored media has also answered the siren call, whipping up the public ire against this and only this program of Mr. Obama’s. In doing so, they reveal a real fear among the pharmaceutical industry regarding the so-called “public option”. For an easy reminder of the role pharmaceuticals play in cable news, observe how many ads for their products you encounter in a half-hour of Fox or CNN programming. I once counted twelve.

In the end, I don’t really think they have much to worry about. If a government-sponsored non-profit health insurance option is available when all this is over, you may color me pink. But the fact that a bit of petty demagoguery can mobilize thousands of citizens against their material benefit – well, that leaves me rather blue indeed.

Like countless others at the rally, Joan Wright, 78 of Ocean Pines, Md., sounded angry. “I’m not taking this crap anymore,” said Wright, who came by bus to Washington with 150 like-minded residents of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. “I don’t like the health-care [plan]. I don’t like the czars. And I don’t like the elitists telling us what we should do or eat.”

Written by pavanvan

September 12, 2009 at 8:09 pm

Death Panels Redux

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Astoundingly, a snot-nosed university student recently forced President Obama to waver on his so-called “public option” approach to health care reform. Here is a replay of that exchange on The Daily Show, combined, of course with Jon Stewart’s sublime wit.

The “public option”, for those who haven’t closely followed the surreal coverage of the health-care debate, entails an affordable publicly-owned insurance package to compete with private insurers. In this way, its supporters argue, universal coverage can be achieved, and the exorbitant costs we now suffer can hopefully be reduced. If insurers are suddenly forced to compete with a non-for-profit venture, they would have to revise their own prices and coverage accordingly. President Obama previously expressed vociferous support for such a plan, but has recently wavered, expressing the sentiment that a publicly-owned insurance scheme was not critical to his reform agenda.

The blogs, of course, went wild. Their responses fell within the typical left-right spectrum – the left-leaning blogs bemoaning this latest treachery from their onetime leader, the right-leaning ones (particularly Ygleasis), arguing that a public option is totally unnecessary, and that President Obama was right to jettison it.

For myself, I admit I would be happy if health care were affordable, and this implies a reduction of costs which have by now left the realm of reality. Anyone who has visited a hospital and taken a look at the itemized list of charges on the bill should need no further persuasion. Whether this is done with a “public option” or not seems largely immaterial (though I admit it would seem easier under a public option scheme).

As Katha Politt rightly points out in her Nation article linked above, without a serious plan to reduce such villainous costs, subsidizing American health care will amount to little more than a bailout for the health insurance industry. Indeed, given the obsequious manner with which President Obama addressed the AMA, and the insurance industry dollars that funded his campaign, there can be no surprise that he seeks to secure their profits.

Written by pavanvan

August 19, 2009 at 1:23 pm