February 10, 2010

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Legislators need to grow both a spine and a conscience

First there was supposed to be Medicare for all 300 million of us. But that was a nonstarter because private insurers and Big Pharma wouldn’t hear of it, and Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats thought it was too socialistic—much like what they have in Canada, which, by the way, cost Canadians only 10% of their GDP and covers every Canadian. Our current system of private for-profit insurers costs 16% of our GDP and leaves out 45 million people. Yet life expectancy is longer in Canada than in the United States, and the infant mortality rate is lower. (Nair, Karim, Nyers).

Nonetheless, the compromise was to give all Americans the option of buying into a Medicare-like plan that competed with private insurers. Fully 70% of Americans polled supported the idea. Such a plan, open to all Americans, would have the scale and authority to negotiate lower prices with drug companies and other providers and to force private insurers to provide better service at lower cost. It is no surprise that private insurers and Big Pharma wouldn’t hear of it and Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats thought it would be too socialistic. So the compromise was to give the public option only to Americans who wouldn’t be covered either by their employers or Medicaid; peg their coverage to Medicare rates. But private insurers and … well, you know the rest.

When it passed, the much-compromised House bill had a meager public option, open only to 6 million Americans not otherwise covered. But even the House’s shrunken and costly public option was too much for private insurers, Big Pharma, and Republicans. So Harry Reid proposed state-run cooperatives, which states can decide not to offer their citizens—and that passed.

However, now that the Republicans have gained a precious seat in Massachusetts, people (led chiefly by the media) are predicting the death of health reform, and panicky Democrats are following suit. They’re no longer filibuster-proof in the Senate, and unless the Senate version is accepted as is, the Senate would have to accept the changes. Last week, even President Obama conceded everything except a few measures that would curb the private insurers’ most egregious practices.

This means that our private, for-profit health insurance system, designed to fatten the profits of private health insurers and Big Pharma, is about to be returned to…our private, for-profit health care system.

So healthcare costs will double within the decade. And 45 million Americans still won’t have access; 42,000 of them will die each year. Plus, all of us will remain dependent on private insurers who care only about the bottom line, who deny our claims, who charge us more and more for copayments and deductibles, who bury us in forms, and who don’t take our calls—unless a miracle happens and a good many of our legislators grow both a spine and a conscience!

Reference:

Nair C, Karim R, Nyers C. (1992). Health care and health status. A Canada-United States statistical comparison. Health reports / Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Health Information = Rapports sur la santé / Statistique Canada, Centre canadien d’information sur la santé. 4(2):175–83.

9 thoughts on “Legislators need to grow both a spine and a conscience”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Tort reform would help a lot, and confronting the pharmaceutical companies on their exhorbitant mark-ups should be a priority. When it costs pennies to make a pill, and the company charges $10 for the same pill, something needs to be done. Obamacare, caters to big businessses, so there will always be big problems. Dr. Curtin is wrong.

  2. Jodi says:

    I do not agree with Dr.Curtin. We need to stay away from a health care system like Canada has. We have family that live and work in the health sytem there and they will tell how poor it is. My mother-in-law had to wait 3 years on a list to get her hip replaced. My mother here in the USA is waiting only 2 months to get her knee replaced. Maybe Canadians have to live longer just to be able to get the procedures done! I also feel that everyone needs to help pay for their medical care-even the poor.

  3. Anonymous says:

    While it is agreed that this country needs healthcare reform. The bill being pushed through is not the reform anybody wants or needs. Quite simply, it will bankrupt this country due mainly to the many sweet deals that had to be cut to get the votes. Everyone and I mean everyone needs to pay their fair share of this and that is where this plan goes way off target. I wouldn’t get too excited about Canada’s health care as a good majority of the Canadian wealthy come here for procedures.

  4. Maria L. Schlomer says:

    I agree that insurance companies should be not for profit, and the uninsured or anybody who would like to should be able to get the same coverage as federal employees receive. believe that tort reform should be considered seriously. If there would be a public option it should be at least as good as Medicare and Medicare needs to be strengthened and better funded.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I believe that we should all send a copy of Dr. Curtin’s comments to our legislators and to our friends and ask them to pass it along to more friends, now! Do it before the President’s 2/25/10 conference on health care.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I agree something needed to be done yesterday about the current healthcare problem. Yes legislators are at the mercy of lobbyists. A solution to end all this nonsense- CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Is there any way Dr Curtin’s letter can be published in newspapers all over the country? It might help to counteract all the misinformation that has been fed to citizens about health care reform.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I agree that health reform needs to be reformed, but what was slammed through Congress was horrible. I am pleased that Massachussets gave health reform a chance to take a breath and get it right. Health care should be not-for-profit. Insurance should be not for profit. All profits should go back to caring for the population and maintaining building health care infrastructure. It would be a major mistake to have our government to run our health system. they can’t run medicare nor the VA system.

  9. Anonymous says:

    It seems to me that the lobbyists are the puppet-masters of legislators, and the lobbyists are owned by Big Pharma and Private Insurers. What will it take to overcome them and evict them from Washington?

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