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Health Last Updated: Jul 23rd, 2009 - 00:35:39

The enemies of America�s real healthcare reform
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

Jul 23, 2009, 00:23

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As Wikepedia tells us, �In 2005, Americans spent an estimated US$6,401 per capita on health care, while Canadians spent US$3,326. This amounted to 15.3 percent of U.S GDP in that year, while Canada spent 9.8 percent of GDP on health care.�

You might ask yourself �where did nearly half of the US per capita dollars go?� Was it in superior health care? I think not.

�A 2007 review of all studies comparing health outcomes in Canada and the U.S. found that health outcomes may be superior in patients cared for in Canada versus the United States, but differences are not consistent.� Even with that caveat, if the Canadian medical outcomes tend to be superior, why are they paying nearly half per capita of what we�re paying for inferior healthcare?

In fact Wiki says, �The U.S. ranks 42nd in the world for low infant mortality, 46th in life expectancy, between Cyprus and Denmark, and 37th in health system performance, between Costa Rica and Slovenia.� Abominable, isn�t it? But how could this be? Read on . . .

�Advocates say that a U.S. single-payer health care system would provide universal coverage, give patients free choice of providers and hospitals, and guarantee comprehensive coverage and equal access for all medically necessary procedures, without increasing overall spending. Shifting to a single-payer system would eliminate oversight by managed care reviewers, restoring the traditional doctor-patient relationship.� Alas, at last a breath of fresh air and hope.

Yet, here are mentioned the first enemies, perhaps the most formidable, the managed care reviewers, HMOs, PPOs, i.e., the insurance companies, that siphon off dollars from that per capita US healthcare figure. Dollars siphoned into expensive DC lobbyists, advertising, PR agencies, who will do everything from misinforming the public about the facts to stuffing campaign contributions in the pockets of the very politicians appointed to reduce healthcare costs and find equitable protection for all Americans, including the nearly 47 million with no care at all.

Case in point as reported by the Washington Post, Industry Cash Flowed To Drafters of Reform. As the story goes, �As liberal protesters marched outside, Sen. Max Baucus sat down inside a San Francisco mansion for a dinner of chicken cordon bleu and a discussion of landmark health-care legislation under consideration by his Senate Finance Committee.� Of course, the landmark was his level of corruption.

�At the table on May 26 were about 20 donors willing to fork over $10,000 or more to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, including executives of major insurance companies, hospitals and other health-care firms. [Italics mine]

��Most people there had an agenda; they wanted the ear of a senator, and they got it,� said Aaron Roland, a San Francisco health-care activist who paid half price to attend the gathering. �Money gets you in the door. The only thing the other side can do is march around and protest outside.�� That�s not just cynical. It�s reality. More?

�As his committee has taken center stage in the battle over health-care reform, Chairman Baucus (D-Mont.) has emerged as a leading recipient of Senate campaign contributions from the hospitals, insurers and other medical interest groups hoping to shape the legislation to their advantage. Health-related companies and their employees gave Baucus�s political committees nearly $1.5 million in 2007 and 2008, when he began holding hearings and making preparations for this year�s reform debate.� Yes, there�s even more . . .

�Top health executives and lobbyists have continued to flock to the senator�s often extravagant fundraising events in recent months. During a Senate break in late June, for example, Baucus held his 10th annual fly-fishing and golfing weekend in Big Sky, Mont., for a minimum donation of $2,500. Later this month comes �Camp Baucus,� a �trip for the whole family� that adds horseback riding and hiking to the list of activities.� Baucus makes Gordon �Greed Is Good� Gecko look like a Boy Scout.

�To avoid any appearance of favoritism, his aides say, Baucus quietly began refusing contributions from health-care political action committees after June 1. But the policy does not apply to lobbyists or corporate executives, who continued to make donations, disclosure records show.

