Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dueling with metaphors on healthcare

I'm hearing Max Baucus (D-MT) answering a reporter's question as to why Single-Payer is "off the table", hearing him say we aren't even going to give single-payer a look while we forge ahead no-questions-asked with private-insurance mandates. I think it's important to bring this up again and again because we have a public representative, someone at the helm of our healthcare refom debate, has declared he will not even consider single-payer, dismissing it with lame platitudes and vague metaphors.

Since Baucus gets to tell us what we can and can't have, I want to talk back to him. See transcript below:

SEN. MAX BAUCUS: "Well, I just have to make a judgment. And I think at this time in this country, single payer is not going to get even to first base in the Congress."

Let me just jump in here Mr. Baucus, for a news flash: Dude, you're in Congress! You chair the Senate Finance Committe that is looking at the various alternatives (or not). You're the guy at bat! If it's not getting to first base, it's because you won't even face the pitcher.

I just—and we’re also—we’re a big—we’re a big country. It’s—you know, we’re a battleship. We’re an ocean liner. We’re not a PT boat. We’re not a speedboat. It takes time to turn those big, big ships. You just can’t just turn them overnight."

Baucus, you sound like Homer telling Bart "if something is hard to do, it's probably not worth it." If you've lost interest and motivation to take on a systemic solution to a broken system, maybe you should step aside and let someone with vision and energy assume leadership in addressing this crisis.

And we are—United States of America, we’re a different country. We’re constituted differently than European countries, than Canada and other countries. We’re a younger country, where there’s more of an entrepreneurial sense in America than in those other countries. It’s kind of “go west, young man” in, you know, America and so forth."

Not every problem has an American solution, but never mind. This isn't an argument for uniquely American change, but an excuse for the status quo. The subtext here is "stop thinking about what all those other countries do, even if it works." Yep, they might do this thing in other countries they call breathing. It works quite well for ingesting oxygen, but we need to do things our own way here.

"So we’ve got to come up with our uniquely American result. An uniquely American result will be a combination of public and private insurance, but one in which everyone is covered. And just my judgment—and every member of Congress agrees with me, I think, at least those I’ve spoken with, that this is not the time to push for single payer. It may come down—it may come later. But it’s not going to happen in America, in my view. So I’m not going to waste my time pushing on something that isn’t going to happen."

...It isn't going to happen because I'm not going to do it, but that doesn't mean someone else shouldn't go on trying. Of course, I'm the one in control and I'm not letting it happen, but go ahead and try. Good Luck!

Actually, what I hear Baucus saying is that he is afraid of two things: that he'll lose face if he supports single-payer due to all the "socialist" labels that will get hurled at him and, if it doesn't pass, he'll look like a failure and lose his senate seat. Plus there's all that campaign money and lobbying from the private insurance industry that makes so much money off the current system. Only a cynic would think that has anything to do with it.
Here's the bottom line: as long as he continues to act as gatekeeper -obstructing single-payer- the Congressional Budget Office won't do a side-by-side comparison between single-payer and individual mandates. Without that, Americans will probably never learn of the estimated $350 BILLION per year savings that could be reaped with single-payer -AT THE SAME TIME AS UNIVERSAL COVERAGE! But Baucus doesn't want you to find out about that or make up your own mind. He'll give you the options that he wants you to choose.

Health insurance costs continue to rise out of control, with no end in sight as well as the number of Americans without coverage. My own view is that Americans should know the truth about single-payer so this nation can make an informed choice about how to constitute a reformed healthcare financing system that addresses both issues. Put Single-Payer (H.R. 676) on the table.