Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Emancipation from For-Profit Sickness Insurance

July 1, 2009, 8:30 a.m.

Emancipation from the For-Profit Sickness System
(brought to you by*)

"When the going gets tough, the tough . . . get ever more generous with their campaign contributions and lobbying expenses."

The Wall Street Journal reports that "the health-care industry . . . increased outlays in the first quarter . . . to $127.1 million [although] lobbying spending across all business sectors was flat in the period." Elizabeth Williamson, T. W. Farnam and Brody Mullins, "Finance Lobby Cut Spending as Feds Targeted Wall Street," Wall Street Journal, July 1, 2009. Other reports vary somewhat on the numbers depending on what segments of this "industry" are included. Alicia Mundy and T.W. Farnam, "Drug Makers' Lobbying Bets Rise; National Health-Care Debate Spurs 36% Increase in Industry Spending," Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2009 ("The drug industry, already the biggest-spending lobby in Washington, is placing an even bigger bet on the influence game . . . up 36% from the first quarter of 2008"). Pfizer alone increased its Congressional largess, for one three-month period, 119%, from $2.8 million during the first quarter of 2008 to $6.140 million this year. John Fritze, "Lobbying Boosted as Health Care Debate Heats Up," USA Today, June 12, 2009 ("The largest medical insurers and drug companies spent 41% more on lobbying this year as Congress began debate on an overhaul of health care, which may include a public insurance plan the industries oppose").

Bear in mind that none of these numbers include campaign contributions. To no one's surprise, those in Congress who have the most power in shaping health care legislation also turn out to be the beneficiaries of the largest campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures from the "industry" (that ought to be a "profession") profiting off of our insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenditures. Civilized, industrialized countries provide health care as a basic human right.

If it were not such a stain on our political system, a human tragedy for millions, and a major contributor to our economic decline, it would be funny.

A blogger who goes by the name of "ralphbon" attempts to give us a little of that relief in an essay he has called "If Lincoln Approached Emancipation the Way Obama Approaches Health Care," Oxdown Gazette, June 18, 2009. Here it is:

Now, why not do a full-emancipation system? (Applause.) Got the little emancipation advocates up here. (Applause.) All right.

For those of you who don't know, a full-emancipation system is like — Frederick Douglass is sort of an example of full emancipation, but it's only for ex-slaves in places like Massachusetts, and the way it works is, the idea is that you don't have owners. The government sees to it directly — (applause).

If I were starting a system from scratch, then I think that the idea of moving towards a full-emancipation system could very well make sense. That's the kind of system that you have in most industrialized countries around the world.

The only problem is that we're not starting from scratch.

We have historically a tradition of slavery. And although there are a lot of people who are not satisfied with it, the truth is, you've got this system that's already in place. We don't want a huge disruption as we go into freedom reform where suddenly we're trying to completely reinvent one-sixth of the economy.

So what I've said is, let's set up a system where if you’re happy with your master, you don't have to change anything — nothing changes. If you're highly unsatisfied with your master, then let's give you choices, let's give you options, including a freedom plan that you could enroll in and sign up for. That's been my proposal. (Applause.)

Let me address an illegitimate concern that's being put forward by those who are claiming that an emancipation option is somehow a Trojan horse for full emancipation.

I'll be honest; there are countries where full emancipation works pretty well. But I believe -- and I've taken some flak from members of my own party for this belief -- that it's important for our reform efforts to build on our traditions here in the United States. So when you hear the naysayers claim that I'm trying to bring about a complete end to slavery, know this: They're not telling the truth. (Applause.)

What I am trying to do -- and what an emancipation option will help do -- is put affordable freedom within reach for millions of slaves.
Sadly, ralphbon has drawn this language from actual statements of our President regarding health care.

Of course, those like our own Senator Charles Grassley are simply beyond the pale with their insistence not only that the world's number one choice (universal single-payer) is "off the table," but their unwillingness to even give Americans the choice of a "public option."

But we had greater hopes for our President as well during this last best hope for meaningful health care reform.

* Why do I put this blog ID at the top of the entry, when you know full well what blog you're reading? Because there are a number of Internet sites that, for whatever reason, simply take the blog entries of others and reproduce them as their own without crediting the source. I don't mind the flattering attention, but would appreciate acknowledgment as the source, even if I have to embed it myself. -- Nicholas Johnson

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