Wednesday, October 03, 2007

"I Forbid", redux

George W. Bush has seen fit to use his veto power ("I forbid" in Latin) only 3 times before, the first in July of 2006, to block a Congressional measure to use Federal money for stem cell research. So, out of all the bad legislation that was passed by Republican controlled Congresses for 6 years, he chose to veto one of the only good bills. Now, Bush has said he will veto the current renewal of the SCHIP (state childrens health insurance program) as it's being debated in Congress. It seems that our President almost seeks to be on the wrong side of any given issue, no matter how experts, not to mention the public, feel.

One thing everyone, even 'the Decider', agree on is that the entire system of healthcare delivery in this country is an unqualified mess. Ever since Kaiser healthcare of California in the early 1970s thought it would be a great idea to become a for-profit venture and Nixon quietly killed any regulations to the contrary, medical costs and quality of care have been going in opposite directions. This has only accelerated in the last 15 years as the markets figured out that there was money to be made by charging individuals and businesses enormous premiums and providing them with free preventative care - the 'M' in HMO stands for maintenence - but then only providing partial or no coverage for actual needed medical procedures. Catastrophic illness? You're basically on your own. Is it any surprise that the cause of the majority of personal bankruptcies of late is large medical bills for serious illness? A lot of these people even had supposed health coverage through work.

Almost all economists (including this holder of a BA in economics) know, that of all the services provided in an economy, healthcare and education work horribly in a for-profit/free market model. The same can also can be said for news media and public utilities. The reasons are simple - these services are a necesity for everyone that provide unmeasurable benefits for the overall society years down the road. The 'consumers need to shop around' argument that Republicans and even some Democrats (Hillary?) like to use is, in a word, ridiculous. This theory may work when consumers are shopping for preventative care, but that service is already provided for free by both governmental and for-profit entitites. If someone is having a heart attack, was just diagnosed with a tumor or whose child needs major corrective surgery, can they honestly be expected to 'shop around' for the 'best deal'?!? We're talking about life and death decisions! If anything, they should be shopping around for the best doctor, not the best bargain!

Another shoddy argument that gets thrown around (I won't even get into the right-wingers who spew the words 'socialized medicine' every 2 minutes) is that, yes our healthcare is expensive and growing fast, but the quality of our care is second to none. Wrong. Perhaps it's second to none if you're financially capable of writing 5 figure checks for premiums every year and then 6 figure checks if a serious illness occurs, but for the other 98% of us it is not. Out of all the industrialized nations, we are last or near last in almost all health measurements: infant mortality, average life span, etc. Why is this if we're spending so much? Because the system is FOR PROFIT. That money that should be providing second to none care for everyone is siphoned off in the form of stock dividends, cash dividends, capital gains and large bonuses for the executives that run the HMOs. Oh, I almost forgot, a lot of the money also goes to politicians via the healthcare lobby to help perpetuate this incredibly broken system.

Bush's threatened veto, petty as it is, is only the latest media sideshow in a major issue that needs to fixed. In the current political environment, it doesn't look to happen anytime soon.

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