Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tune Into The Whitehouse Live!

Tune Into The Whitehouse Live!

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By Dennis Kucinich
A New Movement: Health Care as a Civil Right
The hour has arrived to begin anew the Civil Rights Movement, this time for Health Care for All.

Columnist Claims There's No Health Care Crisis; Obama Is Making It Up

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson says there's no health care crisis and President Obama is acting "very Carter-like" by creating one where none exists. His evidence? Most people are satisfied with their health plans. Never mind that it's already been repeated ad nauseam that the reason for this statistic is that people don't use them or simply don't understand what they have. It's sort of like hearing that most people are satisfied with their new car before they drive it off the dealer's lot. My guess is that this is how some Republicans will respond to tonight's address. Watch for people to start saying that Obama is too busy presenting "a political priority as a national crisis" when "the economy, Afghanistan and Iran may be crises enough for anyone." And watch for people to start saying that the real crisis might just be the rising costs of health care reform and that Obama has no plans to deal with that.

So what should be done? Gerson says "nothing."

I have a couple of question for Mr. Gerson. Health insurance rates have doubled in the last 10 years. They're on track to double again within the decade.

Does he expect his employer to continue to foot the bill for these ever escalating expenses? Or is it possible that at some point his employer is going to send him a note saying: We've eliminated employer coverage; you're now on your own. Think that can't happen? It's already happening. It's been happening.

Does he think that one possible reason wages for middle class Americans haven't gone up (adjusted for inflation) in the last eight years is because our employers can't afford the ever increasing cost of health insurance?

I'd ask Mr. Gerson to ask one of the millions of families who have faced bankruptcy just because they got sick. Medical bills are involved in more than 60 percent of all personal bankruptcies in the U-S, an increase of 50 percent in just six years. A person whose spouse dies from cancer is not only left a widow and cost them everything they owned, but resulted in a bankruptcy that remains attached to a credit report for seven years though no financial recklessness took place.

Under today's laws, this could happen to any American family, and in less than six degrees of separation, you probably know someone who's been through it. If you don't, just wait, and hope it doesn't happen to you. Until it does.

My neighbor makes big money, easily 6-figures plus, and yet he has difficulty insuring his 21-year old son, who has a pre-existing condition requiring expensive monthly meds --and is therefore virtually uninsurable under present industry rules. If my neighbor dies --and with it, the death of his income stream-- his son is flat out of luck. Shall we just let him die, too?

If a relative fat-cat white guy like him is struggling to insure his family, what in the world is joe-average American doing?

Funny that so many of those who don't believe in survival of the fittest --Darwin, and his evil scientific ilk-- are so insistent on applying its precepts when it concerns health insurance. made this video. I don't care for and yes, the video is designed to advance their agenda, but the people in it? They're real. The health care issue is certainly a crisis for them.

What if one of the people in this video was you? Maybe it is. But if you prefer, try this story in Arizona where 10,000 working parents will lose health insurance. This month.

Nope, no reform needed to help these people.
In the Washington Post, the same paper in which this column appears:

"They said I never mentioned I had a back problem," said Marrari, 52, whose coverage with Blue Cross was abruptly canceled in 2006 after a thyroid disorder, fluid in the heart and lupus were diagnosed. That left the Los Angeles woman with $25,000 in medical bills and the stigma of the company's claim that she had committed fraud by not listing on a health questionnaire "preexisting conditions" Marrari said she did not know she had.

Nope, no need for reform there.

If "the only problem with healthcare is cost," as Mr. Gerson says, explain why we pay so much when we rank 37th in the world in health care and our mortality and health rates pale in comparison to other nations? Never mind the cost for moment; why aren't we getting enough bang for our buck?

How come in the countries where government is much more involved in health care the cost of it is lower and quality of it is higher?

Gerson says the cost of health care is "artificially high because of decades of government manipulation. Compare the falling costs of toothpaste, computers or plastic surgery with the rising costs of college tuitions, houses and healthcare."

I was unaware that toothpaste costs had dropped. Not for me. As for computers and plastic surgery, those have dropped because of technical advances and proliferation. Try comparing the rising costs of food and you get a very different story, one that shows Americans do not have the money they had forty years ago (prior to Reagan anyway).
"The rising costs of college tuitions, houses and healthcare," he declares "have had government manipulation of their respective markets," which explains why they've gone up in price?

Really? Wanna explain how "government intervention" has actually made college education cheaper in state schools than private universities? How did government make housing more expensive when market forces dictated prices, as they have now, when housing prices are as much as 50 percent lower than they were?
Gerson writes that "all 'public options,' whether in airlines (80s) or higher education or housing has only raised prices." Really? There was a free college and airline paid for by tax dollars? When did that happen?

Gerson also writes that:

…encouraging a sense of crisis is a traditional tool of executive leadership. And using a joint session of Congress to address a single domestic issue is the most dramatic expression of this approach.
Carter did it effectively in April 1977. He spoke of the energy crisis as "the moral equivalent of war." Energy resources were "simply running out." (Carter's CIA predicted worldwide oil shortages by the mid-1980s.) America needed to "cope with a crisis that otherwise would overwhelm us."
The speech had immediate influence. The share of Americans who viewed the energy crisis as a serious problem jumped nine points, to 54 percent. One congressional staffer enthused: "It's damn near unpatriotic to oppose the president right now."

