Friday, January 2, 2009

Using anecdotal evidence, NPR passes judgement on NHI

National Health Insurance: all residents of a country are covered under a universal insurance plan that is paid for through taxes. We already provide for infrastructure and national defense in the same way. The system is in use in every other industrialized country and works fantastically well, reducing by two-thirds the amount of administrative costs in the health-care industry. Basically, there is a proven model for reducing health care costs that we could use "off-the-shelf" to fix the broken American health-care financing system.
NPR has taken a look at polling (which supports NHI over the status quo by 2:1) and concluded that it is impossible. Even with vast public support, a Democrat president and Congress, and proven results in other countries, NPR says the new President Obama will not be able to make NHI happen.
Why? Because there are some Congresspeople against it. One of them, Max Baucus (D-MT), doesn't think we should institute single-payer because it "doesn't make sense in this country" and "we will come up with a uniquely American solution." Excuse me for editorializing here, but that's like saying "breathing works great for other countries, but this is America; we'll figure out our own way to get air into the lungs."
Based on confounding logic like Baucus', NPR says that passing HR 676 (Expanded Medicare for All) is impossible. The other reason given is more revealing though: "Pete Stark (D-CA) says the public is not ready...eliminating the health insurance industry." [emphasis added to point out that what is being discussed here is how this country finances health care, not how we adminster it]. What Stark is saying is the ugly truth that requires twisted evasions like Baucus': the health insurance industry is a powerful influence on certain elected officials through the amount of money donated to their election campaigns. He says "the public is not ready", but that's obviously untrue looking at the polls. What he means is that the current crop of representatives are too beholden to insurance industry money to bite the hand that feeds them.
Americans recognize that paying CEOs $3 million a year and giving them $16 million in retirement pay when they didn't even retire is behaving like a cancer that feeds itself at the expense of its host's health. No one would propose leaving a cancer untreated because then the body would have to get used to life without the cancer cells. (And yes, the people in the insurance industry are not cancer cells, they are people, which is why part of HR 676 provides for the retraining of these many workers for other jobs, but at least they'll have health insurance when they are unemployed!)
I feel cheated because NPR has passed judgement on the policy (NHI) simply based on the politics, but they've got it wrong. We'd never have gotten anywere near our current level of advancement if people looked at things like putting a man on the moon or stopping Hitler and said "it's too difficult." Americans (you and me), luckily, are ready to lead their government to do the right thing for those it is supposed to serve: you and me.