Here There be Windmills... Maybe.
Karl Rove, in today's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, isn't being as crude as Ronald Reagan or today's Republican dingbats who still think that Socialism and Communism are the greatest threats facing us today but he comes damned close to it in laying out his case against Obama's "radical" health care plan. And, as with the weeks leading up to Sonia Sotomayor's nomination, even before a rough sketch has appeared on the drawing board, Rove and the GOP that he'd led to rack and ruin are leading the charge and tilting at windmills that haven't even been built.
In fact, Rove ends his next-to-penultimate paragraph with, "Mr. Obama's real aim, as some candid Democrats admit, is a single-payer, government-run health-care system." (I'd like to know who those phantom Democrats are. Thus far, I've heard only Republicans make such ridiculous claims) This, despite Obama's and the Democratic party's staunch refusal to allow such a thing to be put on the table, to the point where Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus by design had not allowed single payer advocates to even testify before the panel.
In New Mexico and in several other places around the country, Obama has trotted out the tired old meme that the overhaul that liberals are calling for would be too traumatic for the current system to withstand. The closest he's come to endorsing a single payer plan was to admit that he'd like to see it but that the current infrastructure wouldn't be able to handle it.
As with withdrawing from Iraq, to paraphrase Mike Gravel, we don't know what will happen until we try it. And an unwillingness to try an idea that isn't even new is hardly what I would call a radical approach to anything.
Rove rightly says the Obama administration estimates that its still-nebular health care plan would cost us $150 billion a year for the next decade. Yet that figure barely exceeds the total annual cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ($126 billion, according the Pentagon's most recent request), two quagmires that have turned into abattoirs as well as massive money pits.
But Rove's argument is supported only by the full-blown lunatic assertion that the more private health care providers we have, the more they'll compete and the better off we'll be. The only jockeying that people see is their ongoing competition to see who can jack up their premiums the highest and who can deny the most people health care by making up pre-existing conditions, second-guessing physicians and any other sleazy dodge they can think up to get out of shelling out money, including dropping coverage for people who aren't ordinarily sick.
Managed health care deniers over the last few decades have increasingly come to look upon even the most legitimate claims as a drain on their bottom line. According to the AJM (.pdf file), nearly two thirds the people who have had to file for bankruptcy the last several years have done so because they fell behind on their medical bills and three quarters of them were insured, well-educated and middle class. With the pro-corporate tightening of the bankruptcy laws in early 2005, this makes it even harder for middle class America to remain solvent.
And this doesn't even address the 48,000,000 who deserve health care and have been priced out of it because it's been turned into a privilege instead of an inalienable right. 75% of the people who have sought protection in bankruptcy court are among the insured but whose health care providers and insurance companies have declined paying their health care costs. There is even less sympathy for those who are uninsured and labeled as deadbeats because they can't afford to pay $50-100 a week or more, plus co-pays because they can't get or retain a decent job.
Health care reform, as with 2005's bankruptcy "reform", isn't a standalone issue that sits detached from others any more than Dick Cheney's office was detached from the executive branch. Health care reform is but one large link in the Great Chain of Being that involves the job market, the subprime housing crisis and a whole host of other issues that detrimentally affect Main Street. And, thus far, the huge bailout of Wall Street has done absolutely nothing to helping out those on Main Street and has resulted in just ten banks paying back their debt (without giving out many loans even to qualified applicants).
Those without medical coverage are forced to go to emergency rooms which cost far more than scheduled office visits and when they default on their payments the cost gets passed on to others, which partly accounts for the rising cost of health care in hospitals.
The system plainly doesn't work as it stands and the Republican mantra of deregulation of the HMOs and insurance companies doesn't hold any more water than their insistence in deregulating any other industry.
Rove acknowledges by writing,
Health care desperately needs far-reaching reforms that put patients and their doctors in charge, bring the benefits of competition and market forces to bear, and ensure access to affordable and portable health care for every American.
Then follows up by saying, "Republicans have plans to achieve this, and they must make their case for reform in every available forum." No, they have not advanced any such plan other than to say no and let's keep the HMO's on the field. If there was any honest desire to put patients and doctors in charge, the various HMO's and insurance companies would've seen to it but the exact opposite has happened. We've seen, instead, deathly ill people lying on gurneys at emergency room entrances while bean counters and nurses checked to see if they had coverage, patients dying en route to clinics who would take them.
Yes, Mr. Rove, we do need reform that puts power back in the hands of the insured and the actual health care providers. But if the current system had any vested interest in doing something that would subtract from their well-fed bottom line, the opportunity to do so has long since past. And, as with the Wall Street bailout that has heavily contributed to the enormous deficit for which you're solely blaming the current administration without a nod to the previous one, it's time for the grownups to get involved and restore some sanity to this circus that we euphemistically refer to as "managed health care."