Encouraging a sense of crisis is a traditional tool of leadership? And who would know this better than members of the media? Do they not encourage a sense of crisis and controversy last week in playing up the faux outrage over a president's speech to school children? Did they bother to cover any town hall meetings, the majority of which were conducted in a civilized, orderly fashion? No, they showed angry people, shouting people, people finger-pointing at other people, because that sells better than civil discourse.

When Gerson writes that "encouraging a sense of crisis is a traditional tool of executive leadership," he knows of what he speaks:

Gerson proposed the use of a "smoking gun/mushroom cloud" metaphor during a September 5, 2002 meeting of the White House Iraq Group, in an effort to sell the American public on the nuclear dangers posed by Saddam Hussein. According to Newsweek columnist Michael Isikoff, "The original plan had been to place it in an upcoming presidential speech, but WHIG members fancied it so much that when the Times reporters contacted the White House to talk about their upcoming piece [about aluminum tubes], one of them leaked Gerson's phrase — and the administration would soon make maximum use of it.

The title of Gerson's op-ed? "Obama Crisis: Credibility." Why do I get the feeling that Karl Rove was whispering in his ear to drop the name "Carter," into the health care debate, knowing how well that incites the base?

Incidentally, Mr. Gerson might do well to check his history. Obama's approach to health care reform is diametrically opposed to Carter's. Ted Kennedy broke with Carter precisely because of Carter's take it slow approach. Since I assume that Mr. Gerson is an expert on politics, I have to conclude that he is being entirely dishonest when he equates Obama with Carter.

Unfortunately, if we had taken stock of the energy crisis in the 1970's, we wouldn't be beholden to Middle East oil barons today. And what is it they say about an ounce of prevention?

Or perhaps we should argue that this debate is about government spending? Let's check:

--Almost $700 billion spent so that Saddam Hussein couldn't give weapons he didn't have to terrorist groups he didn't have ties with. (And that doesn't include the future cost of the Iraq war, the wounded vets, the lost lives, the lost productivity).
--$2.5 trillion for Bush's tax cuts (for 2001-2010), with 52.5% of the benefits to the top 5% of taxpayers in 2010, and the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression.
--$1.2 trillion over 10 years for the prescription drug care benefit, driven higher because the Congress didn't want the government to be able to bargain for the drugs (which equals a direct subsidy from taxpayers to big pharma).
Is this debate about money or priorities? If you think that spending a trillion dollars to ensure health care for all of your fellow citizens is worse than spending it on a pointless war, tax cuts for the extremely rich, and handouts to big pharma then maybe you need to reassess your priorities.

To my conservative friends here today: would you explain to me how Gerson's saying that, to a very well-off man like him, there doesn't appear to be a crisis in health care access is anything other than the most revolting, embarrassing elitism?

I wonder where he gets his health care? And I wonder what he'd do if they stopped providing it? And what he would do if he could no longer afford it out of pocket?

Annual compensation of health insurance company executives (2006 and 2007 figures):
• Ronald A. Williams, Chair/ CEO, Aetna Inc., $23,045,834
• H. Edward Hanway, Chair/ CEO, Cigna Corp, $30.16 million
• David B. Snow, Jr, Chair/ CEO, Medco Health, $21.76 million
• Michael B. MCallister, CEO, Humana Inc, $20.06 million
• Stephen J. Hemsley, CEO, UnitedHealth Group, $13,164,529
• Angela F. Braly, President/ CEO, Wellpoint, $9,094,771
• Dale B. Wolf, CEO, Coventry Health Care, $20.86 million
• Jay M. Gellert, President/ CEO, Health Net, $16.65 million
• William C. Van Faasen, Chairman, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, $3 million plus $16.4 million in retirement benefits
• Charlie Baker, President/ CEO, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, $1.5 million
• James Roosevelt, Jr., CEO, Tufts Associated Health Plans, $1.3 million
• Cleve L. Killingsworth, President/CEO Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, $3.6 million
• Raymond McCaskey, CEO, Health Care Service Corp (Blue Cross Blue Shield), $10.3 million
• Daniel P. McCartney, CEO, Healthcare Services Group, Inc, $ 1,061,513
• Daniel Loepp, CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, $1,657,555
• Todd S. Farha, CEO, WellCare Health Plans, $5,270,825
• Michael F. Neidorff, CEO, Centene Corp, $8,750,751
• Daniel Loepp, CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, $1,657,555
• Todd S. Farha, CEO, WellCare Health Plans, $5,270,825
• Michael F. Neidorff, CEO, Centene Corp, $8,750,751

That's over $220 million for 20 people. This is where some of your health insurance money goes. CEOs are paid based on their ability to keep costs low and profits high. Who do you suppose is on the short end of that stick in this particular equation?

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