�Baucus declined requests to comment for this article. Spokesman Tyler Matsdorf said the senator �is only driven by one thing: what is right for Montana and the country. And he will continue his open process of working together with the president, his colleagues in Congress, and groups and individuals from across the nation to get this legislation passed.� Excuse me; I�m choking on his cordon bleu.

�Baucus�s fundraising prowess underscores the enduring political strength of the health-care lobby, which led all other sectors in donations to federal candidates during the last election cycle and has shifted its giving to Democrats as the party has tightened its control of Congress.� Is anyone ready to throw up? Hold on . . .

�The sector gave nearly $170 million to federal lawmakers in 2007 and 2008, with 54 percent going to Democrats, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics. The shift in parties was even more pronounced during the first three months of this year, when Democrats collected 60 percent of the $5.4 million donated by health-care companies and their employees, the data show.�

So there is another big piece of your per capita dollars, both in bribes, and in the less than equitable services the HMOs tend to deliver in return for them. You�re screwed both ways. You can read the rest of the excellent WP story for yourself. Take names. Highlight Big Pharmas, too, like Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer and insurance giant Northwestern Mutual. While they�re at Baucus�s �Eighth Annual Ski and Snowmobile Weekend� in Big Sky in February, you may be in the emergency room.

Maybe you lost your job and your health insurance. Maybe you couldn�t afford to pick it up with COBRA because that costs twice as much. Maybe you didn�t have health insurance in the first place because you�re one of the 47 million not covered by it. So can we talk about single-payer health care now? Can we get real now? Can we not let these assholes tell us it is socialism, like Michael Steele, Republican Party chief? It�s really like an expanded Medicare, Medicaid, or the Veteran�s Administration program. And it�s American as apple pie, the first two conceived by JFK and put into law by Lyndon Johnson.

Medicare is for the elderly, or still vital, handsome guys like me, playing with all their marbles. Medicaid is for the poor, too many of whom I have seen in my years, beginning with my first job as a social investigator for the New York City Department of Welfare. Neither the welfare nor the gig was a piece of cake, trust me. The last sector, the Department of Veterans Affairs, which provides benefits and services solely for veterans and their families -- and which could be doing a better job had it not been so woefully neglected financially by the war-mongering Bush and Donald Rumsfeld -- was instituted by Herbert Hoover in 1929, which proves even a Republican can do the right thing, and should be doing another now in 2009.

The argument for single-payer healthcare

Returning to Wiki, it tells us �Single-payer health care is a term used in the United States to describe the payment of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers from a single fund. It differs from typical private health insurance where, through pricing and other measures taken by the insurer, the level of risks carried by multiple insurance pools as well as the coverage can vary and the pricing has to be varied according to the contribution of risk added to the pool. It is often mentioned as one way to deliver universal health care. The administrator of the fund could be the government but it could also be a publicly owned agency regulated by law. Australia�s Medicare, Canada�s Medicare and healthcare in Taiwan are examples of single-payer universal health care systems.�

The bottom line to take from this paragraph is that healthcare should not be for profit, corporate profit, which is where your per capita dollars get lost in other people�s pockets. Picture Social Security privatized after the last market collapse, and all those seniors bankrupted for good. Not a pretty picture. So you don�t want privatization in your healthcare to ruin it with bottom-line greed.

�According to the National Library of Medicine�s Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) thesaurus, a single-payer system is: An approach to health care financing with only one source of money for paying healthcare providers. The scope may be national, like the Canadian system, statewide, or community-based. The payer may be a governmental unit or other entity such as an insurance company. The proposed advantages include administrative simplicity for patients and providers, and resulting significant savings in overhead costs.� Let that last sentence resonate in you.

The economies and efficiencies of US Single-payer healthcare is that one institution, i.e., the government, most likely, would cover the bulk of the citizenry. The costs are paid through taxes to employers and the employed, just as you pay for your Social Security with your FICA tax. A surcharge on the rich could be applied, as Obama is suggesting, perhaps an additional 5 percent. The unseen enemies in all this would be simple human selfishness and greed, a refusal for those with more to share in kind for the benefit of all.

Given a sufficient pool of the insured, employers might even be eliminated from the cost of insuring employees. A single-payer fund could be augmented by a trust, as is Social Security, which would invest in safe equities, Treasuries and the like, providing ancillary income. The doctors in a single-payer plan (SPP) could work on a fee plan as they do in Medicare and Medicaid. Or they can be salaried as they are in other nations. Again, the AMA, in its own greedy fear of income loss, is to be counted as another enemy of the people�s health.

On the other hand, Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) supports a single-payer system, as does the American College of Physicians, the second largest group of physicians in the USA. They called for legally mandated coverage of all Americans and urged lawmakers to consider a single-payer system as one option for arriving at that goal. The American Medical Student Association also supports single-payer care.

As of July 19, 2009, Doctor Howard Dean gave Democracy Now his prescription for real healthcare reform. �I don�t give a damn about the health insurance people being in business or out of business. I want a system that works,� said Dean, physician, six-term Vermont governor, Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.� You gotta love that guy.

DN responded, �We speak to Dean hours after the House Ways and Means Committee approved legislation to overhaul the nation�s healthcare system and expand insurance coverage. By a 23-to-18 vote, the committee backed key elements of President Obama�s blueprint for healthcare, including the creation of a new government health plan and requirements for employers to offer health insurance to workers or contribute to its cost.

�To help fund the changes to the healthcare system, the House committee also agreed to impose a surtax on families with incomes of more than $350,000 a year. Meanwhile, the conservative American Medical Association has just come out in support of the House bill, saying �the status quo is unacceptable.�

Dean then hedged the single-payer option, when he endorses President Obama�s healthcare plan for a public option choice. Having advocated that option myself, more study has led me reject half measures. Single-payer healthcare works best with the largest number of insured, so that its strength and income and economies are guaranteed.

In Congress, Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) has reintroduced the United States National Health Care Act (HR-676), as he has in every term of Congress under the same name since is was first introduced in 2003 in the 108th Congress with 38 cosponsors. That�s the baby to keep your eye on and ask for.

The final bunch of enemies

Part of the reason for this recalcitrance to embrace single-payer health care has been the economy, ironically, the same economy wrecked for now as in 1929 by Wall Street�s excesses, sins, and crimes. After four or five bailouts, several trillion dollars worth to investment banks, the Fed�s discount credit window thrown open to them, Goldman Sachs posted $3.44 billion in second-quarter profits and is planning to give billions in bonuses to its employees. Bank of America is posting a profit on trading gains. JPMorgan�s profit soared despite the turndown. And so on. And so I want my single-payer health-care. That�s my bonus, and yours!

Fortunately, Paulson got his butt reamed by Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns for the Bailout Bait and Switch. This Prison Planet article is definitely worth reading. It highlights the conspiracy of wealth stolen from taxpayers to feed a parasitic financial oligarchy. Its hands are as well stuffing campaign contributions in DC legislative pockets. These scoundrels are also the enemies of healthcare, the financial elites that would like to eliminate �useless eaters� as Hitler and Kissinger called the sick, the poor, the aged and infirm, or those simply struck by bad luck.

Don�t let these cumulative enemies triumph over single-payer, universal health care, either with fear of its costs, which will cost far less than what we have now, as the Canada/US/Australia examples and more point out. There are more of us than them, these enemies of the people, not just of our healthcare. These are the people that belong in prison, or up against a wall, or on trial in glass boxes like Eichmann. These are the enemies that would take your life for lunch. Remember that and them, the Baucuses and his friends, the insurance companies, their HMOs, Big Pharma, the misguided medical facilities and misguided practitioners who would get rich on your blood.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York City. Reach him at His new book, State Of Shock: Poems from 9/11 on� is available at, Amazon or

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